I thought my work in Thailand would be primarily related to HIV/AIDS education due to my background as an ESL teacher and having been an HIV/AIDS instructor for the American Red Cross. While I have been assisting Brett with grant-writing and proposals for the Church of Christ in Thailand’s AIDS Ministry (CAM), I have also found my own calling.
I heard about a place called Hope Home, which is a residential home for kids with special needs that opened up seven months ago. I visited and met the lady running the home and the seven kids living there. All of the kids have cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, brain damage, or fetal alcohol syndrome. They’re either orphans or have been abandoned.
The kids are now getting proper medical care and nutrition and physical therapy. I saw that the caregivers were busy taking care of the children’s physical and emotional needs, but could use some direction playing and interacting with the kids. I immediately knew where my gifts could be used!
I have now started “play therapy” at Hope Home. I visit the home and bring differently themed play to the children. I received some generous donations of cognitive toys from friends in the United States and now have different baskets of activities and toys for different themes. For example, Tuesday is music day. I bring in basic musical instruments, and we sing songs and play music. Friday is texture day when I bring in different textures and things for the kids to feel. Last month I brought in chunky crayons and it was the very first time that six of the kids had ever held a crayon. They needed assistance, but they were coloring! The great thing is that the caretakers are getting involved and are playing and interacting with the kids more.
Mai, who spent 11 years in a bamboo cage, now receives phyical therapy and the attention he needs.
One boy, Mai, touched me very deeply. When I first saw him I fell in love with his smile and bright eyes. I inquired if there was a child who needed extra one-on-one attention and was matched with Mai. I learned that Mai was rescued from a poor village and spent the first 11 years of his life in a cage underneath a bamboo hut. Luckily, he has found a home at Hope Home. In the past six months Mai has put on weight, received medical care, and is now getting the physical therapy and attention he needs.
In addition to play therapy, I am almost finished painting murals on the walls in the physical therapy room! When I began, the walls were plain white. I have painted Noah’s Ark, baby Moses floating in the reeds and Miriam, and a boat with “fishers” of men. I still need to finish Joseph and his coat of many colors, but should be done soon.
I never imagined myself working with special needs kids, but when I visited the Hope Home it just felt right. It shows you that God has his own purpose for us and leads us to where we are supposed to be.