January 2022 Update

Happy New Year to all!

I think about everyone would agree we are happy to see 2021 in our rearview mirror. We had four deaths of our older teenagers, plus a storm that ripped up trees, damaged our buildings, cut off power for weeks, right during the hot season. Drought ruined over half of our rice harvest. And then, Covid got into our nursery.  11 babies, 8 housemothers and cooks, and a driver got sick and were hospitalized. Thank God, all recovered, even our babies with low immune systems thanks to AIDS. But the pandemic pretty well wiped out our Christmas cheer. Dec. 24, Brother Keng bought fruit drinks and hamburgers for the children. On Christmas day, kids wanted pizza at noon, so all the kids and staff got pizza. But now, I announced that we would celebrate New Year together, with a Mongolian pig out and party New Year’s Eve, and egg noodles, cake, ice cream and pop on New Year day, thanks to Fr. Chuck Beirewaltes. Fr. Chuck was and is instrumental in working with the kids and staff, and still hunts down donations and sponsors for the wee ones.

One nice thing, after two years, we finally received guests at Sarnelli House. The travel requirements were quite stringent, but my niece and two cousins were here for Christmas and New Year, and we hope others will soon follow. Thai people were very generous, buying and wrapping gifts for over 250 kids (150 of our kids at Sarnelli, and over 100 in our Outreach program). People also brought dry food, cooking oil, pampers, milk, fruit, rice and clothes for the children.

Now, I and some of our staff will have to close the books, make a new balance sheet, and year end reports on Sarnelli House projects and expenses in general, but also education, the farm and health reports. Brian and Kate O’Riordan are in Ireland until the middle of January, but should be back to help with these reports. Not my favorite time of year.

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, almost all of our kids who graduated and left us to take jobs in the central plains, returned, when their factories and work places closed down. There was no severance pay, and some of the kids had some harrowing stories about their trek back to Sarnelli, the only place they ever knew. We made sure every boy and girl who returned had a job and food and shelter with us. Some generous folks donated money, so they would have some sort of a salary for their work. The boys work in the gardens, and fields, and tend to the pigs and cattle and fish and fowl. The girls got jobs in the laundry room, kitchens, and tending to the smaller children. As the country slowly, painstakingly opens up, we hope these kids can go back and get their jobs back.

So, like everyone else, we enter the New Year, not quite knowing what to expect. We put our future and the future of these poor kids in the Hands of the Lord, changing what we can, and accepting whatever comes down the pike, be it good or bad. So, for all of you, God bless you and give you good health and happiness in the New Year!

Father Mike


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