We all children and adults of Baan Unrak feel so fortunate, our hearts are filled with hope and joy as we are entering into this auspicious New Year.
We feel fortunate because of your un-ending support and care for us, which has been there since the establishment of Baan Unrak. Our hearts are filled with hope because of your dedication, which is inspiring each one of us with a realization that the world is filled with goodness. We know that most of our sponsors are not rich, many of you face financial constraints or social pressures. Still you all have continued to provide your support. You are still with us, you have never given up. We are so full of joy to see how resourceful you have been in the effort to help us.
I can say only one word -
May this New Year fill your life with bliss.
Didi A Devamala
1. Remembering 2014
2. Christmas & New Year at Baan Unrak
4. Electricity Experiment!
5. Story of a Sponsor
6. Journey with the Elephants
7. Buddha Day
8. Special Visitors
9. Sharing the Power of Language
10. Going to the Market
11. Give Love, Give a Life
Every year is unique in its own way, different from the previous year. It is the wonder of life, that there is newness and freshness in each passing moment, nothing stays the same. Each leaf on a tree is different, each cloud in the sky is different, each drop in the river is different. We also carry countless different memories of the year gone by - sweet memories of the time spent with loved ones, pain and agony of the bitter experiences, awareness and contemplation of the learning encounters, the list can go on.
So what have some of the members of the Baan Unrak Family have to say about 2014? Here are some emotions expressed -
Mike (short term volunteer)
One thing I learned in 2014:
The importance of the family. I’ve seen relationships in England and in Thailand, their very existence is what keeps people going. Despite what life throws at us, people are able to get up in the early morning and face up the world because of their families. The people in Baan Unrak are one big family. Everyone looks out for each other.
Vijai (boy under 10)
One thing I learned in 2014:
I can ride now skateboard longer, play ping pong and I learn also to play chess.
Wish for 2015:
I really want to ride a bike because when I go somewhere I don’t have to walk and I like to go fast
Momo Aye (Teenager)
Funniest Experience 2014: The Christmas Eve’s show. The hip hop dance was very funny. I’ve never seen something like it.
One thing I learned in 2014: I learn how to be a teenager. Now, I do things I couldn’t do before because I grow up. This year I helped preparing the stage for Christmas and also I helped Didi to prepare the drinks for the children.
Dokbua (girl under 10)
Best experience in 2014:
To receive a Barbie doll and play with her, she’s so beautiful!
One thing I learned in 2014:
I learn how to swim. It makes me happy.
Lar Lar (care mother and medic)
Best experience in 2014:
Doing relief work last year, I saw many people struggling to survive in their lives. We go to some villages around Sangkhlaburi giving out rice, beans and medicine. The people have difficult lives living in small huts. We saw old and sick people with nobody to take care of them. When I see them, I want to help them more and more.
One thing I learned in 2014:
I learned about medicine from volunteering doctors at Baan Unrak. Now, I can help the children here. I know what to do for simple problems.
Wish for 2015
I want to save money and build a house for my parents in Burma.
Malek (care mother)
One thing I learned in 2014:
I’ve never been a leader in my life, but in 2014 I became responsible for organising the building of a new children’s home in Burma. I’ve had to learn how to talk to Karen State Government officials to get the land to build it and to explain to them what we do at Baan Unrak. Many people need help. There are people there who haven’t received absolutely nothing, neither education. I want to give them opportunities to be educated. From this experience, I learned how to talk to authority figures and how to be in a responsible position.
Mala (Day Guard)
One thing I learned in 2014:
I went to work at Baan Unrak last year. I had to work at the gate bus as one of the workers of the kitchen was not there, Didi ask me for some help. I was cooking for two months and I enjoyed it very much and I learned a lot of new dishes.
Soe Moe (Baan Unrak Weaver)
Funniest experience in 2014:
Every day is funny in the weaving centre because we talk to each other and we say often funny things.
Irene (long term volunteer)
Best experience in 2014:
To prepare Christmas day for the children. I managed to have Santa Claus, snow and many many gifts and sweets. It was very special and emotional day for me. The dining room was beautiful. They really enjoyed it and I was very happy sharing that day with them. That was my Christmas gift for the children, a special and magic night.
Festivals are always important in Baan Unrak. December festivals are very exciting for our children. The festive mood brings out the best in everyone of us. Each of us becomes more creative and has something to give; even the smallest touch contributes to the final outcome.
