This is the third year that we haven’t been able to go on holiday with the girls due to Corona. But we wouldn’t let Corona dictate what we can or can’t do. This year, again, the staff had arranged for a great camping experience on our own property. This time, they put up a number of tents on the yard. The program was also very campsite themed. The girls prepared food on a campfire, played camping games, sung camping songs, and even bathed outside.
They also celebrated that four girls graduated from school. This always is a very important moment, as the girls not only are being honored, but they also get the chance to share things. For one of the girls, for instance, the past year has been very hard, but she still succeeded with the great help of her teachers, and her mother and sisters from our house. That definitely made us shed some tears, of course.
Everybody enjoyed the camp enormously. We were all tired, but satisfied, including all staff members. Next year, we hope to have a very special holiday, because we would like to take them to the sea. Many of them have never seen the sea. After staying home for the whole holiday three years in a row, it would be great if we could realize that.
Ten weeks of school vacation might sound great, but it is not if you don’t have anything to do. So, I’m grateful to be able to tell you that the girls won’t have to be bored. They can go the gymnasium of the jiu jitsu club two mornings in the week to play sports and games.
The jiu jitsu coach and the girls who practice jiu jitsu three times a week, will lead the games and sports activities. It is a great way for these girls to learn how to bear responsibility and how to teach instead of being taught themselves. In a fun way they get a lot of exercise and learn the principles of jiu jitsu, a self-defense sport. There are even a couple of mothers who participate with the girls. It is precious to see how intensely the girls enjoy these occasions. The girls who tend to withdraw or be somber, totally blossom up. For the staff, it is also a moment to be out of the house with the girls for a while. After these mornings, the girls interact in a much better way and get along much better as well in the afternoon, because they feel tired and satisfied. 😉
After all girls and ‘mothers’ had to be quarantined because some of us had Corona, we were all very glad these days were over. We could go out again, but we still tried to avoid being in big groups of people. But what could we do as an outing with the girls? The great thing was that we had received an offer from a family we know. This family grows strawberries during cold season and because cold season was coming to an end, they wanted to give our girls and the ‘mothers’ the opportunity to pick strawberries. It was a 2-hour-drive, but it was beautiful. And then the happy faces of the girls picking strawberries; it was really worth it!
The mothers had prepared a picknick for lunch. We wanted to go to a beautiful spot to have lunch and continue to a great viewpoint. But in order to get to this picknick spot, we had to drive up a mountain, off-road. That proved to be a challenge for both the cars and drivers. Some loved it and some were scared. Part of the group arrived up the mountain and we ate lunch. After that, we made the beautiful hike to the top. From the top we were looking into Laos; we were standing right at the border. It was a great day for all!
Click here to see more pictures of this great outing.
In the past, we used to celebrate New Year on December 31st, but this year we celebrated on January 1st. This made it possible for the entire staff to be present, and not just those who were working at that moment.
We started with a moment of reflecting on the past year, especially on the positive things that had happened. Everybody was asked to think of something they were grateful for. After that, we spread out mats on the concrete floor and put down the pots we needed for the Thai barbecue. Next, we put in the coal; each group had to make sure their own coal was burning and heating up sufficiently to put on the pans. A Thai barbecue pan is a pan with a metal cone with a little ditch around it. The ditch is used to cook the soup and the cone is used to fry the meat or fish. During dinner, dances and songs were performed, and games were played. As a dessert, we had donuts. These donuts were donated by a former staff member who lives in Denmark; a very sweet gesture.
We were a bit afraid that celebrating New Year on the 1st of January might take away the ‘magic’ of New Year, but that turned out not to be the case at all. We had a great and fun evening which we have been able to celebrate as one big family.
Out of the blue we received an email via our website. It was PSJ United – the international fan club of Park Seo Jun. Who is Park Seo Jun? Well we were about to find out, because we used the internet to tell us. He is a famous South Korean actor. He is known for his starring roles in television series. Still we did not have a clue, but when you mention his name in Thailand and especially to the younger generation they will know. In fact the girls started to yell and scream when they heard his name, because they are all a fan of Park Seo Jun.
This all being said, the fan club reached out to us, because on December 16 it is Park Seo Jun’s birthday and they wanted us to have a chance to celebrate that with all the girls. They wanted to give a pair of shoes (Skechers) to all the girls and have us celebrate this with a birthday party. The process of getting all the girls’ shoe sizes started and they ordered shoes. When the shoes arrived we prepared a party with decorations, cake and pizza. We even had a big banner with the actor Park Seo Jun wearing Skecher shoes. The party was awesome, the girls are very happy with their new, fancy Skecher shoes and they of course enjoyed talking about the famous actor.
