Part 2 of James’s and Juliet’s volunteer journey across the world.
We have been in Pattaya for almost 2 weeks now and feel happy – settled in but still enjoying the novelties and newness of living in another country. We are at that stage where if you come across something that surprises you, you pretend it doesn’t anymore. For example when people you eat lunch with either chicken feet and enormous hunks of pigs liver, when a snake turns up at day care (the kids lose interest after about 10 seconds!), when some baby wees on the play mat and mum mops it up using it’s own pants or when you go for a massage with your boyfriend his masseuse spends most of the time slapping his bum telling him to “weelax”!
Our days and evenings have been busy so to stop me rambling for too long here are my top three highlights of the last week:
1. Child Protection Development Centre (CPDC)
About 7 years ago Khun Toy (the lady we are working for, director of Human Help Network Foundation Thailand) found a buffalo field on the outskirts of Pattaya and set about turning this into the fantastic home for street kids that it is today. These humble pastures now home to almost 80 children who, for all different reasons, cannot live with their parents – risk of trafficking, drug and alcohol problems, custody battles, abuse and incarceration. Each child has their own sad story but one thing they all have in common is that they all find safety, support and a family at CPDC. Before coming to CPDC a child would not go to school regularly, if at all. At CPDC all of the children are taken and fetched from school everyday and a routine and good education is established. The children sleep in single sex, mixed age rooms which creates a sense of family as opposed to same age sharing which can feel institutionalised. The older children look after the younger ones which in turn gives them a sense of responsibility and purpose.
The first time we visited we were shown around by three cheerful little girls who I later found out were all victims of physical and sexual abuse. They proudly showed us the immaculate kitchen and dining room, library, computer room, basket ball court, fish ponds, vegetable plots, mushroom houses, pig sty, chicken coop and ducks – all paid for by donations. As they rely on funding the aim is to make the centre as self sustaining as possible – the animals are reared and sold at market, the vegetables are prepared for meals and the children tend to the cleaning and cultivating vegetables. To me it all sounds too good to be true but it really works! The food is delicious (those mushrooms make the best tom yum soup), it is clean and above all the children are safe and happy.
2. Christmas Party
On Tuesday afternoon we attended a party put on by the local rotary club for the kids from one of the day centres we Asus Memo Pad ME302C AC Adapter help at. It was a roaring success – the pictures do it more justice I think. There was a beautiful buffet, a magician, a traditional Thai dancer, singing and dancing and Father Christmas made an appearance!
James and I had a great time dancing with the children and helping feed the smaller ones. Mon, a little boy I am quite attached to, rushed round for hours and eventually fell asleep on me – possibly a come down from all the green fanta he drank… For these children, who live in corregated metal shacks and are not allowed to go to school, it was a real treat and an afternoon they will remember forever.
3. Cabbages and Condoms
Lam has taken us under her wing – she is a wonderful woman who works at the Human Help Network and was brought up there herself. As well as welcoming us with open arms, showing us around and generally being one of the happiest and uplifting characters I have met she has also introduced us to the best coconut cakes in town, taken us for massage at THE massage school (no risk of a happy ending for James!) and is taking James to see Star Wars tonight.
A couple of Lam’s friends, Jeanette and Daniel, are visiting at the moment and we have had a couple of great nights out – always ending at the ‘beer garden’ which is some seats in the corner of a car park, one beer tap and a local chap who plays the guitar and sings all the rom-com classics.
Last night we had dinner at a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms – we sat on the sunset deck over a private beach with only the sound of waves lapping the shore. The name stems from a project to raise awareness for contraception and family – a light hearted approach to the problem of a rapidly increasing population. Profits still go towards building schools and family planning projects. The food was divine and thanks to Lam we ordered exciting new dishes recommended by a local. Our tolerance to chillies is going up everyday! I am running out of adjectives to describe how good the food is – each meal seems to top the last.
I hope you are all enjoying the run up to Christmas – back soon with more stories to share with you.
If you want to check out some more of Jame’s and Juliet’s travels (they are great with their words, pictures, and are quick to update!!) you can do so here.
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