At the end of November, the Hands team had the opportunity to sit down with Mae Thiew at Baan Home Hug.
It is a rare opportunity to have this time to speak with Mae Thiew. One because she is the director of the home and a Buddhist monk, which means her time is often spent helping kids in and out of Home Hug and its adjacent properties. And two because her recent health has been poor, and she does not always have the energy that she used to.
When we spoke with her the thing that I kept hearing her say was “when I am gone, I don’t know what will happen… I don’t know…” It was heartbreaking to me to hear this fear that there would not be anyone to look after the kids when she was gone.
For a long time, before Hands Across the Water came to be involved, Mae Thiew bore the burden of watching children die every week. Because they were HIV positive. Because they did not have access to the medicine they needed. Because she had to make the impossible choice between giving them food or medicine, there wasn't enough money for both. So, they would die.
Enter Peter Baines and Hands Across the Water in 2010 and Home Hug started to be able to provide the necessary medication to these kids that were dying. Guess what happened next?
They started living.
Today the kids at Home Hug are no longer dying.
But this is not the end of the story. As Mae Thiew gave a small glimpse into her fears for the future, if we stop the work of Hands, there is no guarantee that these kids will not go back to where they were before, that they won’t start dying again.
Hands Across the Water keeps these kids alive. It is a bold statement, but when it comes down to it, the truth is that Hands provides the medicine that these young humans need to survive and thrive. The kids that we got to meet at Home Hug are happy, energetic, and loving, beautiful kids with bright smiles and hearts full of love.
Home Hug has provided them with a family, and Hands helps to keep that family thriving with food on the table and the necessary medicine that they need.
“This place is like a fertile land where children are young trees being planted, nurtured, watered and taken care of.” – Home Hug
In contrast, at Baan Tharn Namchai (BTN) the message is not one of life and death, but still significant in terms of dreams and reality.
The reality that these kids come from is hard. That is why they come into care. And, like Home Hug, the home at BTN becomes their family. And Hands provides them with the opportunity to see their dreams become reality.
They can go to school, continue to university, graduate, and pursue careers in which they are interested. They can move forward from the difficult reality that brought them into care and instead focus on making their dreams a reality.
We got to visit BTN and hear from some of the older kids who had recently graduated from university. One young man, Efo, started to cry when he began to speak. At first, he was so grateful for the chance he had to make his dreams come true, and he wanted to convey his gratitude. But then his words became a calling to continue our support because there are still younger kids and babies at BTN that need support and this young man, as any older brother would, wants them to have the same opportunity that he did.
There is still a need.
Seeing is not always Believing… we must understand.
There is danger in seeing happy and healthy kids and thinking that the job is done, we can all go home. But if we stop what we do, the progress that has been made will cease, the kids will go back to where they were before Hands, which for some, is dire. We cannot let that happen. We will not let that happen.
Leaving the homes, a Hands team member remembered to me the lines of a Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:”
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
The journey is not done. There is still work to do, lives to save, futures to enrich and dreams to make reality.
As we close out 2022, we begin to look to next year and the plans for 2023 and beyond. My hope is that you, our Hands community, will continue to walk with us, support us, ride with us, experience with us, share the good with us, however that might look like for you in the New Year.
Thank you for your understanding and, more importantly, your commitment to the mission. You, I, we are all Hands Across the Water. And together we can continue to make a difference.