2006 has been a roller coaster year. Our lowest and highest point has been the arrival of 13-year-old girl named Miss Lyn, in March. We have taken in children before that were skeletons and unable even to stand, but Lyn was the poster child of the ravages of AIDS and TB. Lyn came with her younger sister Biew, and Biew did not have AIDS, but Lyn had been raped. Lyn was 28 pounds when she joined us, and began an odyssey of pain, humiliation and set backs. A few of the staff was openly scornful of taking her in. Some had to stay with her during her frequent long periods in the hospital. The women tending her were for the most part very sympathetic.
But there were two who were sure Lyn would die and were waiting impatiently for God to hasten the day. I caught them ignoring Lyn's requests for pain medicine and not changing her pampers. These two are now harvesting rice for a living. But, in the middle of October, Lyn finally got rid of her bacterial infection of the intestines and brain. Now, she is eating well,
putting on weight and laughs a lot and loves life. She is nearly 50 pounds
now, and needs another 30. Her life is a real miracle.
This has been quite a summer. We built three computer rooms, in memory of Dr. John Wind from St. Louis; Doug Tomasi from Iowa, and my brother Jack. From these donations, we had enough money to buy new computers and furniture. It is a real help for the kids, since more and more homework has to do with computers. Up in the mountains of Nong Seng, on the church property of St. Eileen, we built a big pavilion, a huge water storage tank for rain water, and toilets and a big bath house for campers.
On October 28, we took 115 kids, plus tents and food, etc., up to camp out and have a raucous Halloween party. The kids had Halloween masks and hose who didn't, were made up to look like spooks. The wee ones, who had never been to a Halloween party, were frightened out of their wits, and responded by peeing in their tents, for fear of finding a goblin waiting for them in the toilets during the night. All we need there is electricity.
One of the eyesores of Sarnelli House was the mess hall. Dark, dank, leaking when it rained, it looked like something out of a Charles Dickens' novel. We built a big new, bright, airy dining room, with new furniture and 3 low sinks and a drying area. We painted it in vivid colors.
2006 was blessed with babies. Sisters of Mother Teresa from Nongbualampoo brought us two wee ones, Fa Mai (16 months old) and 22 month old Mr. Apek. Newly borns joined us; Mr. Beh from Bangkok; Mr. Dome and Mr. Kane (who looks like the British comedian Mr. Bean!). The latest baby was 13 hours old when we picked her up; Miss Bunny was abandoned by her Lao mother when she found out she (the mother) was HIV positive. The hospital alerted us, and Bunny is turning into a fat, contented lovely creature. Thanks to a donor cured of cancer, we also built a nice play room for the kids, and Belgian volunteers Hans and Natasha painted the walls and ceilings with cartoon
St. Patrick's picked up three lonely, frightened, malnourished little boys. The boys were orphaned from their AIDS-infected parents, and no one would take them.
Grandma Wan immediately welcomed them in and fired up her stove to feed them, and the boys now have friends, and are eating well and studying hard.
Our head honcho at Viengkhuk is a young lady who also is a social worker for the courts for sexually abused children. At Our Lady of Refuge in Viengkhuk, we have temporary housing for those poor kids, while they give disposition in the trials. The courts gave us three lovely little girls, aged 7, 8 and 11; two of whom had to be hospitalized from the injuries. It took a while, but the kids now are happy, studying hard, and love and trust their new moms and friends. Although other children do not know circumstances of why kids are taken in, they immediately reach out to them and are instant big sisters and brothers. It is really neat to see.
Even our 53 children with AIDS and those kids not infected share meals and play together. We now have 125 children under our care, and about 17 children still with their AIDS-infected parents or other guardians in various villages.
Other than that, we had another bumper year with our rice harvest. Last year we were able to feed 115 children and 35 staff for 6 months with our rice. This year we did even better, thanks to a donation to buy two Kubota "Iron Buffaloes". We can also use them to pump water. We also purchased a five acre orchard to grow fruit trees for the kids. It will take a year or so, but we expect lots of different fruit to augment their diet.
You were all very generous and kind to us this year. We were able to take in more kids and still seek ways to make their lives more family-like and happy. God has blessed us so in giving us concerned friends like you for the children. We pray daily for you and yours. The children depend on your prayers and support. We couldn't do the work without you. We will offer Mass for you on Christmas Eve, asking the Good Lord to bless you with good health, happiness and peace. May 2007 be a year of great graces for you all.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!