by GALE BAILEY
Just a small group accompanied Eddie Haworth, Director of Gift of Happiness Foundation, to Mae Sot which included Khun Amarin (driver of minibus and GOH volunteer) me and Yvonne Ziegler who have both been before together with ‘first timers’ Sharon Moore, BWG and Debbie Singh who is President of Wanneroo Rotary Club, Perth, W.A. This Rotary Club donated computers last September and this time Debbie brought with her toiletries, clothes and about 80 beautiful scarves which her 80 year old mother had kindly knitted.
The previous Monday, a truck load of clothes had been taken to Mae Sot by Khun Kit which was brought to Mae Tao Clinic on Tuesday morning but Eddie had also been informed of a fire in a nearby community so we took some donations to them. Mae Tao is always fascinating with so many people attending the various clinics plus we saw people waiting for the BCMF (Burma Children’s Medical Fund) bus to travel to Chiang Mai for specialist treatment. What wonderful work is done by such dedicated people – Mae Tao and BCMF.
About 100 families had been affected by the fire with their houses burnt to the ground about 3 weeks earlier. We found them living in make-shift huts – they were so pleased to see us and receive clothes. A temporary school had been erected as these people realise how important education is for their children. Further along the road we took a sack of rice to the Men’s Health Centre where we learnt that one of the men who we had met on previous visits was very sick and dying of AIDS so we did not stay too long as were respectful of his peace.
After lunch we took Debbie to One Dream One World as Eddie had some small jogging pants to hand out together with tops showing the Rotary Wanneroo logo plus a few toys which are always well received. After a photo shoot, it was off to the Sky Blue School to see where more of Debbie’s computers had been donated on a previous visit. It was great to see the little boy who was so poorly in September looking happy and healthy however we made a visit to the actual dump where he lives with his parents and siblings which is hard to describe. The conditions where these poor people live have to be seen to be believed – very difficult to witness in real life – so different to seeing it on TV! It took a while for us to gather our emotions but after a brief discussion, it was decided that Gift of Happiness would buy a few sacks of rice which we were guaranteed would go to the poorest families.
Nam Tok School was first on the list the following day and we were well received as Clown Eckie did a great performance in a bright green satin suit together with matching pith helmet! Just his appearance had us all rolling with laughter – especially the headmaster who sat next to me! This school is supported by a wonderful group called Krio Hirundo Onlus led by Nadia, a wonderful lady who helps with the education but also encourages the children in the daily basics in life such as washing hands before eating, going to school every day, taking care of each other. The colourful scarves which Debbie’s mother had knitted were given out to the children who were thrilled to bits. Such a lovely warm atmosphere at this school with very happy children.
After lunch we went to Umpang 42km which is also called Best Friends School where a group of students from an international school were doing their CSR (Community Service Responsibility) for their IB. The school has support from a Spanish foundation who had quite a few volunteers living in the community. Clown Eckie’s show was well received and donations of clothes, shoes and toys were left. We also visited their little farm where there were pigs, chickens and fields ready for planting with which the farang students were assisting.
Thursday morning, Khun Kit came and guided us to Ban Tha-Aad a school which had many Burmese and Thai children studying together. Clown Eckie once more kept the children spellbound but as we were in quite a limited space, he curtailed the show as the little ones at the front were in danger of getting crushed and he did not want them to get hurt. However the children did not notice as they had been laughing ever since he appeared so we left them happy.
After a delicious noodle lunch (270 Baht for 7 of us) it was off to the final school for Eddie to perform a show. This was called Pa Ra Mi – Ray of Hope – Learning Centre. It was spread over a large area and a team of dentists from Mae Tao Clinic were checking some of the students. Eddie decided to do the show outside as there were so many children and it worked fabulously well – the children were enthralled and so were we – again! It was a really lovely school and we were delighted to see the children have a farewell assembly, all lined up and singing together before boarding their Song Taus for their homeward journey. Cheery farewells and happy children – that’s what it is all about – the Gift of Happiness!
See www.gohappiness.org for more details of volunteer opportunities.