My husband Andrew and I decided 6 years ago to volunteer for a year in the Redemptorist Orphanage in Pattaya Thailand. We felt we wanted to do something more with our education and life experiences.
The orphanage was a wonderful place, well run and caring and the children actually had quite a good life so we were drawn more and more to the plight of the many street kids found wandering the streets, day and night in search of food or begging. They mostly lived in slum areas which were unhygienic and overcrowded, with many people sharing one room in shanty style huts.
There are tens of thousands of people living in these slums, scattered all around the City of Pattaya and Bangkok. The problem at first seemed overwhelming and too big for anyone to even begin to tackle.
After months of anguish both Andrew and I almost threw the towel in and our constant cry of “someone should do something about this” fell on deaf ears.
One night while reading the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, his words, “Be the change to see in the world you want” jumped off the pages at me. We stopped accusing everyone from the large charities to governments and looked at what we could do ourselves to at least make a dent in the problem.
Our sincere belief is that education is the only way to end poverty. So with this in mind we decided to set up a small scholarship fund for a few of the children who we were privileged to come to know on a more personal level.
We called the project Kate’s Project after my mother who died 8 years ago and who was an inspiration to everyone she met.
This has mushroomed over the past 5 years and to date we have 150 children and their families totally relying on us for an education which will give them choices in their future, give them the dignity to believe in themselves and make a better life, and, with God’s help, keep them from the streets and the dangers of sexual abuse.
While education is the main focus of our project, it is only the tip of the iceberg. We strive to improve the home conditions of the kids and help their families (made up of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, neighbours … the one thing you learn about the poorest people is that they will take another child into their home if parents die or are ill or have to travel to find work).
* Uniforms are bought and school fees paid.
* One nourishing meal each day is provided.
* Fresh water tanks are built and kept topped up as stagnant water can cause many illnesses.
* Basic medical conditions are taken care of.
* Adults are helped with literacy problems.
Advice and help with registration of children is extremely important. Without this no one can go to school or have any rights under Thai law, and we are blessed to work along with the Fountain of Life to help families with this problem.
We help with improving the rough housing and make them water tight as the rainy season lasts for months and brings many problems with mosquitoes and daily floods. The makeshift shacks cannot withstand the severe rains and many are washed away each time only to be rebuilt the same day.
One of the most important things we can do for our people we help is listen to them – not give handouts, which they often do not want anyway.
The one thing people constantly ask of us is to help them educate their children. Also the children love school and learning, they see this as their way out of the cycle of poverty they have found themselves trapped in.
We give them love and a sense of dignity and belief in themselves.
Unconditional help is freely given and our reward will be seeing how they can rise out of their situation by”
* Getting jobs, which will help them take care of siblings and aging parents.
* Learning crafts to sell at the local markets.
* Growing vegetables and fruit, etc., for self sufficiency.
Keeping Kate’s project going with the office and uniforms and the day to day expenses costs a lot of money. For a long time Andrew and myself paid most of this ourselves from our savings and credit cards, but now we rely on the generosity of many good people so we can continue to work with these amazing people and at least make a difference in the lives of a few.
Food parcels made up with funds donated by the PILC.
Because of lack of funds we are struggling to keep Kate’s Project going, so if you would like to donate please visit our Web site at: www. katesproject.com