Bangkok, December 2011
The Great Flood
We needed to wait before writing this report until the floods here in Thailand had receded. However, we are still waiting for this to happen (beginning of December) and this could take weeks, depending on whether or not we trust the messages coming from the authorities.
Fortunately, Baan Gerda and all of the children managed to stay dry. This is astonishing as our village is located in the province of Lopburi, which is next to Ayuttaya where there was and still is considerable damage.
Our house in Bangkok is currently an island with the garden flooded by 40cm and stagnant water now in our living room. If the situation wasn't so desperate we could laugh at the shrimps which are establishing themselves in our living room.
On the "road" we are witnessing distressed people up to their hips in water, many of whom have been waiting for days to obtain supplies. It's astonishing how quickly the essential items have vanished from the shelves of the supermarket.
The mass of water in the plains of Thailand have been accumulating for months. The normally dry part of the summer didn't occur this year. Instead, the rainy season started earlier than normal. For safety reasons the major dams had to release water which aggravated the flooding situation.
The situation became even more critical when the high tides in the Gulf of Thailand met the floodwaters coming down the Chayo Praya River, preventing it from reaching the sea. We, in Bangkok, will only have access to Baan Gerda again when the roads are free from the floods.
Much to our relief, Baan Gerda and the nearby town of Nong Maung were spared from the floods. Many people in the surrounding villages have lost everything. The older children in Baan Gerda compiled a list of essential items which they will buy when the water level drops. These items will be distributed by the children by truck or boat to those people affected the most in nearby villages.
This action will have an additional benefit; the villagers are being helped and our children will also gain by having a change of roles. Up until now, they have been the ones benefiting from the kindness of others. Now they are confronted with the misery of others, it is time for them to give back. Members of the German Catholic Society will financially back these efforts.
Living with the Tiger
In our last annual report, we explained about the film "Living with the Tiger". The film has had more impact than we expected, especially amongst young people. In order to achieve widespread viewings of the film we decided to hold screenings in schools and universities. Each screening is followed by a Q & A session. The link http://bit.ly/tktg3F shows the interest of the students and that our campaign is very much worth the while.
Mike Thomas, who is responsible for the documentary, went to Singapore to show the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. Valuable contacts resulted from that including many introductions to schools and universities.
The outreach campaign is especially important in Singapore because the government does not attach any importance to the subject of AIDS. It is believed that HIV and AIDS sufferers are left to themselves and the government does not offer any support for HIV and AIDS therapy. In the not too distance future, Mike will take up the offer from a company in Hong Kong to show the film to local education institutions.
Due to the flooding, some of Baan Gerda's plans could not be realized this year. We could not begin preparing the farm before the next rainy season. We were discouraged by the fate of so many surrounding farms, where the work of many years was destroyed by the high water. We now plan to grow vegetable and fruit for our own consumption only, and to leave the larger part of the farm for a coconut plantation.
The reasoning for this;
- The coconut tree survives a period of high water without any damage.
- Products from the coconut have benefited from high prices for many years.
- The coconut processing gives the people in Baan Gerda a paid job.
- Storing and sales require less logistical support than a broader production line of fast-perishing foods.
As soon as things return to normal we will investigate this project further.
We wanted to use the October holidays to know how many children will be able to return to their home provinces once they have finished their education. During the long holidays, about 20 children stayed with their extended families. When they came back, about half of them considered a permanent move back to their families in the future.
This encouraged us to invite other known extended families to visit us during the October holidays. We hope that the families will gain a better understanding and acceptance of the children's past. Unfortunately, we had to postpone this visit in Baan Gerda due to the floods.
A new Phase in Life
Next March, two of our children will leave school and Baan Gerda. 18 year old Naan will study in Bangkok. She is lucky to have contacts with relatives of her deceased parents. She will live with them but we will support her financially. Gor, an 18 year old lad, will return to his relatives in the province and start a technical course.
New Arrival at Baan Gerda
In the next few days we will accept a five year old girl into our care. The mother died of AIDS; the father is still alive but he does not look after the child since he became an alcoholic. The child is HIV infected and in spite of therapy, her condition deteriorated since the death of her mother. People say that the reason for this is lack of love as nobody is looking after her. Meanwhile, her condition is reportedly quite serious.
The completion of the new houses to accommodate grown children was delayed due to the flooding. Three houses are nearly ready and the fourth one is still under construction. The surrounding landscape still has to be completed.
Dear Godparents and friends of Baan Gerda; in this year we have much reason to be grateful about. Baan Gerda remained dry during the flooding and the children continue to enjoy good health. Also, the new arrivals during last year are healthy and happy now and fully integrated into Baan Gerda.
We wish all of you a blessed Christmas.
To all of us, a happy and healthy New Year 2012. No matter how high the challenges will be next year – let's do our best to keep our heads above the water as the Thais are doing in critical times of flooding – chin up and smile !!!
Tassanee and Karl Morsbach