The majority of Thai people are Buddhist and with over 29,000 temples throughout the country, all males are expected to become novice monks at some period of their lives. Boys can ordain as novices at any age but need to be at least 20 years of age if they wish to become a full monk.
The main difference is that a novice has fewer precepts to follow, although one additional rule means they can’t own or handle money making them dependant on the temple and local community.
The ordination of some Baan Gerda children as novice monks (samanen) is now an annual event. This year, 11 boys shaved their heads and eyebrows and donned the familiar saffron robes for a 10 day stay at a local temple. For some of the children it was their second or third time. In the video, Don Mai and Dtee talk about their experiences.
When filming first started on Living with the Tiger 3 years ago, our intention was to record the music lessons that Bruce Gaston had started. Now, it has become a significant project and given us the opportunity to deal with the stigma that confronts the children.
Although attitudes are slowly changing, there is much that still needs to be done if they are going to be able to live in society as normal. The film shows the contrasting attitudes that exist and the need for more awareness and education if progress is going to be made. We hope the film will contribute to overcoming these problems and provide a better future for the children.
Now that the film has been completed it will be submitted to festivals with the aim of finding TV distribution. Most importantly, it needs to find an audience that does not know about Baan Gerda and have no connection with HIV.
If you would like to play a part in supporting this venture you can visit the website. By making a small donation, you can get a limited version of the festival DVD which will help fund the promotion and outreach programme. Alternatively, spread the word amongst your friends, groups and online networks who you think might be interested.
According to The World Meteorological Organisation, Bangkok is the hottest city in the world year round. It begs the question; “why would anyone want to take part in a fun run?”
Readers may be surprised to learn that there are many running clubs in Thailand, and if you take a look at any of the large parks in Bangkok you will see scores of people running at dusk and dawn.
The key is to avoid running under the brutal tropical sunshine, hence the timing of The Midnight Run. The event is now in it’s 11th year and continues to grow in popularity. More than 4,000 people took part in the latest run, including 15 children from BaanGerda.
The children were very motivated and trained regularly at BaanGerda for the pre-ceding 3 months. They were determined to show their worth and not just `make up the numbers’. All of them managed to complete the run and some posted very respectable times. In fact, three of them would have had considerably better times if they hadn’t accidentally run the longer course!
There is a big difference when you look upon Bangkok’s city streets at night from the perspective of a thirsty runner rather than sitting in an air conditioned car…
What started as an activity initiated by a group of enthusiastic runners has developed into a serious sports challenge. For many years now, the management of Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok have organised the annual ‘Midnight Run’ along the streets of the city centre. In the beginning, the number of people participating was a humble handful of enthusiasts. However, the tradition soon developed and last year as many as 3000 started the race and almost an equal number managed to complete it. Participants can choose between distances of six and twelve km.
This year the race is on October 11th and the organizers are expecting more than 4000 runners.
BMW Thailand is the main sponsor of the event and many other companies take the opportunity to show their commitment and help make the event possible. Numerous attractive prices are donated for a tombola after the race.
As in previous years, proceeds from the event will go to help HIV-infected children in a royal project and also to BaanGerda. Last year, a few of our children attended the preparation for the midnight event and it left a lasting impression. This year they want to actively participate and insist that the Midnight Run is not only for adults.
For many months they have been preparing under the watchful eye of BaanGerda staff. They can’t wait to go to Bangkok on October 11th. Take a look at the video to see their unusual training methods…
We are in the middle of the long school holidays which, for the children at BaanGerda, are punctuated by a very important event: the annual beach trip. Our first holiday with the children was 6 years ago, and since then it has become a tradition which the kids look forward to for months in advance.
Throughout the month of March the children talk of little else. They pack their bags days in advance, and when the day of departure arrives the buses set off at 4am, but you can be sure that with all the excitement hardly anyone manages to get any sleep before that. They arrive before lunch, sleepy from the long journey, and desperate to go and play in the sea.
Much has changed since our first visit when we were unable to disclose that our children were infected with HIV for fear that we would be turned away. Many resorts didn’t want to accept us when we mentioned that we were bringing HIV kids and ultimately it was decided to keep it secret. By the time our resort discovered they had HIV, the owners had become so fond of the kids they didn’t turn us away. Instead they gave us a cheap room rate and plenty of extra treats for free. Each family stays in a simple bungalow with one room for the children and another for the parents for 3 fun-filled days. Not only that, we have also observed that those children who have persistent HIV-associated skin problems show much improvement after a few days at the beach, perhaps due to the salty water.
It is as a result of the kind support of friends of BaanGerda that each year our children are able to enjoy what is a big highlight of the year.
At BaanGerda we are aware that the role on nutrition is just one of many important factors influencing the development of our children. Visitors to the village may have noticed that some of the children seem very small in comparison to other children of the same age. The HIV virus not only attacks the body’s immune system but can also affect the physical and mental development of a child.
It is believed that a healthy HIV infected child requires approximately 10% more food intake than a non-infected child. A child with clinical symptoms of HIV (opportunistic infections / HIV wasting etc.) however requires up to 50% more food. It is our responsibility to ensure that our children get sufficient nutrition to ensure they develop like normal children. We find this now takes up a larger proportion of our monthly budget .
