The 10th Anniversary of Sarnelli House and the Opening of the Jan and Oscar Home

February 15th saw in Valentine’s Day at Sarnelli House, but more importantly it was the day to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Sarnelli House and the official opening of the Jan and Oscar Home for teenage boys.

These 2 events seem to proclaim the true message of Valentine’s Day better than chocolates and roses.

Fr Chuck, Fr Shea and Bishop George

Flags of the countries of the Sarnelli House family

Dancing on the lawn in front of Jan and Oscar House.

The celebrations of the day included a thanksgiving and confirmation mass at Pi Si Tong celebrated by Bishop George. This was followed by beautiful traditional Thai dancing by the girls from Viengkhuk on the lawn in front of Jan and Oscar House. There were tents for guests, for the food and for the kids to sit under and watch the proceedings unfold.  Speeches were given by Ms Peh (manager of House of Hope) and Sr Jit (manager of Jan and Oscar House) on the beginnings of Sarnelli House and all the houses, and thanks to all those who have helped over the years. The flags planted on the lawn didn’t exactly fly as there wasn’t much wind around, but they were there to recognize the people from all the different countries who have helped Sarnelli House over the last 10 years.  We thank all those guests who came to celebrate with the children and staff and also those who travelled from far away to attend – the O’Conors and Fr Chuck from the USA, The Thai Children’s Trust from the UK, The Jan and Oscar Foundation, Pully Rotary Club, and the Hiralals’ from Switzerland, and all those who were not able to be there bodily, but were there in spirit and love. 

Alain and his wife Corine, Fr Shea and Laurence and Allessandro Pian

Some guests of the day

The beginnings of Sarnelli House by Fr Shea:

“The origin of Sarnelli House began with a whimper. I had just finished a stint as novice master and Fr Philip Banjong, the Vice Provincial at that time, suggested that I go to Bangkok and work at Holy Redeemer Parish. I don’t like cities and big crowds of people. I asked to stay and work with AIDS infected people, many of whom I had met in the Viengkhuk area. He readily agreed and I was able to gather a team of 3 women and buy a camera. Then the rudder got stuck. I already had eight children, but no home for them. Miracles began to happen. One of the women had worked for Fr Joe Maier and one was a practical woman who immediately began sorting out the children and their needs. The third was a lovely grandma – just what we needed. The mother of one of the woman offered to sell me her house which fronted on church property in Viengkhuk” Fr Mike Shea, Denver Link, October 2009

 …. And so it began at Viengkhuk where Fr Shea started off with children entrusted to him in 1990. The histories of those first 5 children who are still part of the Sarnelli House family are briefly detailed below:


Plern’s mother and father divorced while her mother was still pregnant with Plern.  After Plern was born her mother left her to work in a different province of Thailand, leaving Plern to be cared for by her grandparents.  Plern’s father also moved away and has never been a part of her life.  Plern was part of a very large and extremely poor family who was unable to care for her properly.  Fr Shea took Plern in, in May 1999, when she was 4 years old.  Her mother died of AIDS in early 2000; however Plern does not have HIV.

Plern is now 14 years old and attends Rosario school and continues to live at Viengkhuk. She is a quiet but playful girl with a mischievous personality. When she finishes school Plern wants to be a nurse or an office secretary.

Howe and Noon:

Howe and Noon are first cousins. Noon’s mother remarried after divorcing from her husband, and her stepfather and mother became gamblers and drug addicts. Howe lived with her cousin Noon, in a dangerous neighbourhood in Bangkok.  The environment was not safe for the two girls.  Night and day, men came for drugs or prostitution.  Howe was brutally abused several times.  Howe and Noon were sent to an aunt in the North of Thailand.  Workers of Sarnelli House discovered the girls, and the aunt gave them to Fr Shea. Howe was 4 years old and Noon 11 years old when they came to live at Sarnelli House

Howe is now 14 years old and attends Rosario School and lives at Viengkhuk. She enjoys sports and is a great football and basketball player. Howe is a fantastic girl, a real survivor.Noon is 20 years old and studying at university to be a lawyer and comes home in the holidays to visit her cousin and old friends at Viengkhuk.


Shane’s mother left him at a bus station with nothing but a change of clothes, his birth certificate, and government documents outlining his family history.  The police found Shane covered with insect bites, starving and ill.  They took him in, and Shane remained living at the police station for 2 months.  The police were unable to locate any of his family but during their search they came across Fr. Shea.  Fr. Shea took Shane in, still in very poor physical condition and extremely traumatized by the events that had taken place, he was 4 years old.

Shane is 14 years old and lives at St Patrick’s and is an outdoors man, liking to ride his bike, hunt and play outside. He is in school at Rosario.


Oum’s parents were divorced when she was very young. Both parents moved to different provinces abandoning their daughter. Oum’s mother remarried, but Oum’s grandmother took her in and attempted to care for her. The family was very poor and they had hard time finding money to care for her. The grandmother finally took Oum and went to live with relatives in Bangkok. But this didn’t work out and in May 1999 Oum was taken in by Fr Shea at Vienkghuk when she was 8 years old.

Oum is 18 years old and studying accounting at the local business college and living at Vienghuk. She is a lovely young woman, quiet and understanding and enjoys and excels at Thai traditional dancing.

10 years on..the first 5 children Plern, Fr Shea and Noon (back row) Oum and Howe (middel row) and Shane

These 5 young adults and many others, who have found sanctuary here, have accompanied Fr Shea for the last 10 years of the Sarnelli House adventure. The work has been constant and demanding to meet the needs of children who have been abandoned, orphaned and outcast.  The wonderful testimony to the work that Fr Shea and his staff have done is ultimately the happiness, the laughter, the playfulness of the children who call this their home. Their lives have been rebuilt and they are loved members of a family here in Thailand, but they are also part of a larger family.  As all the different flags on the grounds of Jan and Oscar House commemorated the help that has come from the world over, so these children also recognize and are thankful for that help from their bigger family. 


The opening of the Jan and Oscar House: 

The Jan and Oscar House was officially opened and blessed on February 15th, 2010 also. Jan and Oscar were 2 Swiss boys who tragically died in the tsunami of 2004 in Phuket.  Their mother Laurence, set up a foundation in their memory and it is from the generous donations of this foundation and the Rotary Club of Pully in Switzerland that the Jan and Oscar House was built. The house is home for 12 teenage boys who used to live at Sarnelli House. Now they have a place of their own and their responsibilities include gardening, doing their laundry and taking their medicine for HIV/AIDS on their own. They eat their meals in the new communal dining room where the boys from St Patrick’s gather to eat as well.  The stigma of HIV/AIDS is greatly reduced as the boys from homes play, work and travel to school together. The boys from Jan and Oscar House, all the staff and the children were very proud that Laurence was able to attend the day along with her husband Allessandro and representatives from the Rotary Club. The Rotary Club generously donated 10,000 Swiss Franc which they presented to Fr Shea on the day.

Olivier, Fr Shea and Laurence and Alain from Rotary Club Pully

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