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Camillian Home for Children Living With Disabilities

Hi all,

Our posts about India ended in April when I pretty much ran out of decent video images to load! We DID visit the Taj Mahal and will post these up pretty soon. Ranthambore National Park was a disappointment after our experiences in South Africa (can't compare) but we did go there on an 'off' day...I digress.

We've lived in Thailand now for 3 years. What started off as a very keen and regularly updated blog has now become more of a list of our holidays of sorts! How do you separate holiday from travel? Most people would rather not hear about your holidays. I remember  older generations mocking those who would get out the slide projector, dim the lights and start a two hour visual odyssey of their life changing trip to Blackpool. I suppose we're those people now...although in this day and age, with the internet acting as the best tool of narcissism since, well, a mirror, it's quite hard not to post about your lives as long as it has some sort of purpose. When you travel a lot you discover and become part of a huge support network and it's hard to tear yourself away from it, especially when you're doing research yourself. There's almost a feeling of responsibility to keep a blog going. We've had about 16,000 hits since 2009, averaging about 500 a month and we're regularly contacted by people looking to either move to Asia or just travellers enquiring about the best places to stay.  I keep kicking myself for not writing  more about our life here - but then, I didn't do that in the UK, so why should I do it now? Well, I suppose as long as you're 'the other', the temptation to record your experiences is sometimes overwhelming and this is what this post is about; my experiences at a brilliant orphanage in Bangkok called Camillian Home.

A few months ago Erika's school went on a trip to the orphanage and she told me there was a blind boy living with HIV that played guitar. Maybe I would be up for teaching him every couple weeks? I was looking for some volunteer work and decided to go for it. To be honest, I should have started volunteering somewhere from day one; we westerners live a privileged life in SE Asia. 

The student's nickname is 'Rat' and is a gifted guitarist - it's been a challenge for me to teach someone without sight and I've had to come up with certain methods to explain to him how to play certain things but luckily he's developed a knack of finding the right notes by ear. He's a great kid and it breaks my heart to hear his life story. For someone to go through what he's suffered in the first 14 years on this earth and still hold a positive outlook on life makes you realise that your problems are minute in comparison. 

Fai, on the left, and Rat.

Further on down the line, I've now developed relationships with a few kids there that simply enjoy watching Rat and I play, and the immediate impression I get is the yearning for these kids for human touch. On the first day alone I had to struggle to walk to the classroom as they were all wrapping their arms around me - it shows that their needs can be quite simple; just someone being there makes a difference. Along the way I met a German couple who lived and volunteered at the orphanage for a month during their travels. On asking them about their experiences they said it's one of the best things they've ever done as the rewards are tremendous.

The greeting party...

Most of these kids have been abandoned because they have some sort of disability, whether it be Down Syndrome, blindness, HIV or the other disabilities that Camillian Home care for. There is still a very negative stigma attached to children with disabilities in Thailand, especially in the poorer areas where education about issues such as HIV is either ignored or simply not given. I've heard that a lot of Buddhists believe that those born with disabilities are experiencing deserved Karma and are therefore suffering from vices from their previous lives. Although the Thai constitution states that people living with disabilities should not be discriminated against, the reality on the ground is somewhat different. Employers are reluctant to employ people with disabilities and most schools don't provide proper facilities to enable attendance. Financial support from the government is minimal and those lucky enough to be funded receive their help from charities only. Most people living with disabilities get all their care from their families, although the children at Camillian House don't have that anymore and it's thanks to places like this that these kids have a chance in life. 96% of their funds are generated by donations and the other 4% is from a government grant. What they need the most is someone who can commit long term and, to be honest, once you meet these kids and form a relationship with them, I can't imagine not volunteering here for as long as we stay in Thailand. 

Everyday at 7pm they get given their medication - just one of the many things Camillian Home needs funding for.

Please could you take a few minutes and have a look at their website below which tells you how to volunteer and/or donate. The staff at Camillian, who are excellent and have a passion to help these kids, tirelessly spread the word and toil to raise the funds needed for the home. Please help spread the word to those who are about to travel Asia!

For those of you reading this in Thailand, I am hosting a special open mic night on September 6th to raise funds at The Blue Monkey Bar in Ramkhamhaeng. My student, 'Rat', will of course be performing! If you wish to come or to perform, please email me at laetolisteps (at) gmail dot com.

Thanks y'all, look out for our next posts about Pranburi and Koh Tao, Thailand.

Rich and Erika

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