Fri-Yay, not today

When the Director handed me the roster for tutoring in October, I did not like the looks of Friday.  7th grade boys any day is a tall order but Friday afternoon is really pushing it.
They proved me wrong and today marked the 8th week of the boys not only having perfect attendance but being the most creative and enjoyable class out of the 4.
As they put their attendence stickers on the board they realized there were no more columns, and pointed to where the 25th would be.
 “next week, why not have?”
 I said well do you know what holiday is on the 25th?
 “Yes, Kis ta ma sah”
That’s right, so we will probably have a party at school and have cake and games are you excited?

I knew they wouldn’t be.  They love that they get their own time. They love that their class has the most stickers on the board and the sign we made for the door that says “please do not interrupt”

I love that they casually hang out outside the room as if they just happened to be upstairs and that unbeknownst to me they asked to switch to the 2nd dinner shift so they could stay longer in class.
They asked about the week after and we got out the board again so I could explain to them that their class was over, we had done 8 weeks.  They just looked down kind of sad and pulled my wrist to sit next to them on the stairs for a moment of silence.  They are too big to hug me so instead they said, “Teacha, we are going to hide Nex’s dinner plates….you can come if you want.”
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I know in order to meet the long term goals of the program, we need to give every munchkin at the orphanage a chance to study but I miss the boys already.  I’m not worried about a lapse in English exposure as much as the absence of a fellowship they had grown to value over the past couple months.
If you are reading this, chances are you grew up in the church and were part of youth group, Younglife, CRU etc.  Maybe it’s where you met your first love or your best friend. Maybe the group fellowship afforded you the opportunity to realize that someone wasn’t who you thought they were at school or that a person you thought you had nothing in common with was struggling with the same problem as you.
Maybe it’s been a long time since you left that group but you still feel like reaching out to your pastor or leader or remember someone and think, “I wish I would have gotten to know them better.” or “I wonder what they’re up to now”
In March of 2014 I had a summer camp of private students ages 13-17 none of whom knew each other going into it.  As I was the only teacher, the tutoring center that registered them let me do it my way which means we did lessons and activities that my Dad, The Griffins, The Swifts, The McKinneys and many more youth leaders used to do for me.
At the end of the one month camp the students said to me that they had not had friends like this before (different schools, different age etc.) and asked if I thought they could always be friends.  I said you will not see each other often, but if you try to meet on school breaks then, yes, I think you will always be friends.
It’s been almost 2 full years and they’ve been happy to keep me updated and drop in from time to time to reminisce.  The camp lovebirds are still together (long distance because of college of course), as a group they have celebrated 2 Songkran’s (Thai New Years) together, and they always send me selfies anytime someone from the group sees one another.
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As it stands, the munchkins are not Christians and do not have the luxury of quality time with parents or outside friends. I do not know when the time will come that we will be able to have a 2 way discussion about the gospel but I do know that through fellowship God is laying a foundation of understanding about what love is for when that time comes.
If fellowship is something that’s made a difference in your life please consider making a donation this Christmas or setting up a recurring monthly donation to ensure that Make Our Day is able to make consistent progress towards creating a special time of fellowship each week for all the munchkins.  I know they will make a new friend and they may even meet their Savior.
Current programming needs include 2 more teachers who can commit to 8 weeks of classes at a time and an additional classroom location within walking distance of school and the orphanage.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie
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Half Munchkin Half Man

“Don’t waste your youth growing up”

Gop 2014
Thanks to “the mother” (whom the munchkins ask about every day) Christmas cards featuring my handsome boyfriend Gop are on their way.
Gop’s birthday is on Christmas day.  The day my christmas card photo was taken I had been at school asking him what he wanted to bring his classmates for his party this year.
As I carried on a logical discussion with my half munchkin half man about the pros and cons of donuts, my mind drifted back to the day of this picture.  When I got home I pulled it up on my instagram and sure enough it was exactly 52 weeks ago.
In this picture I wanted to check his worksheet but he kept folding into a heart and hiding it from me.  When I managed to wrestle it away from him I unfolded it to find he had covered the whole sheet in hearts that said “Gop LOVE K.T.”
He has grown up a lot this year and I’ve already mentally prepared myself for a polite thank you and firm handshake in place of a love letter this year…….but I bet if I show him this picture he’ll laugh.
If you would like to sponsor a playdate or birthday party in honor of a munchkin or minion in your life, you may do so here. Sponsor a Playdate
They will receive a card in the mail from munchkinland explaining your gift and why it matters to us.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie
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T is for Thankful

