By Debbie Ekner, Central Thailand Mission (CTM)
We were recently able to provide an opportunity for some enthusiastic young people discover the joy of serving others & doing their part to help the disadvantaged.
Coming from different backgrounds and countries as diverse as Botswana, Norway, Pakistan and China, a team of 11 girls (ages 17-21) from the Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong, converged at our CTM center recently for hands-on experience in working with orphans. They were Jun and Christina from Hong Kong, Natasha and Shehana from Botswana, Ruth from Nigeria, Maria from Norway, Mizi, Fan Shang, Chen Chen and Chenying from mainland China.
Their visit, part of the college’s Project Week, where students can choose to be part of a service in any part of the world, focused on our ongoing work at Ban Dek On (Rangsit Babies’ Home).
CTM hosted the girls – providing accommodation, food, and transportation and coordinated the logistics of this project.
The girls were involved in the care of children at the Home, from various age groups including the group of pre-adoptees that I work with. With the help of the girls, we were able to help give the kids more personal attention & input as we each took a couple of kids.
On the first day, the girls also planned a special show for all the kids from 4 to 7, where they introduced their countries, sang songs in the native languages and played games with the kids. For part of their socialization, CTM organized a day out at a nice amusement park with free passes for the orphans and our staff.
Each girl learnt to be responsible for one child, caring for his every need and learning to interact despite the language barrier. They found out quickly that, with love, it was possible to communicate and care for their Thai charges.
With the fun and excitement of train, car & boat rides, mechanical ‘octopuses’, animal feeding, ball play and even a visit to ‘Snow Town’ where one experiences the delights of snow, sleds and the refreshing cold, the day went quickly by. By the third and final day, t was quite inspiring to see the bond that they all had with the kids.Some of the girls also helped to comfort some of the younger ones who were having their vaccination shots, just like a Mommy would.
Needless to say, the children warmed up easily to the their foreign care-givers. When it was time to leave, it was probably more difficult for the girls than for the kids to say goodbye, as this was a one-time experience for many of them.
Besides the orphanage, we also brought the girls to an afternoon at the Industrial Rehabilitation Centre where they took on a different kind of challenge. This time they were one on one, interacting and conversing with young people and adults. The only difference was that their Thai counterparts were physically handicapped in some way.
The classroom was quite a scene as we re-arranged wheelchairs and chairs all around in order to situate the teams comfortably. No sooner had things settled, then everyone was off chatting in some way – with hand gestures, sketching, writing, to get across some simplified thoughts and messages for basic conversation.
Once again, the girls saw how by getting out of yourself and being interested in others is a real key to communication.
We were also able to share with the girls the faith we have that motivates us to do this work, without the financial security of a salary that provides many a career incentive.
During the course of our time together, I shared with the girls my background of having been a journalist and then opting for a life of faith, serving God and others because it gave me a greater meaning to life.
We ended our discussion with an impromptu comical skit by Peter, Michael and myself about the real meaning in life. The ‘Heart’ skit tells of a man who went to see the doctor because his heart was sick. Having taken out the excesses of wealth, cars, women, education and replaced them with the true value of love in his heart, the man recovers, having found the real answer to the emptiness in his life. We were then able to lead them all in prayer, receiving Jesus, the greatest Caregiver of all who will give them the power to give themselves in service to others.
After the whole experience of staying with us and being part of serving at the orphanage, the students shared some of their impressions on paper and this is what they had to say:
From Maria, Norway: Why do community service? Through community service, you learn to see the world from a different perspective & you learn about other people’s lives in a way you wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Besides, you learn how little effort is needed to make someone happy by just being there for him or her.
From Chenying, China: Before the service, I took many things for granted. I thought it was natural for people to have parents and a family. But that’s not the case for many of the children here. Through the service, I understood that donations don’t only in the form of money, food or stationery. Most importantly, the kids need love and attention. Life is not a solo journey. You can make a difference if you try.
From Fan Shang, China: This is an unforgettable service for me. Even though it is my first time doing service abroad, I do feel fully touched. I learnt a lot from Debbie and Peter, their spirit of “love’ has got a great influence in my life. I feel this service trip has a very vivid lesson shaping attitudes in my life. I might not be able to contribute as much as Debbie and Peter to help others, but I'll try to help those in need in the future.
From Jun, Hong Kong: What I think about service? In fact, I am more impressed by the way Debbie, Peter and Michael (CTM staff member) live their lives. I agree with Michael that community service makes oneself a better person. The experience has helped me explore & understand my inner self; to realize the compassion and passion everyone has deep inside but might not have a chance to know otherwise. About the kids, I feel amazed that someday that boy I played with might be somewhere in Europe or USA, leading a new life that he couldn’t otherwise have if there was no donation, no love given to him. I believe life is comprised of different miracles. Doing community service, to a certain extent, is helping others, in making their dreams come true.
From Chen Chen, China: this is an unforgettable trip for me. I’m so touched about what Debbie and Peter do for those kids and the organization. During this short time period when I played around with those kids, I feel like I could help others, bringing them happiness. Actually, we don’t need to do much – just smile, hug – these simple things make them so happy and we are happy too. I feel I am needed by others and I am helping them. I think this can make the world better a better place.