This year one of the special little touches that added to the magic of Christmas came from our smallest children. With the help of some volunteers, they made countless multicolor lanterns, which we then lit with candles. These tiny flickering lights accompanied us throughout the celebration. In the dining hall, the Christmas Eve dinner was purposely designed to highlight our family togetherness in a beautiful setting. It was a rare occasion, with children, volunteers, staff and visitors all having dinner at the same time. All Baan Unrak children, including those who have been studying in other provinces were there, as well as children who used to live at Baan Unrak and have started new lives elsewhere. We ate by the candlelight glowing from the little lanterns, with beautiful flower bouquets of bougainvillea and other blossoms gathered from our garden on each table, and music. The setting confirmed our family love and unity. After dinner, everyone gathered along with local friends at the soccer field to watch a beautiful Christmas pageant with music and dancing from the four corners of the world. The little children carried their lanterns to the performance area, where they then deposited the lights at the foot of the stage, where the Christmas scene was recreated. This created a wonderful sense of magic that extended beyond our home, because we also invited children from neighboring children’s homes to join us. Overall, bringing so many together at Christmas this year gave a truly strong feeling of a large connected family sharing a universal moment.
The next day we all received presents. It was not just a gift; it was an act of love. This time the magical touch came from one of our volunteers, Irene from Spain. She prepared a great surprise for us all. She created a mystical landscape of snow, complete with Santa Claus. We never experienced this before, and the mood was like a fairytale. The whole scene was white, and felt very special.
On the last evening of the year, all the Baan Unrak community gathered once again at the soccer field and we lit a bonfire. Rewards were given to the children who had some something special or good for our community during the year. We bid good-bye to the old year by eating pizza and drinking iced bell fruit juice. It is most important for us to start the new year feeling fresh. Very early next morning at 5am some grown ups gathered to sing devotional songs at the pavilion on the highest hill in Baan Unrak. The songs were of hope and love for the all created universe and then we meditated until the sun started to rise. With the first peep of the sun, the children stated to stream in. They came so softly and fresh, like dew on the grass and joined our songs. We all sung while the sun was rising—everyone in the Baan Unrak community was there, from the youngest to the eldest. We were joined by children from another nearby home, and then Didi gave a short speech and urged us all to do more service and help those who are suffering, without asking for things back, and to give selflessly with all our hearts.
Hands and Smiles
The touch of so many hands has contributed to make all these festivities so special. Many invisible hands that did the work very quietly but efficiently. Hands that have been working to make sweets for all of us. Hands that had made our delicious food. Hands that made decorations. Hands that cleaned and fixed things. Hands that carried the small children. Finally, the smile of everyone was the final touch of perfection for those auspicious days.
At Baan Unrak we have just learned a lesson of love. We learned it from a very tiny baby.
Ishvari and her family have been living with us since last November. They came to Baan Unrak with the hope to have a better life. At first, very few people noticed her and felt her special radiating energy. I fell in love with her immediately.
Just few days after her arrival her mom fell very sick and had to be brought to hospital. That is when all of Baan Unrak started to notice her. Ishvari started to bloom, and in a short time she become the darling of everybody. However, this lasted for 10 days because the sickness that made her mother sick was also in her little body, due to which she started to become sick too. She stopped having her regular feed. The rigidity of her limbs became more and more apparent.
We feared that she will be leaving us. We dedicated her a song. A very old song with few variations. We started to serenade her -
''My Bonnie is over the ocean, my Bonnie is over the sea. Come back, come back, come back my Bonnie to me to me''.
We wanted to let her know that even though she was very far away from us in the hospital, we missed her, and if she wanted to come back we were welcoming her. It happened after a full month of struggling to save her life, she came back to us. I still remember that day. The children and I were waiting eagerly to see her beautiful face again. Ishvari did indeed bring us together, and it was the love of everybody that brought her back to us.
Written by Irene, a Baan Unrak volunteer for 6 months)
During the days working as a volunteer in Baan Unrak , I organized a “fruit battery” experiment session with both the kids from the children’s home and the teachers from Baan Unrak primary school. The idea was quite simple – to inspire the children’s curiosity for science with some “magic” using materials available in our daily life. “Fruit battery” is one of the easiest experiments to start with in my experience.
