–By Ms. Shirley Gamble–

RIS has been working with Baan Nok Kamin Foundation in Bangkok for several years now to help support the children there with the cost of school tuition, including education materials. Baan Nok Kamin is a private, nonprofit organization that helps and cares for orphans, street/homeless children, and drug addicts. When we found out that they also have a smaller branch in Uthai Thani that needed help, we were excited to help in any way we could. We found out that they own a small plot of land next to a local primary school and had built two mud houses to accommodate nine boys there. They also had a few chickens, two fish ponds, and a small garden in an effort to keep down their food costs.

When we asked how we could help, they explained that they would like to have a real chicken coop or duck house so they could purchase more animals to raise who would produce eggs. They also wanted to fill the two ponds with fish so the fish would breed and multiply so they could eventually catch fish any time they wanted to. We also found out that they eat frogs and field mice to supplement their diet, so we discussed how we could build places to breed these animals instead of having to go out every day to catch them.

We determined that we needed 50,000 baht to accomplish our goals. The Phoenix Swim Team graciously volunteered to help raise the money, while high school volunteers would actually go to Uthai Thani to spend a weekend helping to build the various items they needed. I was able to take 14 students with me for the weekend trip. Luckily, we were able to travel on a teacher’s in-service day, so we were able to spend half a day with the 9 boys and their classmates at the local primary school they attended.

Two of our parents (Lobster and Ong’s mothers) sponsored lunch and ice cream for all the students, and we prepared some English activities and games for them. Then the next two days we worked really hard to build the duck house and an enclosure around one of the ponds and finish the field mice house that they had already started. We also ordered fish from a local fish farm and released them into one of the fish ponds. We even got the chance to go out into the nearby fields to help set the traps to catch some field mice. The best part was when our students found out they had to actually catch the ducks themselves once we had bought them. Although a little cautious at first, they all became experts at catching ducks in no time at all!

A big thank you to Khun Tum from Human Resources and Khun Sunate from our Maintenance Department who also volunteered to go on the trip due to their skilled experience. Here’s what some of our HS volunteers had to say about the experience.

“The local school was painted a colorful bright pink and there were many young students, all looking lively. We served them lunch and sat and talked with them and gave them ice cream— some ate 6 cups! Then we played games with them, which mainly focused on learning English. The most entertaining game was the word pairing game where English words were taped to everyone’s back and they had to find their pair; the kids had fun and also learned new vocabulary words. I loved how they were curious about what each word meant and what the correct pronunciation was.” — Belle 10-1

“The fencing for the duck enclosure was made from blue netting that was stretched and tied to a series of poles encircling the pond. The poles were made out of eucalyptus logs that we had to chop down and carry to the pond. Before hammering the logs into the ground we had to dig a narrow hole for each log, which was time-consuming and tedious, but we were proud to have accomplished it when it was all completed.” — Kyu 11-3

“It was a wonderful experience helping to build the duck house. Catching ducks isn't that hard, but you have to watch out for their feet and flapping wings!” — Junn 10-6

“I was scared at first because the ducks were huge. But I gained some courage to catch the ducks when we were at the second farm because I realized that it was now or never! It was a great and fun experience.” — Mook 10-2

“Going on the Uthai Thani trip was a thrilling experience for me. We did a lot of service work constructing the duck house and setting traps for field mice. But the best part of going on this trip was meeting the kids. They are extraordinary kids who are very polite, strong, and, best of all, they could play all day long with wonderful smiles on their faces. I also met one of the best men I have ever met in my whole entire life: Khun Por Fhun (‘Dad’ to the orphans there). He taught all the kids to have hope and stay strong. He also taught me to stay strong. His quote was, ‘If God didn’t abandon us, then we still have hope.’ I played with a lot of the kids and asked them how their life was. They all said ‘I am happy, I have everything I want already.’ I was so humbled that they had so little but were still so happy. If I can, I would like to go visit them again.” — Lobster 9-1