Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tsunamis, Orphans and Rubber - Part Three.

On the waterfront at Baan Nam Kem there are still ghostly remnants of the tsunami; boats lie like headstones and half crumpled building lay in mourning. I got an eery feeling as I read the names of the the dead at the memorial and looked out to sea.
At the orphanage here is a young girl who twelve at the time, playing on the beach with her younger brother. She survived because she could run faster. Another boy lost his mother (whether through the tsunami or later I didn't find out) after arriving at the orphanage it took two years until he first smiled. Not all the children there are orphans. For most their families are too sick, too poor, or unable to provide a dafe environment. The Thai couple who run it had previously worked and lived in a relocation camp for a year where 3000 people lived in tents. They had looked after 200 babies whose families couldn't be found.
Image from here.

Photo I took from one of the memorials

Which gets me onto something which worries and irks me a bit (and here I may cause offence). After the tsunami christian groups, like so many non religious NGOs, jumped in to provide practical assistance, with the added componant of spiritual guidance. There are a lot of housing projects with the names of christian groups out front. The orphanage was swet up as christian and so are the couple who run it. As I see it the visiting christians from the West seemed to have come in with bibles and bundles of baht (the Thai currency). In my time at the orphanage I was treated more like a guest than a volunteer in the hope (I later worked out and unbeknownst to the organisation that had sent me there) that I would see what good was being done and go back to my home country and fundraise to send money over.

I was appreciated, but less for the English lessons, gardening and food preparation I did and more for my possiblities as a source of funds- all this dispite the fact that I was paying to be a volunteer there. As I say, this christian influence irks me somewhat.

But don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed my week there. As usual the kids show themselves to be shining young people. I probably learnt far more from them than they did from me.

But for now I have a tropical island to go to.


  1. Nicola!
    Ii's great to know you're still alive!
    Wow, what a way to travel - what with helping out at an orphanage!
    You're my hero now!
    Be careful out there!
    School starts on Monday and I've been back for a week getting ready. Maybe I'm the one who'll need to be careful next week?
    Please post more regularly. We, at Richard's Bass Bag, are eagerly waiting for the next installment of your adventures.
    Be safe.

  2. That overt Christian influence can be very annoying. I remember as kids we played softball at a local park with a group who loosely organised it by providing the equipment. It was a very casual affair for a while until the players (all about 10 yo.) were invited to a 'party'. This was a lunch at a nearby church (either Mormon or 7th Day Adventists). There had been no formal approach to the families about this. When my parents found out about this they went ballistic.