Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Week of Firsts!

It’s been a week of “firsts”.  
It’s my parent’s first trip to Thailand… and overseas in fact!
We had our first “Thai” themed birthday party for Dad, our first flat tyre over here, we’ve fed elephants, Tobi and Eli held a snake around their necks and we’ve even eaten traditional Thai style, cross-legged on the floor! 

Other news: 
Two new children arrived at the children’s home this week.  They seem to be settling in well.  

The new ZOE buildings were a buzz of activity when we visited yesterday.  The deadline to have them ready is getting closer!
Dave’s learning curve steepens as the ‘camp’ he’s helping to organise also draws nearer.  He is feeling the excitement build as more people start to get involved and take on tasks.  Walls are going up and being painted to create the different spaces I explained about in the last blog. 

(Photos: Mum and Dad ride an elephant, flat tyre... wondering what to do when our key to the spare is at home!, Tobi and Eli bravely let a real snake hang around their necks...ewwww!)

It’s been a real treat having my mum and dad stay with us this week.  You wouldn’t know that they hadn’t been here before with their adventurous spirits and “ready for anything” attitudes.   

We still have a few more fun things planned to do before they go back to Australia and saying goodbye is not something I want to think about right now.
It’s not the first time we’ve done that and I just don’t know how I’ll be able to do it again.  
For today though, I will enjoy the time we have, appreciate every moment and be glad for their “first” trip … hopefully there’ll be many more to come!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Life is Good!

“So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good”.  Helen Keller
Yes! Life is good.  Not only do we have the beautiful memories of our friends back home but we have received some lovely, encouraging emails this week that have really touched our hearts.  
Thank you!

I really enjoy reading quotes from Helen Keller.  If there’s a ever a day to start feeling sorry for myself, all I need to do is to read the words she spoke and it reminds me of not just the the adversity she faced but also what she overcame.  I then see much I must be able to contribute also.
I am feeling like a taxi service at the moment… dropping Dave at work… picking him up… driving to kindergarten and back… you get the idea!
But I must say, it brings me great pleasure to arrive at kindergarten and see the huge smiles on the faces of my children.  They are both so happy there and have made some wonderful friends this term.  Their teachers have welcomed them warmly, cared for them tremendously and I am so grateful for the environment in which they have to learn and play. 
I am equally as moved when I pick up Dave from ZOE and he too has a massive smile and eagerly explains all in the ins and outs of his day.  
It’s a noisy ride home as everyone tries to get out “their” stories but I love to hear them all, each and every one.

Some days we just pick up Dave and go but on the days when the children get to go in to "daddy's work" they get VERY excited.  It makes us both so proud to see them laughing and chasing the ZOE children and using their Thai to swap names and communicate as best as possible.  Eli, in particular, is picking up the language quickly and often speaks in "made up" Thai as she plays with her toys. 
Tobi has really begun to talk more and more about the things he is learning. Yesterday as he climbed high on some play equipment, and then landed on the ground, he explained what he knew about gravity.  He also shared some of his private feelings at dinner the other night about his little friend Jai-Jai (a gorgeous Japanese girl in his class that he’s great friends with). 
“I want to marry Jai-Jai when I grow up” he announced.  Mind you it was followed by, “… because she gives me smarshmallows (marshmallows) and draws me pictures”.  Nice!
I had an information session in Eliana’s class this morning to learn about her theme for next term called ‘Once Upon a Time’ and is all about favorite stories.  Eli’s teacher has asked Dave and I to come in and do a puppet show for the students which I am looking forward to.  To conclude their theme from this term on 'Water', the children got to participate in water activities in their PE class to celebrate Songkron (Thai New Years festival).  Eli very much enjoyed getting to wear her bathers to school and going in the pool… finally! 

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of sneaking in the back row and watching Dave and Jessica present their ideas for the 4 week camp to 45 of the staff and students.  Their pitch was so engaging and vibrant that it left everyone wanting to sign up as helpers.  Dressed as tourists and entering loaded up with their luggage spilling out all over the stage, the presentation captivated the audience and portrayed the theme of 'Journeying with Jesus' really well.  As camp rapidly approaches, they are now working double-time to try and transform various parts of the children's home into a huge airplane, oasis, bustling market place and middle eastern tent.  In each area different activities/teaching occurs in the evenings.  Passports will be issued and tickets distributed for the journey of their lives!  

