Mother’s Day is a big event in Thailand, so naturally, they take 4 days to celebrate it. For my kids in town, a long weekend means a shopping trip to Bangkok or a sleepover with junk food and new computer games, but its a long, lonely weekend for too many of my little munchkins in Koh Siray with no mommies or daddies.
As I was leaving last Friday (not to return until the following Wednesday) this little chunky monkey grabbed me around the waist and said, “Teacha sleep here? 4 day long time” By here, he meant the orphanage next to the school. Over 100 munchkins from my school live there as a result of losing their families to the Tsunami or being removed from abusive homes.
I haven’t kept everyone updated on all the changes around here this summer, but I’ve left the high school in Phuket Town where I taught last year (Ben still teaches there) to work at a small school on the neighboring island of Koh Siray. It’s less than 10 minutes from my old school but worlds away in terms of socioeconomics. Those of you who have seen it can attest that it looks like The Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King and just like the Elephant Graveyard, you really don’t want to be there after dark.
Koh Siray is home to the Sea Gypsies, a migrant community with its own language and religion who rarely use currency or integrate themselves into society. This means their children do not attend school. My school has encouraged these kiddos to join classes (something that would never be allowed in town due to extremely prejudice attitudes towards the migrant community) but its a steep learning curb as almost none of them can read or write and many parents prefer their children to work instead of learn.
The Sea Gypsy Village itself is a makeshift settlement with no running water or sanitation where families live 10 to a room. Domestic violence and sexual abuse are common. Not a day has gone by at school that a child doesn’t gasp and cower away from a high five for fear that I’m going to hit them. But once they’ve decided that I’m not going to hurt them, I can’t get those little snuggle bunnies off me, they want hugs and kisses so desperately.
The orphanage in Koh Siray is self sufficient in terms of funding. They can provide the kids with decent clothes, food and healthcare but the need for love and affection oozes out of their little puppy dog faces each day when its time to go home. At 4pm, they sprint towards me at the school gate screaming, ” TEACHA ONE PLEASE!!!!!” (Goodbye hug)
Hugs and play dates with Teacha are free but small gifts go a long way in communicating love to them as our verbal communication is somewhat limited. If you would like to donate and Make a Munchkins Day, I’ll buy them a book or toy and go play with them on your behalf, because let’s face it, their present is only fun if it comes with someone to play with.
I am also saving and collecting donations locally to do a weekend activity each month. Today we did “Bracelets and Bubbles” which was a big hit. In true crasian form, they wore down the battery on both my camera and my ipad from “take photo” and I left with a broken shoe, 4 oddly placed “Elsa” braids, and no voice left.
I wish on Mothers Day that they had good mommies to buy them Frozen pajamas and tuck them into bed in their very own room, but at least tonight they will go to bed with bracelets on their wrists and bubbles around their neck, knowing that Teacha will be back tomorrow with more hugs.
Happy Thai Mother’s Day Mom, I love you!