We started the exciting experiment using a basket of lemons, copper and zinc nails, some leads and colorful LED bulbs. As I told the children and the teachers that we are going to generate electricity from lemons, everyone found it unbelievable. After I explained the chemical reactions involved, one of the science teachers stood up and helped to translate everything into Thai language. Then everyone gathered closely around the table and tried to connect as many lemons as possible, either in series or in parallel connection. Then came the most exciting moment – finally we connected the leads to an LED bulb, and it lit up! Ying, a student shouted, “This is amazing! We should have more such experiments in our chemical classes!” Children and teachers were so excited that they tried LEDs with different colors, and tried to adjust the brightness by adding connections.
I was really touched by their reactions and appreciations. At the end of the day, I found my name on the “Thank You Tree” on the wall, written “Qixin, Thank you for sharing amazing educative information”. Such a simple message was the best gift I received from Baan Unrak.
If a simple science experiment can bring children happiness and knowledge, let’s find out more and make it more fun to teach and to learn.
Written by Qixin Liu, Baan Unrak’s volunteer since November
Thanks to Maria Flavia (one of our sponsors in Italy), Maria Cristina Bettini knew about Baan Unrak foundation. She is an Italian artist from Florence who wanted to help Baan Unrak with an artistic project.
She developed the idea of something special...
A rhythm...A rhythm that had to be played by many people one by one but all together.
Once a week she opened the doors of her house to everybody who wanted to go to knit a small piece of wool of 13cm x 13cm. They were asked to choose whatever colours they liked and whatever tools they could use. During these sessions everything happened: the people talked a lot, they laughed, sang....Maria Cristina took some artistic pictures of all that. After two months she put all the woollen pieces together and she sewed a big patchwork blanket. She also prepared a photo album in which the rhythm of this job was very well shown.
The problem now was how to turn this into another kind of rhythm...
Something that was born from many persons and was asked to help many other persons...Selling the blanket was not a good idea....Too expensive and spoiling the sense of the art inside the idea!
The solution was a lottery....Many other people taking part in this rhythm and doing something very small to join the idea with others. More than 350 people worked on this beautiful idea and developed the same rhythm.....Natasha won the box with the blanket and the photo album. Natasha had bought 25 tickets to give as a Christmas present. She won for one of her friends.
The lottery raised 760.00 euros. The rhythm will now go to Baan Unrak children's home.
Thanks to all the people who worked on this music.
If you would like to continue this rhythm, that has created beautiful songs which have given love, peace and joy, please don't hesitate to contact us!
Written by Maria Flavia, Baan Unrak’s regular volunteer
Children do not need to be taught about the natural world, they only need ways to nurture and sustain the instinctive connections they already carry. Meeting elephants is one way to fill their being with the joy and mystery of living. Encountering gentle strength gives the children reverence for all life. Befriending members of a different species helps make a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.
The children arrived in the morning for their elephant encounter, just as the sun began to peek over the hills. We saw two elephants with their handlers emerge from a small village. As the grey giants slowly crossed the river and headed towards us, we contemplated each other in respectful silence. The children were awed by the enormity of their presence. At first, the kids did not know what to do. But all children are endowed with a remarkable gift— to see the world with innocent eyes. A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. They have a natural affinity towards nature in all its manifestations. Together, they moved forward to greet the largest natural manifestation they had ever encountered.
Such great size and incredible strength contained in a single breathing creature was an impressive sight for us all. Children and elephants alike stood and looked at each other. Curiosity overcame hesitancy. Apprehension transformed into joy. Stroking the tough hide, the children connected to the deepest essence of elephant nature and learned gentleness can only be expected from the strong. Fear evaporated in a heartbeat. Soon the elephants and children had formed a friendship and began to play together. The children climbed up and down, frolicking around their new companions, who enjoyed the attention with majestic grace. The party decided to go for a swim, which amplified the fun. The air rang with laughter and contented snorts as the everybody splashed around.
The kids had no trouble playing with the elephants—it was as though they had known each other their whole lives. In fact, elephants have long been an ally for Thai and Burmese people. They have been essential for great logging projects and ancient military strategy. Yet these gentle creatures are more than beasts of burden to the people of Southeast Asia. They are a symbol of good fortune, so essential even the King maintains a stable of white elephants for Thailand’s prosperity. Ancestral memories of their enduring sacred partnership gave the children a remarkable immediate connection. Communing in flowing waters brought elephants and children eye to eye. Peering within, the children found kindred souls.
In Buddhism the elephant is a symbol of mental strength. At the beginning of one's practice the uncontrolled mind is symbolised by a grey elephant that can run wild any moment and destroy everything on his way. After practising dharma and taming one's mind, the mind which is now brought under control is symbolised by a white elephant, strong and powerful, who can be directed wherever one wishes and destroy all the obstacles on his way.