The sun has already set on a holiday that no one in Thailand knows exists, but I wanted to put in my two cents and say that this Thanksgiving I am thankful for progress, perspective, and potential.
Progress – I’m not going to lie….the past month and especially the past week has not been great but it is only because I underestimated the progress I had already made with the orphanage and got the green light to begin tutoring in October (before I was personally prepared to do so).  Day to day has been a real struggle but big picture I am still amazed and picturing the look of surprise on the Directors face when she said, “Actually can come every day because many student more want to study”
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My delightfully dysfunctional classroom used to set the clocks back to try and trick me into leaving earlier.  I tried to pull the same thing on them last week and they said…Teacha 4 minute more, not finish. Progress.

Perspective – As some of you know we had a birthday party last Friday.  It was a slam dunk and I apologize that due to a hellacious venture into Malaysia I didn’t have time to write up the details, but towards the end of the day some Canadian volunteers were at school and Benz, the Belle of the Birthday Ball, was so shy she wouldn’t even say hello and whispered into my ear “Teacha I want to know their name”.

The volunteers said all the kids had been kind of shy and, encouraged by the fact that the kids were so visibly happy to see me, asked how often I visit.  I said it was my third time there that day….we’re just big on exaggerated and affectionate greetings.
Had the volunteers not been there I don’t think I wold have taken even a moment to step back and think about how far we’ve come in the last year and how much love there is between us. A year ago at this same school, I met not one, but several girls who didn’t know their name because no one had ever asked.

It amuses the munchkins so much that I know their names, their class, their birthdays, and their personalities.  They frequently try to trick me by switching papers or answering to a different name only to giggle at my disapproving look and say “she knows already”

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My boyfriends Gop and Nex fighting over me at school.  I remember meeting both of them; when Gop had a shaved head and before Nex had the scar on his nose.  They couldn’t be more different although I wouldn’t have known it at the time.  Perspective.
Potential – The potential for what we can do here is life changing in the sense that I honestly believe Make Our Day will change the course one or more of these children’s lives, be it through higher education, adoption, or a self confidence that propels them to take control of their situation.
That being said, if I want them to reach their full potential, I cannot deceive myself in thinking that theirs is the same as my own.  From the moment I was born I was loved, supported, educated, and cared for consistently.  A couple days ago, if I wanted to throw in the towel in Malaysia, I could have.
But throwing in the towel for me means, I go home, I get a job, I get married….I have a comfortable (if not more than comfortable) life. I cannot lie to them and say they have the same choices.  They don’t.
What I can do is understand each child in terms of their heart and their desire and make sure that a lack of encouragement or funding doesn’t keep them from realizing the potential they see for themselves.
The munchkins do not know what Thanksgiving is, but when I get to school at lunch tomorrow after a few too many hard days away, there will be no other word to describe the moment they scream and run into my arms other than….Thankful.
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This doesn’t look like much to you.  But to every teacher who has ever known “George” this may as well have been the feeding of the five thousand.  George is the worst student in the school by unanimous decision, but after 6 months of me ignoring him and not allowing him to join playdates, he figured out being the squeaky wheel was getting him nowhere.  He now always joins in at lunchtime activities and asks me to look at his homework from time to time. Potential.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie

Not all noodles and bubble tea

I have a problem, but I also have a solution.  I have all kinds of updates from Munchkinland that I would like to bring to your attention….but not so much to the attention of the world wide web.

Definitely not to the attention of the world wide web.  That’s the problem.

Here’s the solution.  If you’d be willing to pray for some of my kiddos as they continue to struggle with family situations, sign up for our private newsletter HERE

Please share everything else constantly except this letter…like quit your job, create social media accounts for your pets, commit to living the rest of your life in elephant pants taking selfies and hash tagging Make Our Day .  Superfan levels of sharing are highly encouraged for everything else.

If you just want the sunshine and rainbows or are taking a hard moral stand against receiving yet another email…we ain’t mad at you.  You can still get the cliffs notes version here.

In fact, here is a little October update right now.  Would you look at that.  Originally intended for my PIKE boys but a cause for sharing and celebration none the less.  We’re moving in the right direction over here and feel extremely encouraged and grateful for all the support from back home.