The morning program includes games, games and games (the more water involved, the better) as well as creative snacks and elective classes for an hour.  Each Wednesday the children have an excursion day.  It's shaping up to be a LOT of fun! 

So again I wish to thank you for YOUR encouragement to us to do the best we can.
Once again, in the words of the inspiring Helen Keller,  "When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another".

Spencer learning about crayons.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Crossing the Border

I am still feeling a little tired today.  On Saturday morning we left at 4.40 am and drove to Burma to get our passports stamped (to comply with our visa requirements).  
It's only a 4 hour drive each way, but with children (and all the stops we needed) we didn't get home till after 7.30 pm.  
Despite the long drive in the car though, it was a great experience and we got to see some more of this amazing country.

We didn’t spend more than about five minutes in Burma as we were confronted with a number of begging children, who we could see were part of a syndicate as they all had the same red color dyed into one part of their hair (we presume so their 'owner' could easily identify them).  Some were not much older than Tobi.

We thought for this first border crossing we’d just go in and out and see how long the process took and save some of the exploring for another time (we have to do these border runs every 90 there’ll be many more opportunities).

On the Thai side of the border there was a huge
market calling for me to come and explore....
ahhhh next time!
Probably the highlight of the trip though was stopping for dinner.  Jessica and I ventured in to an open-air market in search of food.  We were unsure if we’d find anything that we’d be game enough to eat (or present to the children) but surprisingly we came away with a few bags full of sticky rice, kebabs, fried chicken drumsticks and something else that looked like pork and basil but later turned out to be unidentifiable!  Sorry Dave!

After driving around through unfamiliar territory, we choose a semi-secluded spot to set up our picnic mat on the side of the road. We all sat in a circle tasting the various dishes.  What we didn’t realise when we settled down to eat though, was just how much attention we would attract.  

Now we’re getting used to people staring at us- especially the children but it was amazing how the local people appeared out of no where to come and say hello.  We had the most wonderful time, Jess interpreting for us and the children making new friends.  We all came away with a buzz of excitement as we’d been able to experience something that just doesn’t happen every day.

What always amazes me is how children never seem to notice, as much as adults do, the language barrier.  They just find things to do like chase each other and play together, that don’t seem to need as many words.  Despite feeling tired after a full day of travel, our children all embraced this rare opportunity and even used it to bless the others by giving away some of our food, dessert (the long bamboo sticks filled with sweet rice and beans as well as giving one of their books to their new little friend).   
We were really proud of them.

Check out the elderly man who seemed like he’d never laid eyes on skin like Spencer’s soft, white baby skin before... he was totally fascinated!

Our picnic dinner... indescribable! 

Here's some more pictures from the day:
First stop breakfast- the kids are still in their pajamas! 
And our first experience of feeling slightly cold!

About to cross the border...
Tobi looking SO excited to be doing the border crossing...not!  Little did he know that the officials would all want to take his photo LOL and give the kids strawberries!

A good chance for Jess to speak Thai.

Making new friends!

Well, until the next blog .... sa-wat dee ka!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Job Descriptions

Several people have asked us, "What is it that you and Dave will actually be doing at ZOE?"  
I love it when people have questions.  It may take a while for me to answer them but I do get there eventually, so keep them coming!

I thought in this blog entry that I'd spend a little time trying to explain what our job descriptions look like (as far as we can tell at the moment) and also outline a little about our fundraising aims.

We just met with the founder of ZOE on Monday night.  Carol Hart is so inspirational. I could just sit and listen to her speak for hours without getting one bit tired of hearing all her ideas and dreams.

