Holiday activities

We are halfway through the long school holidays and the temperatures continue to climb. The forecast is for 41° (105.8° F) for the coming weekend, and with a sports camp scheduled, we will need to have plenty of liquids on hand for the participants. The children have been kept occupied so far by our international team of intrepid volunteers, hailing from Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Australia, Thailand and the USA. We are grateful to them all for their energy, creativity and most of all, patience with the children. There has been swimming practically every day and, apart from the incident mentioned by Fr. Shea in his monthly newsletter, the pool remains the most popular place to hang out for the holidays. Apart, that is, from the older kids, who are reluctant to be in the sun as they don’t want their skin to darken. A donor from Ireland sent money for new swimming costumes for the kids who needed them and Leon Castermans from Stichting Vrienden van Sarnelli in the Netherlands, worked tirelessly at keeping the pool clean and the filter in working order. He and his wife Henriette visit twice a year and always put on a French Fries party for the children. The party coincided with finals day for the holiday badminton tournament. We had two first time winners and the quality of the play continues to improve each time the kids play. 

The girls at Our Lady of Refuge have been enjoying English lessons in the evening and there have been ballet, guitar and ukulele classes for the smaller children. Games of Uno and bingo have been very popular. as have the traditional holidays arts and crafts sessions. The volunteers take turns at the play room at House of Hope, supervising the little ones and ensuring that the mischievous little imps don’t smuggle toys out to the garden (from where they would surely never return). The small ones are learning how to share and play together and they are using their imagination much more now. One little girl used a toy kitchen to cook a meal for a volunteer before reprimanding him for eating it so quickly as it was still too hot! The Our Lady of Refuge girls also had some sewing lessons from a Thai volunteer, as well as maintaining their steady output of colourful bags, which are proving to be very popular with guests. 

Three maths teachers came to stay for two weeks and taught small groups of kids who had some specific problems with the subject. We will have a similar camp for Thai literacy starting later this week. Once a child falls behind in local schools, there is not much in the way of extra support and as the subjects get harder, the student struggles more and more. These camps are intended to some way address the gap before it gets too big. The children attending the maths camp are all fairly smart kids, simply having a problem with one or two aspects of mathematics. Maths is weighted in the Thai school system and as a result, the children’s overall GPA falls. The Thai literacy camp is more aimed at younger boys and girls, who might be a little slower and more susceptible to slipping behind. The tuition camps were funded by friends in Louisiana, USA and the UK and we appreciate their support for our education programme.

Songkran was great fun as always. The children and volunteers spent three days splashing water on each other and then clambered aboard the big school truck to inch through the crammed streets towards Nong Khai. Every ten metres or so, water (some of it icy!) would come hurtling though the sides of the vehicle, greeted by shrieks and screams. Everyone arrived back exhilarated and exhausted and in desperate need of some sleep! Some of our young adults and families helped by our Outreach programme visited from far and wide to pay tribute to and seek blessing from Fr. Shea and Kate.  Last month saw a three day camp for the kids, which took place in Loei province. There were all sorts of activities, from boot camp to making fires, and dancing to building tents. Everyone had a good time and the staff had a couple of days rest as well!

Two cousins of Fr. Mike’s visited from Wisconsin, partly to escape the cold weather over there. While here, Mick and TJ erected shelves at the play room at House of Hope, built storage space and repaired bathrooms at Jan & Oscar and cleaned and arranged the work shop used by the team of Sarnelli House handymen. They even made sock puppets for the girls at Our Lady of Refuge. The holidays end in the middle of May, by which time our staff and volunteers will no doubt be running on empty and will wave the children back to school with great relief!

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