From April 12-16, the Thai people celebrate New Year. Today is the actual day, but up in the northeast, days proceeding and following are dedicated to feeding the monks; dousing people with water, and getting drunk; and the end result is scenes of people throwing up in the ditches. All of our kids engage in water throwing with great vigor and fun. Squirt guns are purchased; barrels and hoses lined up along the road as ammo, and I spend 4 days praying that a child not be run over by some drunk. Many children dart in front of a vehicle to slow it down, which results in accidents. I do not drive during the day, except in early morning and late at night. We bought loads of candy and snacks for the kids, since they work up huge appetites during these days.
The new building for teenage girls with AIDS is coming right along. The rooms are all tiled, and we have subcontracted the doors and windows. The building is nearly all plastered. We are planning on the blessing on June 9. We may not be finished, but it will be blessed. Then, after that, we will build a one-story home for teenage boys with AIDS. They won't need a kitchen and there is already a computer room at the site. That will begin construction in another year or two.
My superiors told me that I am to get a young Thai priest (he was one of my novices 12 years ago) to come and help with the parish duties and work with the kids. He is currently in the Chiengmai diocese, working with Karen hill tribes. He is a lad in his early thirties, and his folks live in Nongkhai. His father is a contractor and his mother runs a restaurant in town. I understand, though, that he is going to do some further study, starting in June.
We just took in a little guy nick-named "Menu" (as in a restaurant!). He is three years old, and because of bacteria in the brain, he cannot walk. He is a neat looking little guy, polite, clean and a tad afraid of our raucous crowd. The older boys pitch in to help him walk and exercise. Several of them were in the same boat when they first came. Other than that, the kids are all fine and healthy (all 126 of them). The St. Patrick boys painted and decorated their house. The Viengkhuk girls work at the House of Hope and Sarnelli, taking care of the AIDS kids and the wee ones. What with a laid back staff, I think the kids are finally getting that family spirit that I want them to have. The teenage girls have had a rough go of it, but I hope we have pinpointed the problems and are on our way to salvage their lives. But they have to co-operate a bit too.
On the evening of April 29, about 140 kids and staff will board buses to head for Pattaya and their yearly excursion. Some would like to go someplace else, but it is very difficult to find people willing to take in children with AIDS. The Redemptorists in Pattaya do a great job in welcoming, feeding and watering the kids. Money is donated yearly by a Thai Buddhist businessman, and a Thai Catholic woman. It is sufficient to pay Pattaya and the rental of buses. Spending money and money to buy jeans and shirts, etc., is taken from unspecified money given me for them. I will go down a day in advance to make sure there are no snafus.
Again, Thank you and God bless all of our faithful supporters and friends. None of this could be done without you!
Fr. Mike, the staff and kids!
Gratefully in Christ,