Now wake your pet up and ask them to share this. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR A PLAYDATE

To my frat boys who are frat boys but not in the way that people cock their head to the left, half roll their eyes and scoff “frat boys”…unless of course that’ s the connotation you were aiming for, in which case stop:

MakeOurDay
I’ve just finished my first full week of fall tutoring and it’s been nothing short of a miracle. 
 
When I met the new Director at the beginning of October to discuss private tutoring and group classes she agreed but as the conversation progressed I realized how unsure she was any of the kids actually wanted to study after school and was evasive about setting a date.
 
During the month of October, I continued to visit for playdates and ask the Director for a start date for tutoring. As we’re on “Thai time” I figured this would take until after new years BUT She had so many requests from the kids to study with me that she gave me permission to stay until 5:30, every day except Sunday and enrolled 55 students with a waiting list of 30 more.  
 
She is so happy and encouraged after watching classes this week and seeing how many munchkins kept sneaking up to peek through the cracks in the classroom doors because they want in. I told her we will open more spots in January and the adult staff are even asking to be included as well.
 
From her perspective this is all sudden and random.  But it isn’t and you all are a big part of that.
 
My first volunteer, my first intern, my first group sponsorship, and (come January) my first college grads to hop a plane.  All from Missouri State and all part of putting a missing piece into a community that’s struggling to love and educate its youth.
 
I frequently go back to a commencement address from Toni Morrison in which she said, 
 

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

 
Regardless of where life takes each of you after PIKE, you will always be in a position to help and empower someone and I pray you never grow complacent with that.  I sincerely thank you for helping me and Make Our Day and welcome any and all opportunities to collaborate in the future.
Love from Munchkinland,
Teacha Katie

Not About Elephants or Clothing

There are 3 things that I never get tired of looking at in Thailand. Don’t expect to see beaches, buddhas or shimmy shimmy coco-whaaaaaaats on this list.  That’s actually not what I do every day.

Speaking of coconuts though, I did have one today that was the size of my head; closer to literally than figuratively and if you’ve ever taken a precocious 5 year old to the KC aquarium you would know that a falling coconut poses a greater threat to the general public than a Daddy Shark.  Or in the words of Keagan “Coconut fall, people die”.  So thank goodness I was dealing with a domesticated coconut.  The aquarium didn’t include this variety in their statistics but I presume they have fewer homicidal tendencies than their rowdy relatives.

I digress. Coconuts did not make the list.

#1.  power lines

It’s insanity.  Forget texting / selfie-ing and driving.  If I fail to gun it at the light change its because I’m deep into a head back, mouth gaping contemplation of how..HOW is working.  If you are questioning why the internet sucks or why you can’t use the fan and the rice cooker at the same time…this should answer your question.

#2. scout days

They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)
They all hate scouts. Too bad:-)

Hawaiian shirt Friday is a close second, but Wednesdays are what get me through the week.  The hats are unnecessary and uncomfortable and there are four different options.  Bucket hats only for girls, but boys can have the burgundy felt beret, a very flimsy cowboy hat, or a beanie with piping. Tassle socks and bandanas mandatory.  I love it.

hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75
hat and twig sword. These are the actual ones the kids use. Cost me $1.75

Every Wednesday I pretend I’ve never noticed this attire before and they’re happy to tell me what it’s for and how much they hate it as if we don’t have this conversation every week.  If I can keep them on the subject long enough they may go get a large, red painted stick or sword like twig with a plastic handle.  The tools of the trade are not pursued with the same intricacy the uniforms are.  I’ve seen zero evidence to support the notion that these items “prepare” them for anything.  When do we get to play with fire.

#3. traveling bamboo broom salesmen

Every town in Thailand has dozens of them, scurrying around tooting their bicycle horns (the clown kind, not the bells) and dodging traffic on freeways frogger style without losing a hair of bamboo.  I desperately want a ride along with one of these guys.  What’s their best seller?  Do they have regulars? What about rival broom hawkers.  Do I smell sabotage?  Never do I want to be fluent in Thai as much as when I see one of these guys stop to talk with a ladder or bolster pillow salesman.  I want in.

“Please not worry” the Tourism Authority of Thailand would like to clarify that Phuket still has the best beaches and (second) biggest buddha but these are the little things that make my day and serve as a little reminder that…oh yeah…I live in Thailand, and stuffs a little weird here.

Love from Munchkinland,

Teacha Katie

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I bet you didn’t know

I bet you didn’t know that many Indonesians believe smoking can cure….not cause….cancer, autism, and acne among other things and that there are entire medical practices devoted to “doctors” blowing smoke into your ears and nose.  Sign me up.

