Pattaya Orphanage is a large facility that cares for approximately 180 children who are either orphans with normal condition or living with deafness and physical disability. It opened in 1974 after land development was approved by Revered Lawrence Thienchai Samanchit; who also provided the land. Father Raymond Brennan oversaw the construction and in the first five years, the Religious Sisters of St Paul de Chartre took on their care of the babies. Currently. The Sister’s of the Orders of the Lovers of the Cross Chanthaburi are continuing the day-to-day care of the children.
Thailand does not have a level of social support available to families and therefore the children come from families who are unable to care for them physically and financially. The sad, yet typical story of these children is that the father has abandoned the mother, leaving her unable to care for the child. Often the child is then left with friends and the mother has never returned to retrieve them. Although it was never quite confirmed whilst on tour, it could certainly suggested that there are correlations between the sexual tourism industry of Pattaya and child abandonment in the area.
Pattaya Orphanage has a Registered Nurse on site at all times who is equipped with the skills needed to counsel and educate the children at their professional discretion, using their ability to detect when child is read to understand their background. The nurse is also able to manage the health of the children and ensure their develop is progressing appropriately.
At any one time, there are over 50 babies and toddlers living in one of the three baby rooms. Here a team of nannies led by a nurse manages their care on a daily basis as well as providing the appropriate vaccinations. Two teams of consultant pediatricians visit the children for weekly or monthly checkups.
From the ages of 3-4 years, the children attend preschool within the orphanage, undertaking classes in English, Thai, computer skills and crafts. After three years in kindergarten, the children begin their schooling outside of the orphanage. Whilst living at the orphanage, the children are care for in their age groups by ‘house parents’ who are also qualified teachers. Their role is to ensure children complete homework tasks and receive the necessary educational support. During the school holidays, children receive extra tuition for computer and English classes taught by volunteers. After primary school, the children are sent to high school where they receive support in choosing vocational or university training. Additional life skills are also taught at the orphanage; including being able to grow vegetables, cooking and using the newly established fish farm to teach fishing.
Since its opening, the orphanage has been operated by Roman Catholic priests of the Diocese of Chanthaburi and on a day-to-day basis run by nuns. However, since Buddhism is an important religious and cultural aspect ingrained into the Thai community, the orphanage does not convert the children to Christianity.
For over 30 years, several hundred babies and toddlers have been adopted by foreign families; mainly from Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Frank and Italy. The process is long, but this is to ensure that the children are going to the most suitable homes.
The Sotpattana School For the Deaf
The school was initiated by Father Brennan in 1982 after his experiences showed him that children with developmental issues, living in neglectful environments tended to cause more problems within society. Therefore he saw that it was essential to opportunities for education and communication skills to prepare them for a fulfilling life and to ease the burden of care. The Sotpattana School was inaugurated as the first school for the deaf in Eastern Thailand and continues to be a private charity school where education is free of charge. Whilst attending the school children receive speech therapy and Sign Language education and are assessed twice a year for alterations in their hearing capacity by the nurse. This allows the nurse to ensure appropriate treatment can be administered as required.
My Personal Reflection….
Of the entire trip to date, this was such a beautiful experience. We arrived very unsure as to what we would find at the orphanage, but we were met with an incredibly warm and nurturing environment. It was evident that the staff and the children had established very strong and loving relationships that were playful and friendly as well as parental in nature. The children were simply the most loveliest little things and the level of care provided to them was of a high standard. This I feel was shown in the fact that the orphanage staffed qualified individuals and had a real focus on promoting the importance of education to the children to ensure they had fulfilling futures.
The real awesome thing about this visit was engaging with the children. I have never met such smiley, cheeky, gentle little ones. They were so keen to meet us and their inquisitive nature about us (these bizarre strangers in their house), made their approach to us so welcoming, and they would come up take our hands and led us off to playgrounds or to show us things. All the while, they spoke in Thai (I think they were too shy to speak in English with us), but it didn’t matter; we still understood each other, even if at times it was a bit challenging. For me, assisting to serve them dinner was such a nice experience; they would shyly walk to the table, take their plate and snatch a quick smiling glance and they chatted between their friends. Who knows what they were saying? Either they’d clasp their hands together, bow their heads and say “Kob Kun Ka” (feminine thank you) or “Kob Kun Krup” (masculine thank you), or sometimes they’d quickly whisper “Thank you” and shoot off to their tables carrying their meal.
When it was time to leave, this little boy came up to me and placed his soft, brown little hand in mine and led me off to the bus. Giving me a quick cuddle, he whispered ‘goodbye’ before standing at the entrance along with the other children. Wearily I got on our bus, absolutely buzzing from the experience. It had been a really lovely afternoon and it was the simple sharing of time with these little people that made me feel so fulfilled.
-Kate, Health for Wealth Nursing Program, Thailand
This is an excerpt from Kate’s blog about her experiences in Thailand on the Health for Wealth Nursing Program. Visit her blog The Nurse with the Birds to read more.