This was such a tremendous gift. The fan club is awesome! They helped with everything, from ordering the shoes and decorations, designing the banner, helping sort out the pizza order and they covered all the costs. I have to say it was overwhelming to me as person in the middle. The fact that they found our website and really wanted to support our girls in giving them an awesome day and gift and going out of their way to make it all happen. We are all very thankful. Words are not enough to express our gratitude. They really brought huge smiles to all the girls’ faces.
In November, two ladies with their children paid us a visit. Both women lived at Baan Phak Phing when they were younger. One of them has a 3-year-old daughter, but she is going through a difficult period with her husband and asked the mothers of Baan Phak Phing for help. The fact that she has reached out to her ‘parental’ home is very encouraging to us. It means she feels safe with us, and understood. During the few days this woman stayed with us, the psychologist of our team was able to have many counseling sessions with her. We will definitely stay in touch with her, and she can always call us and ask for help.
The other woman came to us with her two children, a 1-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. Although she has lived with us shortly, her experience has been good, and she knows she is always welcome at Baan Phak Phing. She and her family are doing very well; she came to Chiang Rai because they are moving back to the city and they are looking for a new place to live. Our staff helped her find a new house, while her husband was working with his new boss.
It is such a great gift that we can stay involved with girls who have left us a while ago already. The Baan Phak Phing family keeps growing! 😉
Ice cream carts are a common site driving along the streets in Thailand. They are motorcycles with a side car in which the ice cream is stored. A large parasol covers both. The people in the neighborhood are drawn to the cart by a catchy tune which can be heard many streets away. Not every day can we take indulge in this sweet treat but last month all the girls and mothers were in luck and could choose their favorite flavor. They enjoyed the treat together on the veranda.
It is also good to know that this ice cream man lives in our neighborhood, therefore we are also supporting a neighbor with his business. Since we have his telephone number, we can make an appointment with him any time we want to have an ice cream. Such a temptation!
Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
In the fall of 2021 a small group of volunteers in Harderwijk started a project to make this proverb come to life. Once a month ‘upcycled’ scarves, made from second hand clothing, are created to be sold in a local church. The proceeds will go to Baan Phak Phing.
There is a task for everyone, even if using a sewing machine is unfamiliar. Our creativity is being developed in a very different way…..searching for materials that fit well together. Surprisingly very enjoyable to do. There was a wonderfully restful atmosphere with a few conversations but mostly silent concentration on the work at hand.
The original idea came from the American Audra Peifer, founder of Binding Love https://www.bindinglove.org/. While watching a documentary about human trafficking, Audra was moved by what she saw and heard. She made her first upcycled scarves and sold them to fundraise for the two projects she chose in Thailand: Baan Phak Phing and Baan Eden, both located in Chiang Rai. This was the start of the project Binding Love. Later she and her family visited both homes to personally witness the way the homes were run.
This past year the contact between the Baan Phak Phing Nederland and Binding Love grew into a trial collaboration. The scarves made in Harderwijk will be sold for St. Nick and Christmas presents in December.
Would you like to set up a similar project in your neighborhood? Contact [email protected].
Life brings along its obligations, unfortunately that’s just how it works. For children that means going to school and adults are often busy with their responsibilities at work and at home. Thankfully there’s more to life than work, we are also allowed to enjoy free time and to have fun. How everyone chooses to spend their free time depends on their character and circumstances of course. This summer, the girls have also been able to enjoy moments where they could rest and enjoy their time off. The mothers took them on a walk with the new puppy. During that walk they passed a ditch where they discovered fish swimming! The girls had a great time running around and chatting with each other during that walk. It’s good for them to be away from home for a while and explore. At another time, they played games with each other. One of their favorites was to blow a ping pong ball as quickly as possible from one waterfilled cup to another. Another moment two girls were playing with the swing, one pushing the other. It could not go high enough for them! It’s great to see the girls enjoying these little things in life so much.
It’s wrapped in very special, green paper. Or is it even paper? No, it’s a banana leaf! But what could it contain? In order to find out we will have to unwrap it because in Thailand it could be just about anything. The only hint we’ve got is that it won’t be a normal present, but something we can eat.
The girls and mothers worked hard to create something delightful. It’s made out of sticky rice, beans and sugar. The ingredients are mixed, wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed until they are fully cooked. What a great snack, yum!