Safe Haven Orphanage
Safe Haven – you know it when you find it, a soul journey.
December 8, 2013 at 1:53 am
A soul searching journey
After trekking in 2009, team goodwill which consists of colleagues, classmates, clients, and brother decided starting something like ‘charity’ drive, providing what we can in our means to help the less privileged. Who initiated it I could not remember but I am all in, maybe it’s guilty conscious, redeem my sin as an older brother after losing my beloved brother in 2005. We did not know what to expect or start, we just dived into it.
Our first ‘charity’ was in 2010 in Cambodia, after a mutual friend introduced us after hearing we wanted to start something. It was just touch and go event. Distribute donation, buy rice, play with the kids for a while and we head off and never see them again. The team were discussing what role will we be playing, do we move on to other places or do we stay at certain location? We decided we move to the next destination.
2011 sept, destination – Thailand, Tak, Mae Sot, was chosen by chance among the team member. As usual we collected some donation, arranged logistic and off we go. After 2 hours flight and 14 hours road trip we arrived at Safe Haven Orphanage. One secluded area in the mountain between Thailand and Myanmar border.
Children assisted us in unloading our stuff after arriving about 9pm in Safe Haven Orphanage; we were greeted by a lady with a broad smile on her face. After 2 days of trying to remember her name, she was Tasanee Keereepraneed. The widow who in charge of Safe Haven Orphanage.
Our 4 days stay was short but packed with activities. We went climbing with the children, chop bamboo shoot for preservation, talk about the children where they came from, needless to say they all have sad background. But we can see they were in safe hand. When we left we were debating do we move again or do we stay with Safe Haven Orphanage, there is a union decision, we will come back because of the broad smile of the lady in charge.
Since then we have come back again for 5 more visits, each time I learnt more and more about Tasanee better known as Big Ma, the children and Ban Tha Song Yang.
Big Ma, the children called her Mae Yai, is a widow that runs the orphanage with the help of the daughter, she takes in children, provides them shelter, food, education and medical needs without prejudice. The iconic character of this lady is she always has a broad smile on her face. The smile is so contagious it affects everyone near her and it’s the smile and laughter that makes us decided to stay put. Although facing with daily challenges of funding for food, education and medical needs she always put on a bright smile in front of the children and visitors. Her favorite line is, “No Problem”. She taught the children values and respect for each other’s. Despite her background without having any formal education, she runs the place well, and currently she is taking grade 8 in order to run the orphanage as requires by the authorities. At age 53 she did not stop moving forward for the children. Imagine going to high school certification at age 53? I bet she is one of the oldest in the class, but the highest achievement will be she was awarded for top 50 outstanding life-changing individual in Thailand, mainly for recognizing individual that contribute to social works. A woman without the privileged to study hanging only onto her value and belief, Big Ma really comes a long way. If I were to face the challenges on funding, worry for food, shelter and medical needs I probably have broken down mentally. I was taught by this crazy jungle woman (someone named her) without education you still can achieve and be better than anyone that complete university degree so long you believe what you do is beneficial to others, I was taught that hang on and never give up in what you believe, the children will be in trouble if Big Ma gives up, therefore giving up is not in Big Ma dictionary. I was taught give and you will be given, any of our donations in excess Big Ma will send it to refugee settlement nearby so that others can benefit too. I was taught simple folks can make a different if you believe. What I learn from this lady is unforgettable and precious.
The children, seriously I can’t remember all their names, I could remembered when I first met them they were so dirty on their legs and hands, clothes wore on them were never clean, young children will picked sweets on the floor and put in in their mouth. But what the heck, if not for Safe Haven they might not even give a chance to have a sweet. But despite this they all had grown stronger physically and mentally by day. Each child plays a role in Safe Haven day to day operation. The older will feed, bath, and nurse the younger. The older kids took turn to cook for the children, housekeeping of the property, conduct church services, do laundry etc. Big Ma taught them so well that if Big Ma is not home the daily operation is not affected. The children also possess other talent that city dweller like me consider an eye opener. They can identify fruits, herbs and vegetables that are edible. They can locate and catch fresh water crabs, fishes in running stream. I can’t even spot one let alone catching one. Whatever I thought that requires proper tools to finish a task, the children can find them in the wild. These skills are unique gift these children taught me.
Mae Tawor, where Safe Haven is located, is pack with lots of activities. We have camped in Ti Lo Su waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. We have camped in Mae Moei National Park watching sun rise among the mountain range of Thailand and Myanmar clouded with morning fog. Camping is a distant memory for me and a new experience for my daughter; it allows father and daughter generation to experience differently. Then there is Mae U Su cave, a stream running into the cave where bats will dwell on the high ceiling of the cave, see years and year’s accumulation of stalagmites and stalagmites structures. After all these activities we went swimming in the ‘swimming pool’ named by the children. Swimming pool is a sub stream that leads to the river that separates the border between Thailand and Myanmar. ‘Swimming pool’ water is knee high, chilling yet refreshing water filled with river pebbles and complete with small river cat fish and crabs, the best part of the ‘swimming pool’ is you can wash your hair with shampoo in it!
I am looking forward to explore new things in Mae Sot in years to come and will recommend anyone who wants a piece of this adventure.
My friends were telling me what I am doing is good for the kids and have a big heart. In fact it’s the kids are the one who teach and shape my soul, mind and most importantly my character. They are my teacher in this competitive world I live in. They make me not to hold prejudice, live and let live, don’t hold grudges. As for my heart it can’t be as big as others who dedicate their life for others for people like Big Ma and other unnamed individual out there. But it’s a starting point from here that I will try to be like one of them.
Watching the children grown up every year, give me a sense of fulfillment. I don’t know how the future is arranged, but so long my ability allows I would like to come back regularly as a retreat for my soul and mind. So I call it Safe Haven and drop the orphanage. I promise Big Ma I will bring more friends to Safe Haven hoping one day someone can provide Safe Haven with what it needs professionally.
I realized I have not been writing a proper essay for over 2 decades, this trip gives me an urge to pen something. Something I could share about Safe Haven and its beautiful people.