June 2009

I have been writing of a lovely little girl named “Bomb”. Bomb came with her destitute AIDS infected mother, several months ago. They lived in a veritable pigsty, and Bomb has AIDS, oral herpes and TB of the lymph gland on her right neck. Bomb is much better now. She no longer needs to use a bandage on her neck, and she eats a lot of fruit, to fight her TB. She is still gaining weight. The girl eats like a wolf! The oral herpes is gone, and she seems to be adjusting to her ARV medicine for AIDS. She is not so shy any more. Soon, she will be released from quarantine. The four new girls from downriver OUTREACH PROGRAM are in high school and doing well, although one girl up and beat the poop out of a guy in her class who started on her about AIDS. The nuns summoned me (the wimp’s folks came to complain) and I told the nuns that if I was in high school and had some girl pound the pee out of me, I’d keep my mouth shut and hope no one found out.

Three little girls started kindergarten (at the age of three) and one of them cries all the way to school, settles down and plays all day, and comes home tired and happy. We then go through the whole scene every morning. I call her the Baby Buffalo because that is what she sounds like!

Late May, we moved 14 teenage boys with AIDS to their new home at the Jan & Oscar building (Jan & Oscar were two young Swiss boys who drowned in the tsunami several years ago, and their mother set up a foundation in their name, and gave us the grant to build the home for teen age boys with AIDS). I should have talked to someone about monsoon rains and the need for tiling, because the black dirt we put down ran all over the place. A tractor came in to level the black dirt I put down, and broke the drainage pipe that would not have worked anyway. We have since dug irrigation ditches, tore up the road and put in two sumps to drain off the water. Live and learn. Finally, we put down sod, and planted trees and shrubs. I will have someone post those photos on our website.

Months ago, the government welfare department gave us a little boy named Puen. He was a nice little guy with AIDS, but healthy enough. He was always asking about his mother. He was a sad, desperate looking little boy. In June, this woman came in who is half American and half Thai. She does not have AIDS, although she did live with Puen’s dad for a short time, after the real mother died. She adopted Puen and asked a friend to take care of Puen and went to Bangkok to work at a hospital. She returned to get Puen to find him gone. The friend was not a friend after all. Puen’s face lit up when he saw her. He has a little brother and all three are together again. She gets a good salary and now works as a nurse in a nursing home for old people.

In the meantime, we took in a new little boy with Aids, nicknamed “Coke”. His relatives dumped him a couple months ago. That evening, as the kids were having supper, the poor kid sat staring at his food, clearly lonely and hurt. Now, however, he goes to school and is fitting in. But my heart really goes out to kids like him. It really hurts when one is not only sick, but literally thrown out of the home and has to come to meet rowdy kids like ours. The fact that it happens to all of them does not make it easier.

We now have 148 children and teenagers living in one of our 6 houses. Sarnelli House is now home to little people with AIDS; 20 boys and 18 girls. Nazareth House for teenage girls (mixed, but most have AIDS) has 20 girls. St. Patrick’s Home for Boys has 22 boys; 3 of whom are in college. Jan & Oscar building houses 14 older boys with AIDS. The House of Hope has 19 babies, curtain crawlers and urchins in kindergarten. Our Lady of Refuge has 28 girls going to Rosario school, and 17 older girls going to college and vocational schools.

And they keep coming. They usually trickle in one by one, usually brought in by government welfare agencies. The only help we get from the Thai government is free antiretroviral medicine for AIDS. Some of the blood tests are free, others not. If the virus begins to mutate, then we have to pay for drugs until we can get on one of the drug companies’ “experimental” lists. Up here in the tiny hamlet of Don Wai, we are kind of “out of sight, out of mind”.

We are able to take in children and treat poor peasants and prostitutes only thanks to people like you. I have no doubt that, 10 years from now, we will still be lurching from pillar to post, looking for funds to help people. I am 71 years old, and probably be drooling over the side of a wheelchair by then, but there will be new kids and new babies.

We have bought rice paddies and gardens and planted a fruit orchard. We need land for some of the AIDS-infected children who are either crippled or mentally unable to make it by themselves in the every day world. As you read this, I will be in the U.S. badgering people with my tin cup for money to buy more land, so these farmers of the future can raise pigs and chickens and ducks, and have fish ponds and rice paddies. Some of our kids are brilliant. Our oldest girl, Ying, has AIDS but is in boarding school with two other girls from our program. Tadum is blind, but goes to Braille school and is learning English. Miss Soi, Man U and Kiet have been crippled by AIDS, but hobble to kindergarten, happy to be with their friends. It angers and hurts me to see some of the children come home crying because a teacher or another student insults and jeers at them if they show signs of AIDS. But life is not fair and they are learning to stick up for each other, even though it means being punished for striking out.

Have a happy summer (except for our Aussie friends, who are experiencing winter!) God bless you all!

Fr. Mike

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