Although on a very steep learning curve, David is extremely excited about his new role.  
While, he will have some interaction with the ZOE business, vocational, and bible school, his main focus is the children's home.
His first project is the upcoming 4-weeklong children’s camp.  ZOE runs two camps each year to provide a program for the children and teenagers during their school holiday break.     
Considering the short amount of time left to plan for camp, he’s really hit the ground running!  
Thankfully he’s working right alongside Jessica, the phenomenal children's worker here, who you may recall lived with us for our first few weeks in Thailand and now house sits next door.
The 4-week program caters for 43 children and involves; bible story telling, sports, craft, games, day outings and basically a whole lot of fun.
This camp is shaping up to be the most dynamic camp ZOE have put together to date.  We’ll have more to share with you about this later!
Jessica and Dave are completing the planning this week and tomorrow they’re presenting the vision for the camp to all of ZOE (everyone except the kids).  I can't say too much now, as it will ruin the surprise!
Next week they will begin making the props and purchasing all the materials for the games and craft.  They will also commence training up the staff that will be working in each of the activity centers.
Dave feels so fortunate to be involved in camp so soon after commencing as it is giving him a great opportunity to get to know the children, house parents, staff and current students at the school.
He is also getting insight in to how the children's home runs (meal times, school routine, transportations schedules, health check ups, special activities etc).  This will be paramount when camp's over and he begins working more closely with the day-to-day running of the children's home.
He will be involved in the training, equipping and empowerment of the current child care staff and house parents.           
ZOE are planning to expand and replicate the children's homes throughout Thailand, Burma and in other regions of South East Asia (and wherever human trafficking exists) so David will be involved in the documentation of the existing systems and making improvements to the current operations.
As the ZOE family grows from 50 to 500 children, so will the role and there are many new initiatives that will commence later in the year, so we’ll report on them as they begin...

So whilst I am officially a "stay-at-home-mum", there are quite a few areas that I will be having some input in that fit in really well with our children's schedules and my home duties.

My most important job remains as my highest priority and that's to support Dave in his role as well as be the best mum that I can to our three young children.

Some of the other areas that I have already, or will possibly, help out with include:
The Design Team- this is the team that is currently choosing the colours for the new children's home building exterior and interior as well as making decisions about fixtures and fittings.
The Craft Team- ideas for children's craft and how to implement them.
Missionary/Staff Events- this includes women's social nights out, family nights with the team, planning of staff retreats/ social events etc.
Blog team- Writing blog entries for the official ZOE blog including updates on events in relation to the children's home, reporting on specific stories or special projects etc.
As well as these, I'll be being included in various meetings and discussions involving childcare, holiday program planning etc.

I've had some great times with Dave and Jessica brainstorming ideas for the upcoming camp and how to execute some of the designs and decorating themes.  As I said, I'll report more about camp in a later blog, but it's going to be FUN!

In regards to fundraising, Carol emphasized to us, that even more importantly than doing our jobs, is our responsibility to fundraise enough money to stay here in Thailand. 
If we're not here, then we're not able to do our jobs!  

As you probably realised from reading our blog, all of the overseas staff here have voluntary positions... so we don't get paid! This concept has probably been more challenging for us to deal with than the actual move itself was.  We are not used to having to ask others to financially support us.

We are going to begin thinking of some ideas over the next couple of weeks of how to do this more proactively.  We may have to approach some media avenues in Australia as well as businesses/churches etc.

Thankfully we have already had a few generous donations which has brought us to achieving about 10% of what we have budgeted we'll need to live here.  Some people have donated funds to specific items like our car, school fees, cooking items etc whilst others have given either a once off donation or a monthly donation towards our general living expenses.  

We are happy to speak in churches or at events to promote the human trafficking issue and we'll soon have some current resources to do this more effectively (there's been a film crew here the past few days getting footage together and the bits we saw looked awesome). 

As we begin to make a plan, you may be wondering how you could possibly help.  Please email us if you have any ideas that come to mind on this topic.  Maybe you could forward our blog address to someone you know in a business position looking for a cause. Or possibly you are linked to a church or company that is showing an interest in the human trafficking topic at the moment and needs someone working in the field to come and speak later in the year.  We are open to all your suggestions!

Please understand that our heart is not to drain our friends and family of their money.  That is NOT what we want to do at all, so please do not take this as a cry for help.  Whilst all financial gifts have been received gratefully, we only want those who feel that placed on their heart to give of their finances.  

We would love the word to get out though that we're here in Thailand and that we've started with ZOE and that we're passionate about making a difference in the lives of little children who deserve the best that we can give.

Thanks for your support.  Just by reading our blog and keeping up with our journey, you're an encouragement to us... and we really appreciate you.