I woke up this morning and realized that five years ago today, I began the first leg of a journey that would forever change my life. I left the comfort of everything I knew, everyone I loved and moved across the ocean to Chiang Rai, Thailand to begin a new life there. I also realized that it was five years ago in March when our friend Jermsak and his wife Da, found the first Promise Home location and moved the first four of our children into the home. They helped take care of getting bedding, appliances, supplies, and the necessary clothing for the children so they could start school. At that time, the children were lovingly watched over by Jermsak, Da and Manluethai.
|Nittaya, Ahmrontep, Palita and Tin- 2013|
|The first Promise Home before moving in|
|Tin and Ahmorntep at Christmas 2013|
|The children after we moved in|
The first four children were: Palita, Nittaya, Tin and Ahmorntep. I look back at their pictures and am amazed at how young and fragile they looked. I vividly recall their faces when they met me for the very first time when I came to get them from school. They were timid and unsure of this strange, white woman who was in the van with Jermsak and Da. They were all very sweet to me, wondering what they should call me and on September 24, 2013 I became "mom" to four more children and one younger adult as even Manluethai called me mom. After picking them up from school we all went to Promise Home and got me settled, ate dinner and enjoyed an evening together. It was after Jermsak and Da had left and I was unable to talk with the kids at all that I had the "Oh Shit" (pardon the swear word) moment. I was in my bedroom, alone and isolated and it hit me like a ton of bricks. What was I doing here? How was I going to survive when I could hardly communicate with the kids and Manluethai? This had always been in the back of my mind but I pushed it further down every time it surfaced so I was able to convince myself I could do this..... Shortly after I arrived, my dear friend Max arrived and stayed until December which helped make the transition much easier. I had only met Max once before he came but we became dear friends during our time in Chiang Rai- he helped with getting beds, larger appliances and all the necessary things I had a list of. He bonded with all of the children so well and our friends Jermsak and Da, that it was very, very hard to see him go. We let a member of our family leave us and it was extremely difficult.
In April of 2014, after much contemplation and reflection, I decided it would be best for me and ultimately for the children if I came back to the United States and that we hire house parents to run the home. So with the help of Pastor Prathuan, we hired Big and Fon who came to Promise Home with their two girls, Nom and Yim. Since we were going to have a bigger family, we decided it was necessary to find a bigger home so in April with the help of a fabulous group of strong and dedicated women and our friends at Bethany Children's Home, we moved from our first location to a bigger house that offered more space for the children and family, a yard where they could play and a neighborhood swimming pool. I stayed at the old home until the lease was up in August and visited the children everyday. Before I left, we purchased a used truck and got a wonderful cover made to help protect the children from the weather.
|The second Promise Home|
|Blessing the new truck|
|With the truck cover|
|Nom and Yim- 2014|
2014 also included visits from my nieces and we had two volunteers who came to stay for two months. These visitors were great company for me and the children loved having them there to help with homework, lessons and to help teach them English. But soon, August arrived and I was returning to the United States. Even though I knew it was the best thing for me, it was just as hard leaving my family in Chiang Rai behind as it was leaving my family behind in the United States a year earlier. It was a difficult goodbye that left me wondering if I had made the right decision. But once the tears cleared, I came back to the realization that it was. Even though I was so full of hope when I left for Chiang Rai in 2013, thinking I could help the children learn English, help them with their homework and teach them all sorts of things I couldn't speak or read Thai and I struggled with learning the language, I couldn't be effective. How could I effectively do any of those things if I couldn't communicate with them. The house parents could do all of the things I couldn't and that was the best for the children. In the long run it was the best thing for them and it only took a few weeks for me to see that.
|Helping with homework|
|The whole gang- with Jermsak, Da, Care and Swanya|
The end of 2014 brought the move to the current Promise Home location and the pink house. It is a much larger property and house and Big found it at a lower rent than what we were paying before. The landlords are wonderful, caring people and they live just up the road from the home. They are gracious and giving to the family there and to all of us at CWR.
In January 2015 four of us traveled to Chiang Rai and it was at this time we met Teeradet and Wandi for the first time. These two children lived in a village not far from the city with their parents, elderly grandparents and a younger brother. Their father recently had an accident while at work which left him paralyzed from the waist down leaving only their mother to work and take care of the family. So they made the very difficult decision to ask us if we could help them and take Teeradet and Wandi into our home. After meeting with the family and discussing this with Big and Fon, we welcomed the two children into our Promise Home family. They came to live with us in February 2015 so they could begin the school year with us. They get to see their parents often and their parents have come to visit them at Promise Home.
|Board members visiting|
|Teeradet, Wandi and their family|
|All of the children together|
I visited Promise Home and the children twice in 2015. One visit was over Christmas with my daughter Vannessa. I become closer and closer to the children with each visit. That Christmas we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with family, the landlords and friends. After the dinner we had a special program put on by the children and a gift exchange. It was very special indeed. We also spent New Year's Eve with the family where we sent our lanterns into the sky, making wishes for the new year.
|Letting the lantern go- making a wish|
I went for two visits in 2016- once in February and once in September. These were simple visits to check in on the home and the children to see if they needed anything and just to visit with everyone. I love spending time with the children and the family and we have such a great time together. Big, Fon and I would meet for coffee at Promise Home and discuss any issues or problems and identify things that needed upgrading or improvements.
