The importance of sport and activity

As the Covid 19 numbers increase, the likelihood of more school closures appears imminent in the Nongkhai province. This means our school age children will have to learn online and be restricted to their houses. This presents a challenge for the housemothers in how to keep their charges occupied and engaged. Our grade school kids don’t have access to individual computers, and for those who have learning disabilities, learning online is a real struggle.  Their attention easily wavers and they become irritable and need to move and find something else to occupy them. However, for all our children, sport and exercise is essential for their mental and physical health.

Luckily, living in a village in rural northeast Thailand provides a lot of space to exercise and run. The Jan and Oscar House, House of Hope and St Patrick’s House for toddlers and grade school children have a shared basketball court available to them. They also have the swimming pool on site, but it is not used during the rainy season.  In Donwai, at the side of Nazareth House, there is a newly painted basketball court, and just a short walk from Sarnelli House, Our Lady of Refuge House and Nazareth House is a big field the size of two football fields and a cement basketball court which is open to the children of Sarnelli House as well as the children from the local villages. These spaces get used every afternoon after school and when lockdown hits again, they will be used throughout the day, if the rainy season weather stays nice and cool, as it has done for a few days this month. The teenage boys alternate between playing futsol and soccer and they now include the small boys from Sarnelli House in their fast-paced energetic games. It is great to see them encouraging the small, eager, pocket rockets to play with them.  The young boys are so proud of being included, and they keep up a prattling commentary on the calibre of the players while waiting off court for their opportunity to play.  Their commentary is always positive and slightly hero worshipping of their older brothers. After every goal scored the team is changed and the little boys are first on when it is their turn.  It is heartening to see the older boys taking a lot of enjoyment from the young ones’ eagerness and enthusiasm.  Even though the pace of the game is slowed down, the ball is passed to the smaller boys regularly, so they can try out their defensive and offensive moves.  There is much roaring of encouragement when they set one of the smaller boys up for a chance of a goal, and you can see the little boys’ swell with pride.  

Over at Pai Si Tong there is a bit less order. Small kids seem to run madly around with lots of shouts and orders and gesticulating. Despite it looking like a war has broken out, there is some game plan and the older girls are usually in control of it.  Tears and tantrums can be part of the experience, as the small four-year-olds want a turn kicking or playing and the older twelve-year-olds sometimes resist their involvement in their games.  Repainted climbing equipment, swings and a whacky lopsided whirly gig continue to be the main de-stressors for the Jan and Oscar and St Patrick’s kids. Twirling as fast as the metal hinges will hold, while leaping off at high speed, proves very popular on the whirly gig.  The swing set is in perpetual motion, the speed depending on the mood of the occupier. A mix of chasing, kicking goals, shooting baskets, throwing balls and climbing trees is the style of play, but expending energy is the goal the housemothers seek, as they placidly supervise the mayhem.  


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