Two and a half decades of care

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In 1990 Father Ray Brennan opened the Home for Street Kids in a shop house on Soi Buakaow, then a quiet neighbourhood street.  His aim was to offer a safe haven for children, runaways from all over the Kingdom who arrived in Pattaya hoping to make a better life for themselves. Unfortunately for most they ended up living on the streets, begging, joining criminal gangs, or working in the sex industry just to earn enough money to buy food.

After a short time in Soi Buakaow the Home for Street Kids moved to Pattaya Klang, opposite where Big C Extra now stands, until 1999, when it moved to its current location in East Pattaya.

It then changed its name from the Home for Street Kids to the Father Ray Children’s Home, at the request of the children who said they were no longer street kids.

The anniversary cake - delicious.The anniversary cake – delicious.

Almost six hundred and fifty children have found refuge at the Home. Some have stayed just a short time, while the longest resident is now a twenty two year old university student who arrived as an eight year old.

On Saturday the 9th of May the Father Ray Children’s Home celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary with a ceremony that was attended by several hundred friends and supporters.

Father Apisit, Superior of the Redemptorists in Thailand, leads the Mass.Father Apisit, Superior of the Redemptorists in Thailand, leads the Mass.

Nongprue Mayor Mai Chaiyanit was in attendance, as was Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh from Pattaya City Hall, representing the mayor of Pattaya.

Sharron Purtell, younger sister of Father Ray and an early supporter of the Home, flew in from the United States to attend the ceremony. Other supporters arrived from the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, but the majority were local supporters from the Pattaya area.

The proceedings started with a catholic Mass, celebrated by Father Apisit Kritsaralam C.Ss.R., Provincial of the Holy Redeemer in Thailand, and Father Peter Pattarapong Srivorakul C.Ss.R., President of the Father Ray Foundation.

Several supporters received commemorative awards, including Jan and Ann Marie Daems from Belgium who set up a scholarship fund in memory of their daughter who died in 2010. Thanks to this fund five female residents of the Home are attending university and a further two will be attending vocational college later this year.

Father Peter presents Andrew Scadding from the Thai Children’s Trust with a personal award of appreciation.Father Peter presents Andrew Scadding from the Thai Children’s Trust with a personal award of appreciation.

Andrew Scadding accepted an award on behalf of the supporters of the UK based Thai Children’s Trust, which has supported the work of Father Ray for over thirty years.

Members of the local media also received recognition for their support in raising awareness of the work of the Father Ray Foundation.

Guests were then treated to several performances of Thai dancing and an exhibition of Muay Thai from the current residents of the Home. Films were shown outlining the history of the Children’s Home, including a few very rare photos of Pattaya before the arrival of hotels, when the forest of trees reached the waterfront.

In the evening it was the turn of the children to have fun with a very special birthday party. More than fifty former residents traveled from all over the country back to their home and were welcomed back like long lost siblings. Many returned to the Home with their partners and their own children.

Everyone sat down for a Chinese banquet, while old photos were shown on a large screen, bringing lots of laughter, and some embarrassment to those in the audience.

A large birthday cake arrived, carried by several former residents, and the surprise was that the neighbours never complained when the current and former residents all started to sing Happy Birthday.

The children, young and old, then had white string tied to their wrists to wish them good luck before candles were lit and the children sang the Thai version of Auld Land Syne, even though it wasn’t New Years Eve.

Father Peter presents Elfi Seitz from Pattaya Blatt with an award of appreciation.

Father Peter presents Peter Malhotra from Pattaya Mail an award of appreciation.

It was easy to see just how happy many were to be returning to their home.

Jan and Ann Marie Daems from Belgium meeting the young ladies they are sponsoring through university.

Sharron Purtell meets the young man she is sponsoring at university, together with his two younger brothers.

The current residents were all ready for a day of celebrations.

The nervous young dancers prepare by applying even more make-up.

The party would not be complete without a few dance performances.

Traditional Thai dancing, when done as well as these performers, is truly a magical art form.

Guests were treated to several performances of Thai dancing.

The young ladies living at the Children’s Home perform for the audience.

They met while living at the Home, and now have a family of their own.

Ann Marie Daems wishes one of her young ladies the best of luck at university.Ann Marie Daems wishes one of her young ladies the best of luck at university.

The boys performed an exhibition of Muay Thai.