I bet you didn’t know that in China there is a theme park called The Kingdom of Little People where vertically challenged chinamen live in clay mushroom huts and perform plays.

I bet you didn’t know that in Japan they have “cuddle cafes” where you can pay a teenage girl dressed like a toddler to clean the wax out of your ears.

I purposefully didn’t post links because I want you to read to the end of this post before going down the rabbit hole of Vice News.  Bait and switch time.

I wanted to let you know what everyone has been up to this month to support Make Our Day and what a source of encouragement it has been for me as I’m tackling the hurdles I knew were coming this month.

On Oct 3, the generous and classy gentleman of Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) hosted a trivia night at Missouri State and raised over $1,500 to contribute to the Make Our Day tutoring center.

say munchkinland!
say munchkinland!

Look at those winners.  They look pretty pleased, but not nearly as happy as we are.   This contribution makes  huge difference to our organization and is enough to keep tutoring, camps, and playdates firing on all cylinders for a month.  Thank you so much boys…men….philanthropic young adults…..future of America? I don’t know what to call you.

This was a great connection that Ben and Jay lined up for me I too old and not cool enough to know anyone else on campus, so we need help getting connected with sororities or other campus organizations (any US campus) that make philanthropy part of their mission.

That’s where Mailyn comes in and she is working on non other than……drumroll……community and campus involvement in the Springfield area.  If you have a group, business, or church looking for ways to get involved, she wants to talk to you.  And actually now that you mention it, we have a quick and painless way for you to get involved right away!

Hi Mailyn!
Hi Mailyn!

Mailyn has been out there pounding the pavement getting people so excited about our mission in Munchkinland that we are booked solid for Monday Nov 9. Both Panera and Incredible Pizza have graciously pledged to donate up to 30% of sales from any kind hearted, hungry Springfieldian who presents these mobile flyers from 4 – 8pm.

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If you can’t make it…or don’t trust yourself at a pizza buffet…we understand BUT good news, you can still contribute to the evening by donating what you would have spent on dinner through our newest donation portal, text to donate.  WATCH.

TEXT TO DONATE
Example: “Give 10”
417.356.3159
This will not be charged to your cell phone bill. You complete a one time registration with your debit or credit card to give.

Did I make this video? Absolutely not.  Charles did.  Just another ambitious, talented MSU Bear who sat down across from me at the student union one day and said he wanted to help. Which…I’m not going to lie, (leans in and whispers: a lot of people say that…you get where I’m going with this?) But he followed up and it’s such a relief to have someone I can contact for tech support.  I don’t know that he knew quite the level of tech inaptitude he would be working with, but too late now Charles. You will have to change your # if you want the questions to stop.

Hi Charles!.....can I call you Chuck. Too bad I don't want to.
Hi Charles!…..can I call you Chuck. Too bad I don’t want to.

Of course I want to say thank you and acknowledge everyone for the work they’ve put in, but more than that, I want to say that interacting with everyone who has volunteered gives me the confidence to continue building Make Our Day slowly, steadily and collaboratively and I hope that through collaboration, you each get to keep a piece of it.  Whether it be a funny story about how crazy asians are, a task that challenges you, or a trip across the world that changes the whole course of your life. It’s happened before.

If you feel like there is an opportunity for you or your networks to get involved, it would Make Our Day to hear from you.  You may go look at Vice news now….right after you email us.  info@makeourday.org

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Return to Munchkinland

When I pulled up on my moped, I saw no munchkin heads peaking over the fence, heard no yelling…and where is the cat?

As it turned out, the munchkins had social workers visiting to put on a meditation workshop.  My initial thought was it may be working because it was unusually quiet.  But, by the time I made the walk from the gate to the office, one had sprung loose.

“TEEEEEAAAAAACHA!!!!” It was JJ. She led me around the corner so we could hide and she could have me and my unbraided hair to herself before the rest of the crew caught on.

As the hosts of the activity attempted to lead an orderly procession from one room to another, JJ and I let a giggle slip and within seconds the herd spotted us and took me down. It was a massive munchkin pile up that left the social workers very confused and likely undid a lot of the effort they’d just put in to strike a tranquil dynamic.

While the munchkins were finishing their (not so silent at this point) meditation I got a chance to talk to the new Director. I’ve been worrying about this meeting since Megan told me about the turnover and want to give a big thanks to everyone who has been praying about this with me.  I left feeling very optimistic about the conversation.

