In a town called Latkrabang near the outskirts of Bangkok, children living with disabilities and serious illness who are normally shunned by society have a place to call home, and where they also receive an education in a safe environment. By Yvonne Liang.
Camillian Home is an orphanage first and foremost, caring for children who have been cast away by their own families. Sadly, in Thai society there is still a belief that bad karma is the cause of physical disabilities or handicaps. Thus, some feel it’s bad luck to keep their ‘cursed’ children around. Often these kids are abandoned at temples or sent to government facilities where they neither have the proper knowledge or resources to care for the kids. At Camillian Home, the level of education, therapy and care that these kids receive is a hundred fold better than where they came from.
Wai is a paraplegic who lived with his aunt, uncle and grandfather after being abandoned by his own parents. Since they were living in poverty, all three adults had to go to work every day leaving Wai to fend for himself. He could do nothing more than lay in the house, in his own filth. The door was locked and without mobility, Wai was living in hazardous conditions. What if there was a fire or flood? How could he save himself? In the middle of 2013 Wai joined Camillian Home as a resident orphan. Thanks to the generosity of an overseas donor, Wai was given the first electronic wheelchair of his life. For the first time, at age 15 Wai gained something that many of us take for granted too easily – the gift of mobility.
Within the safe haven of Camillian Home, Wai could now wheel himself to his kindergarten classes where he is learning how to read and write for the first time. There are many others who are also in their teenage years learning at this level. He shares a bedroom with the other boys who are more independent, having physical or mental disabilities that do not require as much help from the 24-hour staff. When he needs a diaper change or to be lifted out of his chair, he simply maneuvers the controller on his wheelchair to bring him back to the 3rd floor where staff care for a group of kids with severe or multiple disabilities who require special attention.
Many of the Camillian Home kids have learning disabilities such as autism, down syndrome or dyslexia, or even physical handicaps that prevent them for seeing, speaking or holding a pencil. Special programs are set up at Camillian Home to help the children reach their full potentials. The children with special learning needs receive occupational therapy with trained therapists who teach them hand-eye coordination, recognizing shapes and numbers, and every day things like brushing teeth and having good manners.
Camillian Home offers a daycare program completely free of charge for poor families who have children living with disabilities. The kids are even picked up by their vans with hydraulic lifts because it’s not easy to travel with wheelchairs. Transportation is also free of charge for these families because without full support, they would not even be able to cover the cost of bringing their kids for the free education, therapy and food provided by Camillian Home. There are currently over 75 kids in the daycare and resident program at the facility which is an orphanage, daycare and school certified by the Ministry of Education.
Music, art and sports are also part of the curriculum at Camillian Home. The therapists understand the importance of music and art as therapy. One of the staff, Kalisha is an artist and art instructor who holds regular art lessons for the kids to express themselves creatively and emotionally. Artwork by the kids is also available for sale to raise funds for the Home. Another staff, Lynn is a trained speech therapist and she’s helped to set up a music program for the kids to engage in music as a healthy outlet and hobby. The teachers, from kindergarten through high school, are also quite inspirational, so much so that one of the resident girls Bell wants to become a teacher herself someday. Bell is in a wheelchair and has urinary tract problems. When she studied in the public school system she was bullied and teased by her school mates. The main problem is that the adults in Thailand’s public schools are unwilling to step in to help improve the situation for children with disabilities. Such children from wealthy families attend international schools where empathy is practiced, or private teachers are hired at home. For children with disabilities born into impoverished families, their best hope is a place like Camillian Home where they can be fully accepted.
As a registered charity and NGO in Thailand, Camillian Home receives very little support from the government and depends solely on donations from individuals and companies. The total cost of running the Home with 75 kids and 45 staff of teachers, therapists, cooks, cleaners and office staff, is close to 1 million baht each month. The main job of a charity such as Camillian Home is to take care of their children so fundraising is always a struggle. If you would like to help in any way or learn more about the organization, please visit www.camillianhomelatkrabang.org or www.facebook/Camillian.Home