Healthy, happy, and confident children; these are the goals of the Fountain of Life Children’s Center. Sister Joan Gormley spoke about how the Center goes about achieving these goals at the Sunday, June 24, meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club.
Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg called on Woody Underwood with the Jesters Care for Kids organization to introduce Sister Joan. Woody noted that for the past 15 years, the Jesters Care for Kids charity has been one of the major supporters of the Fountain of Life Children’s Center.
Lewis ‘Woody’ Underwood of the Jesters Care 4 Kids organization introduces Sister Joan of the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre. Jesters has been the major sponsor of the Fountain of Life, and this year will hold it’s Children’s Fair on the 9th of September. Mark your calendars!
Sister Joan, or “Grandma” as she is fondly called at the Center, was born in Galway, Ireland. She attended boarding school and was impressed by two visiting nuns from the Good Shepherd Sisters; this led to her choosing to be a nun with that Order. After her spiritual training in France, she spent four years in the UK receiving nursing training. Her first posting was in Malaysia and then Vietnam. After twelve years there it was no longer considered safe and she returned to Malaysia and then spent four years in Bangkok before returning to Ireland to study rural development. This equipped her with further knowledge to understand and assist the marginalized rural poor. After completing this two year study program, she was sent to Nong Khai in the north of Thailand where she worked with the poor for the next ten years.
Sister Joan talks of the work of the Fountain of Life, feeding, housing, educating and caring for the health of the children – and the spiritual side. In the picture you can see Sister Joan and her staff farewelling some of the boys, off to become novice Buddhist monks for a short time.
In 1996, Sister Joan requested an assignment in Pattaya where she saw a need for someone to work with marginalized people. When she first came to Pattaya, the Fountain of Life Center was in a small overcrowded shop house. But thanks to donations and fundraising primarily by the Jesters Care for Kids and the Pattaya International Ladies Club, a new Center was opened in 2002.
Sister Joan explained that the Center helps pre-school kids, mostly from Northeast Thailand, who came to Pattaya with their families who were seeking a better life. Also, many of these children were not registered at birth. Without such documentation they do not have their rights as Thai citizens. So, the Center takes on the daunting task of trying to get them registered and on the path to self-sufficiency.
Sister Joan and some of the associates that came with her described some of the cultural aspects of Thai families and the living conditions of the very poor. She noted the target groups they try to help are: (1) street children that run away with many being only 8 or 9 years old; (2) children that are physically and sexually abused; (3) migrant families from the Mekong region countries; (4) children that drop out of school; (5) children that are trafficked; (6) children whose parents work in the sex trade; and (7) children whose parents are in prison. She described unique problems each of these groups face.
The goals of the Fountain of Life Children’s Center are to create healthy, happy, and confident children. The lives of these two young girls are a little ‘less unfortunate’, thanks to Sister Joan and the Fountain of Life.
She mentioned that the Center does not work alone. They are involved with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and others. Their primary concern is that the children receive an education, social assistance, and skills training. She and her associates described how they assist the children and their families. They also provide nutritional meals and access to medical care.
Sister Joan and her associates also described how a group of volunteers work with the children to make greetings cards, which are sold with the money being credited to the children’s accounts. Also, to earn money, they do sewing and knitting work, make earrings, and do some farming. The children can withdraw cash once a week from their account. She explained how the Center’s one baht market works. The children can choose items such as pencils, notebooks, etc. to buy; with each item costing only one baht. Likewise, to ensure the children’s families keep their dignity, the parents give their children one baht to “pay” to the Center each day for the assistance and food they receive.
After Sister Joan and her associates answered several questions, MC Richard then updated everyone on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the always interesting and lively Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.
The Pattaya City Expats Club meets every Sunday at the Amari Orchid’s Tavern by the Sea Restaurant. Read more about the Club’s activities on their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.