Here in north and northeast Thailand, the dry season has turned into a real health hazard, as mountain people burn the mountains and flat land rice farmers burn their paddies. We need a huge downpour to clean up the air.
For a little local news, Bee is a lovely little Lao girl whose face was disfigured by a case of shingles. She has AIDS. She is recovering nicely from her first plastic surgery, on her eyelid. Next is reconstruction of her nostril, and then her mouth. She will be 15-16 years old before they can operate on her cheek. 13-year-old Miss Lyn dodged death and now had an operation in Bangkok for a detached retina. I hope this is the last of her difficulties, but she will also need laser surgery.
Our latest addition is 17-month-old Baby Buffalo, who is spoiled rotten. House mothers bought little seats for their bikes and strap her in and away they go! I just hope they don't have an accident. Khru Noi had the Buffalo in the office today. She was headed for a check up at the hospital. The Buffalo and Soi get a lot of attention since they are our youngest with the AIDS virus. Soi cannot walk as yet, and she is 3 years old.
Last Friday our 9 kindergarten graduates received their "diplomas" and now can hardly wait for school to open, so they can wear their new school and cub scout uniforms. Hong and Apple graduated from junior high, and both sobbed uncontrollably, from happiness but also aching loneliness. All their classmates celebrated with parents and family, and these two girls had no family. (The 9 kids who graduated from kindergarten were in the same boat, but it didn't seem to bother them so much). The front of my shirt was wet with their tears, but they brightened up when I said that next week we go school hunting for them. They have to take exams to get into senior high.
We have four college girls from Khon Kaen (among our first group, back in 1999) who will stay and entertain the little girls in Viengkhuk, and the high school girls will take care of the kids of Sarnelli House and the House of Hope. The boys hunt, fish and play ball. They also want to paint their house. Those trapped without anything to do are the 9 little girls in Viengkhuk who have no relatives interested in them. They are the ones who I pick up to go to the gym, and they do a lot of swimming on the sandbar at Jominee Beach, on the Mekong.
Fr. Chuck is 73 yeqrs old and volunteered for three months to help, and now has less than three weeks left with us. He has been an unbelievable help and a great companion. The staff, the kids and I will all miss his booming laugh and infectious good humor and faith. Not many people, Chuck included, likes begging for money, but he will do anything for the kids. He is a great preacher and fundraiser.
God bless you all. We pray for you every evening. Any time you need prayers, let us know. The runts are an unruly little crowd, but are great pray-ers, Catholic, Buddhist and animist alike! Again, thank you so much.
Father Mike & all the staff and kids!