Nongkhai Festival

It’s March and the long summer school holidays have hit Thailand and up in Nongkhai and in the village of Don Wai in particular - home to one of the six houses of Sarnelli House, staff and volunteers have planned and implemented ways of keeping a lot of children from prowling around the villages looking for amusement. 


The month started off with the Anou Savari Festival in Nongkhai which is held to celebrate the defeat of the  "Hau" rebellion. Between 1884 and 1886, rebellious elements to Chinese rule from the Yunnan area swept south through Laos and into Thailand, raiding as far south as Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima). The invaders were eventually defeated by the Siamese army, led by HRH Kromamune Prachak Silakom, with help from China and Laos. The streets are closed and there are parades, food stalls, live entertainment and people galore in Nongkhai for the festival. Into this heaving and ear splintering mass of humanity come the children of Sarnelli House. The big trucks are loaded up and the Sarnelli House kids leave at 5.30pm and have their medicines on the truck at 6pm. The truck finds a park in a Buddhist monastery, with the young monks directing where to park and the kids are out the back before the truck even stops. Each child gets 100 baht to spend and gets teamed up with another child and told to be back in 2 hours. And then they are gone. 

Joi and Dottie

The younger ones like Dottie, ManU and Soy who can’t walk so well go with staff or volunteers and the wild kids like Boy and Heart get one volunteer each.   The kids know their way around and they dodge and weave between legs as they head to the equivalent of Tin Pan Alley - the dodgem cars, the shooting games, the creaky ferris wheel and the jumping castle are all there. 

Back on the truck- Bang Lek, Ice, Pat and Bee

Toys are bought and broken, and food is consumed alarmingly quickly. There are fried grasshoppers and green sour mangoes plus the sweetest drinks and candy you will find anywhere in the world. One little boy spends 30 minutes trying on skull rings another buys a  Siamese fighting fish in a plastic bag and some girls from Nazareth House buy tiny miniature live rabbits dressed in frills and ribbons. By some natural law the kids make it back to the truck on time but are wired full of sugar and excitement and live animals. The drive back sees volunteers rescue drooping bags of water containing fish as the owners slip over into sleep, their heads nodding against each other, and there is silence at last. 

Off and Kedt on the way home

Kate Introna
April 2012