Boxing Day 2004

It was a wave of destruction that started thousands of kilometres from the beaches of Thailand.  It travelled silently and without notice until it approached the West Coast of Thailand.  As this body of water raced towards the golden and tranquil beaches there was alarm within the animals and birdlife as they sensed something was happening. 

As the water reached the shoreline it was forced upwards, creating not a wave but a mass of water that was ten metres high in some locations.  The power of this wave of destruction was unstoppable, it traveled kilometres inland with total disregard for who and what lay in its path.  Like hungry jaws of destruction it consumed all that lay before it.  Having destroyed communities, villages, homes and families the wave of destruction would recede leaving behind an impact that would last generations.  It claimed generations of families.  5395 people would lose their lives in Thailand alone.  A mere fraction of the 250,000 to 300,000 lives that would be taken on the 26th of December 2004. 

The signs of destruction are increasingly hard to find within the coastal area that once was the centre of the worlds attention. But the scars on the hearts of those who lost their mothers, brothers, daughters, husbands, wife or other loved ones, they remain.  You don’t lose the most important person in your life and get over it.  As a mother you don’t get over the memory of that day when your child was ripped from your arms by the force of the water.  As a grandfather you never reconcile with the choice you had to make when it came to decide which of the two grandchildren you held in your arms you would let go of and be swept away by the water knowing that unless you did, both would surely die.  You learn to live with the loss, but you don’t get over it.

Hands Across the Water... the beginnings 

We didn’t set out to start a charity, we didn’t set up a fundraising page in the hours that followed looking to capitalise on the human tragedy that unfolded before our eyes.  Our origins occurred at a temple in Bang Muang north of the epic centre of the destruction in Khao Lak, months after the  attention of the world was turning away. 

Peter Baines OAM, was a forensic specialist who was sent to Thailand as part of the Australian contingent that was charged with the task of leading the international identification effort of the 5395 bodies that were recovered.  It wasn’t the enormity of the tragedy that spurred him to do something.  He had previously worked in Bali after the 2002 bombings and saw plenty of death and destruction there.  No it wasn’t the death that inspired him but the hope and the opportunity to do something for a small group of kids living in the grounds of that temple in a tent at Bang Muang.  

"I couldn't change what had happened, but I felt I could change what happened next" - Peter Baines OAM

Hands Across the Water started in 2005 and as Peter acknowledges, it was a naive belief that if they built a home for the kids living in a tent then problems would be over. Oh how wrong he was.

It was only upon opening the first home in 2007, that the real challenge and the need for a long term commitment was realised.  In the years that followed, Hands grew and expanded its reach well beyond those initial 32 kids.  Operating across all points of the compass in Thailand the job now is equally important as it was back when it started.  We now have 7 projects across Thailand and over 350+ children in our care. 

The work has changed, we’ve learnt along the way, we’ve not always got it right, we’ve had some highs and lows, but our greatest victory is that thanks to the wonderful support we have received from tens of thousands of donors we’ve ensured the kids have a better quality of life because of our presence.