Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Willing Hands Required

In the wake of 2009’s devastating bushfires in Victoria, a bunch of Thai kids devised a plan to raise money for a school burnt to the ground in the disaster. Baking and selling donuts, they scraped together $3,500, which they donated to students at Flowerdale Public School.

This act of generosity is remarkable, considering it came from children from far flung shores. But what is even more amazing is that these kids are themselves victims of unimaginable suffering, suffering very few people can appreciate or understand. These amazingly generous young souls, orphaned during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, live at Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage in Khao Lak, supported by the wonderful Hands Across the Waters charity.

The very fact that they went out of their way to help other children who’d suffered loss brings tears to my eyes. Yet this, as founder of Hands Across the Water Peter Baines reminds me, is just the Thai way.

“That’s what’s so beautiful about the Thais and how they live their life,” he says. “Giving that money was just a gift for them. They’ve got so little themselves – they sleep in a bedroom with 40 other kids, yet they chose to go out and raise money for someone else.”

Hands Across the Water was set up as a direct result of ex-forensic policeman Baines personally witnessing the devastation and loss caused by the tsunami. Since then, the Australian charity has raised over A$5 million (with all funds going directly to the kids, not spent on administration), building two orphanages and providing ongoing care for 72 children.

(pic: Will Horner)

In March 2010, the charity decided to expand their reach and support a new orphanage in the Yasothon region of north-east Thailand. The Suthasineee Noiin Foundation is a home for 115 children who have been affected by HIV. The kids who live there are either HIV positive or their parents had HIV and passed away.

Transforming this orphanage to meet the admirable standards of Hands’ Khao Lak establishment, however, takes time and effort. To help get things underway, Hands Across the Water is arranging for a team of volunteers to travel to the Yasathon orphanage in November for a week-long taskforce, putting in the physical hard-yards with hammers, nails, shovels and wheelbarrows.

While people with a trade are particularly required, anyone willing to get dirty and contribute are welcome to lend a hand. The Taskforce will run from November 12-19, with volunteers responsible for their own travelling costs to and from Ubon Ratchatani. The charity will help secure the best deals at nearby accommodation, however.

So if you want to add a feel-good element to your next holiday in Thailand, sign up! You can send an email to

See you there, hammer in hand!

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