Rescue Mission For Children
For this week’s blog we are going to change gears a little bit and I wanted to share about my recent trip to the “Rescue Mission For Children” in Northern Thailand. What is it? Why am I sharing about this? Well about 7 years ago, Anglican Church Robina’s Sunday School started sponsoring two young children in their care. Over the years we have learned about Nosaya and Apachai, sent videos and exchanged letters, and we helped raise money for an urgent eye operation that Nosaya needed. It was great to get to meet Nosaya and Apachai in person and see first-hand how happy and healthy they are (their pictures are currently up on the notice board as you walk into the church).
So what is the Rescue Mission for Children? You can find out all about it here https://rescuemissionforchildren.org.au/about-us/, but the brief version is: “The Rescue Mission for Children supports vulnerable Akha and Hill-tribe children in Northern Thailand by providing basic education, religious/spiritual development, food, a safe home, healthcare, education, and to prevent exploitation due to poverty, sickness, and a lack of security.” The children are often refugees from Myanmar, they are either orphans or their parents are unable to look after them due to severe poverty, and conflict in Myanmar and/or their parents are affected by the opium trade in the area. All of this paired with the fact they have no state-recognised identity, makes them extremely vulnerable to human trafficking and other types of exploitation in what is known as ‘the Golden Triangle’ area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.
Why were we there? Well, my wife and our two oldest children have travelled over a few times in the past 6 years and we were meant to head there as a family in the first year of COVID. Obviously, that didn’t happen. So, early January this year, 9 of us jumped on a plane – my family, my daughter’s husband and some of my son-in-law’s family. All of us were heading over to spend a week working on things that needed fixing, hanging out with the kids, running activities, painting and whatever else was needed.
I’ve been thinking about what I should include in this blog, as there is a lot I could talk about. To be honest, the thing that struck me most on the trip were the people there. The kids, the staff and volunteers. From the local pastor that runs both their soccer team and a Church Service on a Sunday for them, to Yammi the house mum who provides support and coordination, to Asa the Akha lady who started the work back in 1990’s and runs the Thailand side of things. And, I cannot forget the kids.
The kids were kind, intelligent, caring, funny and to my surprise, they were just kids. This surprised me because in the back of my mind I wondered how these kids had faired with such traumatic backgrounds, and how do you provide a childhood for that many kids with limited resources. But what I found was a family of adults, kids and a whole community who support the work that happens there. A place where their kids still get to be kids, still get to have a family and most of all, get a chance at life that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to have. We had the privilege of interviewing an older girl that had been there for many years and was about to graduate high school. What she is working towards is entry into University to study Dentistry so she can help the people in the area she came from in Myanmar who have no access to dental services. And over and over again, I saw this community that cared for one another, that supported kids and loved them. I was left in awe, knowing that only a community that really sees the value of each individual, created in the image of God, could have created.
Something else that stood out to me was how much the surrounding community recognised and supported the work. We went to a local hardware store and when they realised were we were from and what we were doing, they cheerfully gave us a discount. A kid’s local soccer team came and played the Rescue Mission for Children’s team. We met the local principal of the primary school and they have taken all of the primary-aged kids, without any state funding. State funding is very hard to get as many of the kids at the Rescue Mission are not recognised by the state of Thailand. They are in the process of getting what we might call residency here in Australia, but that process takes years and years.
I left my time there feeling energized and with a sense of playing a small part in helping something so needed happen.
As I have arrived back, I have been editing video that we recorded while we were over there, and the more I think about it the more I’m struck by the realisation of how difficult it must be to: create a community where kids are allowed to be kids and have a childhood, where they are educated, medically looked after, to be connected to a local community that is supportive, run what has a business side (of course not a profit side) and make all that work. Also, feeling challenged seeing a group of people living out the commandments of Jesus and faithfully pushing forward.
If you’d like to know more about the Rescue Mission For Children, I would encourage you to head to their website or come and chat to me.
To finish I wanted to leave you with a snippet of a song I recorded, a song the kids were singing that is both calm, reflective and beautiful.
The kids having a movie night while we were there.