On the 16th September a team of 27 people from Albury/Wodonga ably led by Mr Phil Shanahan and Mrs Helen Gardener travelled to Thailand to visit and volunteer in three children’s homes founded and maintained by Mercy International/House of Mercy Foundation in Thailand. Seven of the team members are current students here at Xavier and as some of their experiences detailed below show, this was an absolutely amazing and humbling experience. Our students’ behaviour while away was a credit to their families and to our school, they engaged beautifully with all the children they met and applied themselves diligently to all tasks as required. We received wonderful feedback from the staff at Mercy International as well as from the other adults on our team. Well done!!
Special thanks to Mr Dykes, staff, students and families at Xavier for the tremendous support we received in the way of donations of goods and money. We were able to purchase much needed items and it was also our pleasure to cater for a celebratory dinner/party at each home.
Written by Mick and Sally Ryan
Our first day in Thailand was spent in Bangkok where we had an opportunity to do some sightseeing. We went to the Grand Palace and looked at some spectacular temples, had lunch at a little eatery on the canals, went for a canal boat ride to look at some of the homes in Bangkok and spent an hour at some of the shops in a 6 storey high shopping centre before returning to our hotel in tuk tuks! Aimee Fisher
On the following day the team set off on an hour long flight to Khon Kaen where we met with the 28 HIV positive children who live in the children’s home there. They have an amazingly happy, caring and sparkling attitude towards the team and each other. Over the next couple of days we completed a 40 metre concrete path, painted the carport framework and various other maintenance works as required. We realised how seemingly little things that we take for granted like fixing a flyscreen or a tap can make a huge difference. A highlight of our time in Khon Kaen was taking the children bowling followed by a bike ride around a nearby lake, a rare treat for these children. Our team will never forget this experience and the new friends and memories we have made that we can be truly proud of and cherish forever. Lachie Gould
Next we travelled to the children’s village near Phetchabun which is home to over a hundred children. We did many things over the next few days including concreting a path leading to the children’s homes so that they will not get muddy on their way to school, this was definitely one of the toughest jobs of the trip. We also did washing, cooking, maintenance such as fixing taps and replacing shower heads and of course we played with the children. We spent two mornings working in the school teaching the children English and doing craft activities with them and were fortunate enough to travel on the local school bus to see where the other children from the school lived in the village. We decided to put on an afternoon tea for the staff and volunteers to thank them for their amazing work as well as a party for the children. Seeing the children light up and have such a fantastic time was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We may have gone to bring God’s love to the village but spending time with the children and staff also increased our love with God. Being able to see the smiles on the faces of the children and the staff was such an honour and there’s no doubt we will be going again. Emily Sutherland and Alice Wallace
We reluctantly left Phetchabun and travelled in mini buses further north to Phrae which was the last children’s home we visited before coming home. Phrae is home to the younger aged kids from 8 months – 9 years. Our team enjoyed completing many projects around the facility in the short time we were there including concreting, mowing, planting trees, cooking dinner for all the staff and kids, teaching in the local school and the most important part… entertaining the kids and making friendships that will last a lifetime.
Although we only spent 2 nights at Phrae, I think it’s safe to say that every one of us fell in love with all of the gorgeous children and we will definitely be going back. Sophie Keen
From Phrae we headed up to Chiang Mai stopping on the way at Indra Ceramics, a big pottery factory outlet selling lots of new and seconds pottery at great prices. We then travelled on to an elephant conservation centre where we enjoyed a short ride on the elephants! We watched the elephants have a bath in the river and were able to feed them with small bananas and sugar canes followed by another longer ride through the jungle. After that awesome experience we continued on to Chiang Mai arriving with time to settle in before dinner. As soon as it started to get dark the streets of Chiang Mai came alive with all the market stalls of the night bazaar that Chiang Mai is famous for. We shopped for hours and even though the prices were very cheap we enjoyed haggling for even lower prices!! The next day was ours to do as we pleased, some booked tours to see the adorable baby tigers or the cobra snakes and others relaxed by enjoying fantastic massages or getting their nails done and some also enjoyed a scenic tour of Chiang Mai in a tuk tuk. It was a lovely way to end our time in Thailand and we were all very relaxed as we headed to the airport at the end of the day for our flight home to Australia via Bangkok. Niamh Morrison