Earth is bountiful and we are surrounded with blessings of the great mystery. It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know of wonder and humility. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
Written by Marcos and Johanna, Baan Unrak’s volunteers since November
Baan Unrak this year joined Buddha’s Day celebrations. In resonance to our efforts of continually exposing the children to local culture and heritage, our children and care mothers together with some trusted volunteers visited the Buddhist temple at the Mon side last October. It was a glorious occasion at the temple as hundreds of monks and devotees dressed in beautiful ethnic costumes from all over Sangkhlaburi area and the surrounding villages gathered to pray at the temple. Free food was distributed at the temple grounds and the children enjoyed the delicious vegetarian food and sweets. It was a very hot day but everybody was happy and satisfied to be a part of an important local event.
Baan Unrak houses children and single mothers of different ethnicity and religious backgrounds. However, these differences have never challenged the sacred harmony of our home. We respect each other’s beliefs and roots, and strive to cultivate the importance of staying connected to one's cultural roots to the children. Baan Unrak is one diverse community linked together by universal love.
''The Way is not in the sky; The Way is in the heart''
Written by Kripa and Paresh, Baan Unrak’s long term volunteers
Last September, the vice governor of Bangkok together with the governor of Sangkhlaburi visited the home to meet our children and talk about the necessity of Thai citizenship. The governor of Sangkhlaburi addressed us with appreciation, and expressed that he would be committed to help us within the frame of law as long as he had the authority to give all children Thai citizenship.
Thai citizenship is extremely important for the children of Baan Unrak. Having Thai citizenship opens doors to a number of opportunities. Thai nationals have access to a number of privileges and rights, one of them being tertiary education. What do some of our teenagers have to say about why and how being a Thai citizen is important for them? Here is what they have to say -
LOCHOY (20 years old)
“I think is good when the governors come to talk to Didi about what to do to get the Thai Citizenship. For me is veryimportant to get it because I’m going to the university this year and I have to ask for permission all the time that I haveto leave Baan Unrak. I’ve never talked to them about that because I think is something that Didi and her workers should sort out, I don’t understand pretty well the process. I know she’s doing her best from long time ago and when they cometo see us, she wants them to feel comfortable all the time. They always have very good treatment from us. I also think that their visits is positive because they can see how we live and how we take care of each other. Is also very good for the little ones because they always bring sweets for them”
JO MARY (15 years old)
“I like when we have visitors. They always bring sweets for the children and sometimes they talk to the big ones to ask them about their feelings. I think they are very nice people. After the governer visit, I always think about my future. Thanks to them, I will maybe have Thai citizenship someday to have the chance to move around to visit different places in Thailand.I would like to do the same as they do in my future and help people to improve their lives “
JANAKO (19 years old)
''I think is good when they come to visit us becouse the purpose is tohelp us. I hope this 2015 changes something to finally start to workon it and give to all of us Thai citizenship.I will see their visits positive if we get good results at the end.”
TARA (14 years old)
“I think is very good when they come. They should come every month to understand better our situation. The children like them because they sometimes bring ice-cream. I will feel very happy if after all, they give me Thai citizenship because I will have better future and I will have the chance to move around. They always promise to us that they will do it but is taking long time for it. I’ll keep the faith on them.”
As you can see, Thai citizenship means a lot to our children!
There is great power in language. Language can help accomplish various challenging tasks, including helping some doctors from Germany and Nepal in delivering medical assistance to local villagers in Burma and Thailand!
This year, some of our Baan Unrak teenagers got an exciting opportunity to put their language and leadership skills to good use. They felt themselves as leaders. Visiting doctors from Germany and Nepal planned to deliver some medical services to the nearby village of Sanepon. However, they needed assistance to speak in Burmese and Thai. The medical team contacted Baan Unrak, and soon a group of Baan Unrak teenagers joined the physicians and provided vital communication assistance and translation. It was a great experience for our bold and confident young teenagers! They gave their 100% efforts, and the doctors had no issues in communicating with and treating local village folk who had come to them for healing of their physical problems.
We got in touch with some of the teenagers, and got an inside view on their feelings and insights on the whole experience of being assistants to the doctors -
Mimi (teenager, 17 years old)
“I was so happy when the doctors came to Baan Unrak and ask us for help. Is something that I really like to do, to help people in very difficult conditions. I was not afraid ofthe road because I was thinking all the time to arrive thereand help them with the translation. It was a bit complicatefor me sometimes trying to translate the doctor’s pauses but finally, I think I did well. I found it very nice experience wherewe can learn many new things about medicine. In my future, I would like to do it again more often.”
