04/12/2006, 00.00
THAILAND
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Easter with a PIME missionary and his 200 abandoned children

by Adriano Pelosin
Traditionally April is the month of festivities. Those who can visit their parents or their extended family, who too often are too poor to raise them on their own.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Easter is upon Fr Adriano Pelosin, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) and parish priest in Thailand. Here is a letter he sent describing among other things the lives of children staying at family houses.

"There are about 200 children aged three to ten who brighten the life in Our Lady of Mercy, our parish church. They come from our family houses and local shantytowns and are currently enrolled in spring camp, taking part in cultural activities and just having plain fun.

"This year catechesis is focused on the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, but the kids are also involved in Chinese painting, Indonesian Batik, Korean martial arts, traditional Thai music and dancing, Iao tribal embroidery, writing greeting cards, etc.

"Fifth and sixth grade elementary school pupils have also started their camp; so have first and second grade high school students. The camp for young AIDS patients from the Camillian Brothers-run centre in Rayong begins in late April.

"In Thailand April is the hottest month of the year, a time for holidaying, a time to celebrate the local New Year, a time for family get-togethers.

"So many mothers who have had to give up their children or have remarried but they come at this time of the year to have their children for the festivities and then return them. Other mothers forget or are in such dire straits that they cannot take them. Sadly, fathers are almost always no where to be seen.

"The older kids, the 12-to-15, from the St John Family House went with their guide Noi to visit their parents who are spread out across Thailand.

"I was scared to go to my grandparents' and uncles' homes," said Khao, "but when my uncles and aunts saw me they recognised and hugged me. They gave me money and food and finally told to me to stay a few days.

"Before Khao was in an AIDS Outreach Centre where his parents died five years ago. Last year the nun in charge sent him to us because the boy had real problems. Now he is doing well with us."

"Cek didn't want to go home because he was ashamed of his mother's poverty. She now lives with her new husband and welcomed Noi and the kids her eyes full of tears but grateful.

"Ball's mum told us her life of hardships in the small one-room dwelling that she shares with her new husband and two small children. The same was true for Rak who found out that his dad lives in an abandoned house without doors and windows."

"For Kee and Chek, meeting their father was hard. The man does not even have a shack to live in; at night he sets up a mosquito net between two trees and sleeps under the sky. He beat up Kee, 13, many times. Still the boy went to see him with all of his friends and one night bought him his favourite Chinese soup. "We woke him up and went under the mosquito net to live it up a bit. That night he was not drunk.

"The teenage girls (12 to 16 years) from St Agnes were sent to four houses for children to help out and start learning to serve.

"The Home for Hope Foundation created by Alfredo Villa is paying the last instalment for the fifth house to which the teenagers from the St Agnes Family House are going to move.

"Soon we'll have a sixth house thanks to the generosity of a priest, Fr Antonio Curti, parish priest in S. Lorenzo in Collina, Bologna (Italy), who is concerned about the plight of abandoned children.

"On Easter we are going to be blessed with many volunteers. Two young American women are coming to teach English and two psychology students from the University of Padua (Italy) are staying for several months to examine children who had to endure the trauma of abandonment and together help create in the family houses an atmosphere that will give the children greater serenity and enable them to grow up and fully develop their personality."

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