In February of 2017 another group of us visited and it was at this time that we met our two newest children, Wiwat and Wareewat. These two children had been living with a family in a Lisu village, far in the mountains of Mae Salong since they had been left by their families due to difficult circumstances. The family they were living with were kind enough to support them and care for them with what little they had, but since they knew us and our work, they asked if we could take the two children in with us. Once again, Big and Fon opened their hearts and took these two children in and gave them a home. Both were very frail when they came to us and both have thrived since coming to Promise Home. Several other groups traveled back to Chiang Rai and Promise Home in 2017 and the children loved it. We have been so fortunate to have many friends who have traveled to visit with the children because of our work. Your desire to spend time with them is wonderful and means so much to them. They will always know there are people across the world who care and are concerned for their future.
|Wareerat and her new bed|
|Wiwat and his bed|
|Meeting Wiwat and Wareerat for the first time before they moved into Promise Home|
|The family who cared for Wiwat and Wareerat visiting|
|A visit from a dentist|
And now, 2018 is here and amazingly almost over. I was able to visit in March of this year and spent a fun filled two weeks with the family before school started for the year. Then in June, another group went and spent time with them again. Although I will not be able to make another trip in 2018, I regularly talk to all of the children and the family via the internet. What a wonderful thing that is. For all it's faults, it has made keeping up with the family and communicating with them possible.
|Mini hearts- sending love to all who support us|
|The June visitors|
March 2019 brings a much anticipated and wonderful event for all of us!!!! - Our two oldest girls, Palita and Nittaya who are both seniors in high school will be the first of our children to graduate high school and move on to University. This is such a great accomplishment and I am so excited to be going back to share this monumental day with them. I cannot adequately describe the pride I feel for them, their dedication and hard work. I hope to be able to raise enough money to buy them both laptops to use at university and if I raise more than enough, I will put the excess in accounts for both of them to help offset some of their university expenses. If you would like to help with this, please send a donation to Charities Within Reach and be sure to note in the memo that you would like the funds to go to the laptops and college accounts.
Here is an update on all of the children:
|The children: Front row, left to right: Ahmorntep, Wiwat. Second row: Wandi, Tin, Wareerat, Yim and Palita. Third row: Nittaya, Nom and Teeradet|
- Palita- 18 years old and a senior in high school. Wants to study business at University.
- Nittaya- 17 years old and a senior in hight school. Wants to study either law or be a teacher.
- Nom- 14 years old and is in the 9th grade. She wants to study business after she graduates.
- Tin- 14 years old and in the 7th grade. He is getting taller and taller and his voice has deepened considerably.
- Teeradet- 13 years old and in the 7th grade. He recently had to have his appendix removed which was a little scary for all of us. He is recovering nicely.
- Wiwat- 11 years old and in the 5th grade. He was very frail when he came to us but is growing well. He has the most infectious smile.
- Wandi- 10 years old and in 4th grade. She is getting taller all of the time and is so sweet
- Ahmorntep- 10 years old and also in the 4th grade. He is no longer the "little" boy that I first met. He is growing strong.
- Wareerat- 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. She has changed so much in the year she has been with us and she does very well in school.
- Yim- 5 years old and in kindergarten. The baby of the house and loved by all.
- Big and Fon- loving house parents to the children who work very hard at giving them the best opportunities possible. Big is back in school himself, setting the example of the importance of completing your education.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for traveling side by side with me over these past five years. These children, Big and Fon are so dear to me and have added such a wonderful dimension to my life that I will never regret my decision to move to Chiang Rai in 2013. Although I didn't stay there and I am not with them physically, they are with me daily. I think of them often and try to talk to them weekly. They are as much my children as my daughter and my nieces and nephews.
Charities Within Reach could not have made it this far without the strong and consistent support of those who will read this. Your donations of time and money have made this all possible and we are blessed by you. I hope that I have been able to give a glimpse of the impact you have made on the lives of the children and the family and I am so grateful for all of you.
Thank you for following along these past five years and here's to another five years filled with love, laughter and success.
Till next time....