We are delighted that a team of nutritionists from the Thai Red Cross HIV Research Centre and Mahidol University in Bangkok have decided to undertake a study of the role of nutrition in HIV children at BaanGerda. After two preliminary visits to assess the height, weight and food intake of the children, the team are now working on various approaches to ensure that the nutritional needs of our kids are being fulfilled.
BaanGerda is an ideal location for such a study because we have records about the physical development of our children going back several years as well as clinical data for each child. The team will be working with our cooks to adapt menus for healthy high-calorie foods; our parents to encourage their involvement in their children’s eating habits; and our kids to teach them the importance of eating healthy food.
We will be making regular reports on the progress of the study, but for now our children seem very happy to know that one of the team’s recommendations is to eat plenty of ice cream and milkshakes!
This is the fifth sports day that the friends of ‘kaewdiary.com’ have organized for the kids of BaanGerda. We made the event so they can have the same experience as other non-infected kids.
It started one weekday when I went to BaanGerda I saw the children playing at home and not going to school. I asked “why do you not go to school ?” They answered that today is the sports day in the school and the teacher said that the BaanGerda kids should not participate. I did not know why the teachers had such a bad attitude about HIV.
My friends and I wanted the BaanGerda children to have the same happiness and excitement as the others so we organized our own sports day at BaanGerda. We did not have much money to to arrange the event but the children were very happy to take part in sport competitions, be cheerleaders etc… In the evening we staged a party and the volunteers from the website performed in funny shows for the kids. Now the teachers have more understanding of HIV and the BaanGerda children get the opportunity to take part in the school activities.
The sport event has become a tradition between Kaewdiary.com and BaanGerda and takes place in January every year for two days. The first day has the sports events and a party for the volunteers and children in the evening. The next day in the morning is a Buddhist ceremony with monks. We pray for the children who have died in the past and pray for a good life, good health and good luck.
In the afternoon we follow a Thai tradition which is called BAI-SRI (which actually means ‘lucky’ and ‘auspicious’ rice). In this ritual a little robe will connect the adults to the kids. This white robe represents a holy thread. When we connect it to the children’s wrists we bless them and wish them good health and tell them that we love them very much.
It is very time consuming and tiring to organize this sports event. In the end we know that all the trouble and pain is very worthwhile because it is for the children. At the end of the ceremony we all hug each other and say our thanks, ask for forgiveness and good spirit. We then promise to be back again for many other activities in the time to come.
The Foreign Anti-Narcotic Community of Thailand (FANC) held their annual ball at the beginning of December, with proceeds going to BaanGerda. The event, held at the Westin Hotel in Bangkok, was an opportunity for some of the children to demonstrate their new musical skills they have learnt this year.
FANC has existed for over 25 years and is made up of police attaches from 20 countries, who work with the local police to fight drug trafficking and other crimes in Thailand. Some years ago, they looked at ways that their membership could make a difference to those individuals whose lives were directly (or indirectly) affected by these crimes. As a result, for the last 4 years FANC has chosen to sponsor the children of Baan Gerda.
Mike Hiller, FANC Chairman, “Many of the FANC members have visited with the children at BaanGerda and were deeply moved by the children themselves and the work being done there. It was the experience of having met the children that led us to inviting them to perform at the 2007 FANC Charity Ball. Not surprisingly, their performance was the highlight of the event…those that attended the ball were as deeply moved as those of us who visited BaanGerda and will likely not forget the amazing children of Baan Gerda.”
The annual Amari Midnight Run is now in its 10th year, and continues to grow in popularity. More than 3,000 people took to the streets of Bangkok in a party-like atmosphere, and competitors had the choice of running either a 6km or 12km course. The opening ceremony was attended by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Dr. Suwit Yodmanee, and the General Manager of Amari Watergate (and race competitor!) Pierre Pelletier. Proceeds from the event go to the Chalerm Prakiat School in Lampoon province, and BaanGerda.
A midnight run through the streets of London or Berlin may offer you cool temperatures and little traffic; not so in Bangkok! The notorious traffic jams and relentless heat don’t subside at the midnight hour. Still, they’re a hardy lot here and most people are skilled at dodging the buses while crossing the busy junctions.
Several of the children from BaanGerda attended the event for the first time. They were a little overwhelmed by the camera crews and photographers when they joined the sports minister at the opening ceremony. However, they showed-off their dancing skills during the pre-race aerobics and even managed their own 10 metre run through the starting line! Check out the video….
The children of BaanGerda are currently learning to play instruments using an innovative approach to music education known as Orff Schulwerk or Music for Children. It was developed in the 1920s by the German composer Carl Orff and follows the principle that learning music should be fun and natural.
Improvisation is encouraged and children benefit from the co-ordination and cohesion of playing in a group. It is based on things children like to do such as sing, chant rhymes, clap and dance. The forceful variations on rhythmic patterns makes for very simple and beautiful musical forms, which are easily learned by young children. This all happens in a non-competitive atmosphere and helps to develop confidence while enjoying the pleasure of making good music with others.
The program uses a special group of instruments including glockenspiels, xylophones, metallophones and percussion instruments. Lessons have been taking place every Sunday afternoon under the expert guidance of American composer and music director, Bruce Gaston, who is recognized as an authority on Thai music.
Amazingly, the children took part in a small concert at Tawandang Brew House in Bangkok on June 10th, just 2 months after they started learning. A concert is being organized at the Stock Exchange, when guests from Thailand’s largest companies will be in attendance. This will be followed by a performance in an opera at the Thailand Cultural Center. Dates will be released shortly.