Sunday, July 01, 2012

Thailand Tales 11

I was sure I'd find myself in an orphanage at some point in Thailand, since I always do, no matter where I go.

The closest I got was the Chiang Dao Compassion Home.

The IGo students have a service at Chiang Dao on a Sunday morning every three months, we were told.  And we're welcome to go along.

Jenny was sick with a stomach ailment, so Paul stayed with her and Steven and I went.  It was up in the mountains about half an hour past the elephant camp we had visited shortly before.  Steven rode in one of the IGo song-tows [pickup truck with seats along the side] but I got to ride in air-conditioned comfort with Lee and Joyce, the IGo pastor and his wife.

I had a hard time piecing together just what this place was.  No, it's not an orphanage.  And it's not a school, either.  It's a hostel.


After pestering too many people with too many questions, this is how I understand it:

Thailand has its modern cities such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok, with well-paved roads that extend out into the countryside.  But it also has very wild and wildernessy mountainous areas with very remote little villages way back on impassable dirt roads.

At some point the government decided that rather than try to reach all these villages with teachers and schools, they would build and staff hostels in more accessible towns.  The children from the hill tribes would come out and live in these hostels and attend the local public schools.

So that's what they've done.  Now imagine your child, say 8 years old, away from home for most of the year, living in a dorm with 50 other kids and not enough supervision.

Yes.  Like that.

So a sister organization to IGo, called GTO, started a hostel called Compassion Home in the town of Chiang Dao to provide a more wholesome atmosphere for some of these kids whose parents were ok with them being in an overtly Christian environment.

A Thai pastor and his wife provide leadership, and various cooks and staff people, including a young man from Delaware, help out.

This is the thing with so many mission/relief/helping situations--things aren't perfect, and you do the best you can with the imperfect situation at hand.

As you can imagine, I could hardly stand the thought of these little kids being away from their parents.  Surely if the government has enough money for nice paved roads an hour up into the mountains, they'd be able to provide little elementary schools up in the villages.

But the Thai government never asked my opinion the whole time I was there!

Also, and this is a whole other subject worthy of much soap-boxing, there is the whole abyss of prostitution for which Thailand is famous.  A whole web of cultural, religious, economic, social and other factors work to funnel girls, especially from the hill tribes, into the cities to work as "bar girls" as they are euphemistically called.

And the one thing that helps most to keep them from such a life is an education.

For which they need to leave home and live at a hostel.

So we spent a Sunday at the Compassion Home at Chiang Dao, and if you had to send your child away in order to save them from a worse fate, it would be good to know they were in a place like this.  It seemed warm and happy and safe and generally making the best of a very unfortunate situation.

It's good manners to leave your shoes at the door and go barefoot.

The church building reminded me of so many simple little country churches I've worshipped in--in Canada, Mexico, and Kenya.  But this one had a PowerPoint.

The guy from Delaware is teaching the kids to sing.

 Asians know how to feed a crowd.  Plain rice, plain cooked chicken, a simple soup with potatoes cooked in the chicken broth with a bit of parsley.  And then the bland rice was jazzed up with a scoop of hot sauce.  Simple, inexpensive, delicious, filling, efficient.

This guy took seconds.

 These student girls were all 13 years old, and they gossiped and giggled like girls all over the world.

 One nice surprise about Thailand: cold filtered water everywhere we went, even in little open-air restaurants and mountain villages.

 Steven found this handsome guy hidden in a bookshelf.

 After lunch, the students played with the students.

And then we left and went back to Chiang Mai, where my daughter was recovering, and her dad who would give his life to protect her was making sure she was taken care of.  Think of it: Jenny has a whole huge enormous network of family, church, society, law, economy and culture to keep her home with her parents until she's an adult, at which time she can figure out what she wants to do with her life and has a thousand good options to choose from.

It's not fair, but I sure am thankful.


  1. I have been thinking of Thailand a lot - our friend is vacationing there this summer, my neighbor down the street is Thai, and I watched The King and I this spring (musical and then the movie). So I appreciate adding your insights.

    I love the water cooler and all the tin mugs.

  2. Thanks so much for giving us an 'eye' into the activities of Thailand!We have been given so much here in this country! I am so grateful for those who are making a difference for people who need to see what Jesus can do for them!

  3. I think you got the situation right, Mrs. Smucker! Though any hostel is far from perfect--compared to a stable, nuclear family--that's just not available everywhere. Compassion Home, Pastor Decha, and others provide an invaluable service. There are some pretty neat young people that have come out of these Christian hostels.

    And the rice? That's not plain rice, it's Khao Man Gai! One of the classic soul foods of Thailand: rice with chicken grease (extra flavor), boiled plain chicken, lovely sweet-and-spicy pepper ginger sauce, coriander and cucumbers, and a bowl of soup to make it all slide down. Yummy!

    Blessings to you all!

  4. Gosh, I really admire your bravery! Going to such a different place must have been intimidating. Thank you for posting this, I have learned so much from your blog! Best wishes to you and yours!