Nam Tan (Baan Unrak's Nurse)
“I think the experience was good for everyone, especially for thevillage people because they live so far from the hospital and they don’t have any kind of transport. I learned many new medicinesthere because before the doctors came, I only have a little knowledge about that. Now I know more kind of medicines and forwhat to use them. The best thing for me was to help all these peopleand looking their happy faces after the treatment. The hardest thing was to get there because is a very bad road, very difficult to go to this village and I felt in danger with the car for a while.”
Momo Aye (Teenager, 15 years old)
“I remember that day as very emotional for me. It was great to receive the doctors from abroad becausewe had the chance to do something different and also to help the others in a very good way. The bestthing for me is all the new knowledge that I have with me now about medicine. I started to thinkabout my future from this day. I’m thinking about to be anurse to have the chance to help this villages in the jungle. The hardest thing for me was to leave them there again after all day together because we are going back to Baan Unrak, which is a good place, and they will stay there forever in very bad conditions.''
This was the first time that children from Baan Unrak were given a leadership role in assisting for a noble cause, and they surely have gained a very valuable experience! We used our rugged Ford Ranger, generously donated to Baan Unrak this year, to reach the village located in remote forests over tough roads. We again thank Ford for this wonderful donation!
Among the various activities of Baan Unrak for the past few years, there has been the city market organisation for the sale of textile products that women produce by weaving, and sweets made by boys in the bakery. Depending on the time of year, one or more times a week several Baan Unrak children, along with volunteers, coordinate to arrange everything they will need for the intense and fun day offered by the market. Some children have more experience at attending the market and it is they who guide the younger children and those for whom it is their first time. The experienced organize everything needed. The day before, an inventory is made of what has to be sold at the market. The children also work out what to bring, check prices, and make sure they have all the essential items such as tables, umbrellas, bags, and leaflets providing information about Baan Unrak and the weaving project.
For the Baan Unrak children, boys and girls, this is a unique opportunity to implement their organizational skills and teamwork, along with a volunteer who always supports and encourages them. On the day of the market, with the support of everybody, the children with volunteers load the van, and then head off to the village square or the temple where the market is held. On arrival, a stall is set up, of which some of the girls decide the layout. When people come, the children introduce them about Baan Unrak, the value and origin of the textile products, and delicious desserts (cup cakes, pies and bread!). The market has different stages, and when there are many people the children need to be attentive to everything: to customers, to re-stock the stall, and manage the money. The management of these tasks is often given to one of the oldest girls, who feels comfortable with this responsibility. Volunteers are always present at the most chaotic of times and are ready to give a hand if needed . At the end of the day, it is satisfying to see all the stalls emptied. after clearing up everything, and maybe eating some leftover sweets (even though the sweets are almost always snapped up by customers right away!), the money generated from the day is counted. This money is then delivered to Didi and used for the expenses of the children home.
Many of the children opt to take care of the market. For them, it is both a work experience, a chance to be together outdoors, and have contact with many different people in the country. At Baan Unrak, every effort is made to give our children those experiences that will evolve them both from inside and outside. Taking part in selling Baan Unrak's products at the market brings them in contact with the world, giving them confidence to face all challenges. The whole motive behind participating in selling at the market, is to make our children more resourceful, so that they realise and develop the abilities and skills that will enable them to ensure their healthy survival in the future.
Written by Maria Giulia and Sara, Baan Unrak’s volunteers since October
Gifts from our sponsors and supporters are the backbone of Baan Unrak. We are existing today only because of the regular contributions of our well wishers. It is your continued and committed support which has pumped life and energy into each member of the Baan Unrak community; Given this...
We give our heartfelt thanks to all our sponsors. The Baan Unrak Community has with your committed support been able to provide each child what it deserves. However, there are tough challenges that we have to face every year. We have to be prepared to tackle any kind of circumstance.
No one can predict the future weather forecast; bad weather could hit us in the form of non-cooperation from Government officials, or the arrival of a child with a life threatening condition. Whatever it may be, we must be prepared. At Baan Unrak, we have the experience and commitment to be able to improve children’s lives and reignite hope daily, but only with your help.
With our love, dedication and commitment towards child welfare; and your regular gift, together we can ensure a safe and secure future for Baan Unrak and its children. We are highly grateful for your unending love and support.
You can continue supporting us through the following -