We talked about continuing playdates, reinstating English class once school starts, and most importantly identifying a more consistent format for tutoring. She seemed aware and candid about the difficulties facing the school and the community as a whole, which is unusual in this saving face culture.

I was trying to be patient and let the social workers finish their session but I must have been perceivably anxious because a board member whom I’ve met before said “ok you want join them now.” and let me in the room. Understandably, the social workers were not happy about the interruption until something happened that changed their minds.
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This is Seven. He came to the orphanage only a few weeks before I left for the summer. He has a very with us but not with us aura about him so I worried about him heading into the classroom environment as I knew how slim the chances were of a teacher being able to engage a new student, particularly a quiet one.

Two of the social workers had clearly picked up on Seven’s vibe and had taken him aside to work with him individually.  He wasn’t looking at them and wouldn’t speak.  I continued to keep an eye on the three of them while I played with the rest of the kids.

When there was still no change after 20 minutes, I told the munchkins to be quiet. I whispered across the room, “Seven”. It immediatly got his attention and I’ll never forget the huge smile on his face as he sprung up singing H-E-L-L-O and crossed the room to hug me.

The munchkins made room for him in the circle and I said in Thai, Seven how old are you?
“7”
No not your name. How old are you?
“7”

But how old are you Seven?

I continued to fain misunderstanding until Seven and all the munchkins were rolling with laughter and yelling in unison “7!!!!” to try and get it through Teachas thick skull. Gop couldn’t take it anymore and dug deep into his english repertoire “Teacha, you are crazy, Seven is 7 YEARS OLD AHHHH!”  The social workers were laughing now too.

“Ohhhhhhh Seven is 7” dramatic head roll open palmed slap to forehead, “Why didn’t you guys just tell me that?” We all gave Seven high fives for being 7 and he participated the rest of the afternoon.

Though I feel a little uncomfortable writing specifics about individual kiddos in such a public forum, I find this small moment to be an important reminder that some of the problems Make Our Day is facing don’t need fixed as much as they just need lived through.

It is hard for any kid anywhere to be “the new kid” but its not a life experience you can seek to eliminate. Is every munchkin going to pass school this year, no. Are all the kids who are “best friends forever” now going to stay friends, no. Do we want them to go through it without a trusted adult noticing? No.

I’ve been talking non stop all summer about short term and long term goals for financing, reach, and sustainability. While making daily steps towards these goals is crucial, talking about them doesn’t tell the story nearly as well as he does and I’m thrilled to have an impact report that reads like this one:

Holy transformation Tuesday Instagrammers, This is the kind of ROI I like to see.
Holy transformation Tuesday Instagrammers, This is the kind of ROI I like to see.

The munchkins go back to school this Monday. The Director of the orphanage and I agree that we need to talk with the Thai teachers and get struggling students started in private tutoring right away before they slip into bad habits for the semester. If you would like to support a munchkin’s tutoring on a monthly basis you may set up a recurring donation in any amount using Paypal, text, or online registration.

Now the rest of the crew!

New kid on the block, and she's a keeper! Meet Pair
Another new kid on the block, and she’s a keeper! Meet Pair
Crankypants meets tankypants...and shes still cranky. Come on Kwang
Crankypants meets tankypants…and shes still cranky. Come on Kwang
Ummmm excuse me Peyton, could you please stay a munchkin? He's practically a minion, STOP.
Ummmm excuse me Peyton, could you please stay a munchkin? He’s practically a minion, STOP.
JJ made me wait until she finished my Elsa braid to get in the photos
JJ made me wait until she finished my Elsa braid to get in the photos
Gop and I changed the chorus of Let it Go to say
Gop and I changed the chorus of Let it Go to say “Wut is ting tong” you had to be there…but it was hilarious and upset Wut enough that he chased me around the table banging on his chest yelling “KING KONG!!!”…..my mom takes issue with Wuts rowdiness and constant sweating, but he’s my favorite.
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Everything in this picture is so business as usual for the end of a playdate, I can’t stop laughing. Benz is demanding more photos, Peyton is behind the camera being a perfectionist, my boyfriend Gop is doing exactly what I asked him to, Pair is nuzzling and squeezing me everywhere, cranky pants is…cranky and Ben is photobombing in the background wanting to know when the big kids are going to go away. But the wild card of the day…Fai. Fai is front and center and smiling, which made Teacha smile all day.