Wednesday, July 29, 2009


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What is your donation used for??:

You might be wondering, "WHAT IS HANDCLASP??" Well, when Tete was first called to Thailand, she had to leave the country every three months to renew her Visa. And each time she left, she bought souvenirs from Thailand and sold them back home in India for airfare. (When she became a Thai citizen, the rupee's value increased while the baht's value decreased. Such a God thing, right?) Anyway, during one of those trips out of the country, Tete's uncle (he has a cool story too!) told her to visit some missionary friends of his. Except he only gave her their names. No address. No phone number.

On the plane, the stewardess took interest in Tete, asking her lots of questions. The guy next to her noticed and offered to give her a ride to the missionary's house. She didn't give him a "yes" or "no" until she saw that this man's wife and son picked him up from the airport; she concluded that he's probably kind-hearted with good intentions.

They drove and drove, looking for this person who lives who knows where. They finally saw a truck parked outside a house with an American flag sticker. They rang the doorbell. It was the right house!

Months later, this missionary wrote Tete a letter wondering if she could bring a group to visit. Tete wrote back, "Yes. They can build toilets!" Don & Kay Fox were in this group, and as Kay helped Tete with many things throughout that trip, she got to know Tete's heart.

Fast forward...As the HRDC is not supported by a church or a certain denomination, it relies on donations from individuals. And lots of faith. Thailand's current law requires a $30 fee for every check that's cashed. So if someone donates $15, the HRDC actually ends up paying $15! This proved to be a difficult predicament, so Don & Kay started Handclasp. Every penny that Handclasp receives is given to the HRDC. :)

There are hundreds of stories like this one. All breathed into life by God. It's incredible.


Right now, I’m sitting at the Chiang Mai airport. My suitcases were 10 kilos over the weight limit, which makes me SO thankful that they forgot to weigh my luggage on the trip here (with the laptops and pens!). I tried taking out things but just stood there silently strategizing when I realized I couldn’t carry on 10 kilos of clothing. So she just let me go. Thankfully.

Then the guy at customs kept asking me all these questions. “So are you here by yourself? Where is your family?” I went to the bathroom afterwards, looked in the mirror, and saw that I had my arms full of friendship bracelets and had a flowery white sparkly plastic cross around my neck. The customs officer probably thought I was too young to be traveling by myself. Oh well!

So I’m sitting here. Relaxed. Exhausted. In a way, I was looking forward to today because of the ant situation, missing “comfort”, and excitement for what’s next. But I’m not feeling relief or any sort of excitement. Instead, I’m beyond sad.

I keep telling myself that we’re never meant to be comfortable.

I was never 100% physically comfortable this past month, and now I have discomfort in my heart.

This morning, as the kids left for school, I noticed Piraporn missing from the line. He came down later, crying. Aww. As the kids made their trek to school, sadness was everywhere. And I walked with Somsi and Waraporn down the path and stopped right before they had to jump the fence. More tears. Sobs. And this time, I was crying too. I kept my arms around them for a long while, whispering over & over in Thai & Karen, “I’ll miss you. I love you.” It was so sad watching them walk off to school. So sad.

Right before I left, Don and Kay laid hands on me and prayed a wonderful prayer. Such sweet people, wow. And I talked to Tete the whole entire drive down to Chiang Mai. Even after her husband dropped us off at the airport, we spent a good 45 minutes talking in the middle of the check-in area. Our own special time. There could’ve been a tornado swirling around and we wouldn’t have noticed. Just one last heart-to-heart in person…til next time! I still can’t imagine receiving an email from a random person (well, we have a few mutual friends, but still!) and allowing her to stay with you for a month. But she’s just that kind of person.

I sometimes wonder what the children think about “America”. Do they think America is some sort of paradise where I’ll go and forget them? Some of the high schoolers told me that they were going to America with me. Haha. And I wish they could! I hope they know I won’t forget them. That I love them more and more every day. That they’re here with me. They are everywhere I am because they’re in every prayer of mine. And they’re in this heart that they poured love into and watered until it overflowed. I can’t wait to see them again.

My Last Days

I didn’t journal much in fear that the writing would open the floodgates, pouring out tears. But I’ll try my best to take you to my heart with the highlights.

“Take Me to Your Heart”. It’s an English song. Tanin and Akhom listen to it all the time, which means I listen to it quite a lot as well. It’s super cheesy, and I’d never listen to it on my own, but it’s fun to sing the three lines we know: Standing on a rainy day…/ Listening to my own heart beat / So many people, all around the world…/ Take me to your heart, take me to your soul… / They say nothing lasts forever, we only have today / Love is now or never, take me far away / Take me to your heartttt!!

Somehow, someway, I love this song. As cheesy as it is.

I said my goodbyes to the staff slowly throughout the week. Ahkom, Tanin, and I had a lot of meaningful moments together, and they both wrote me nice letters. In English. On sparkly pink paper. I’ll take a picture and post it on Facebook. Luckily, they told me ahead of time that they spent days working on their letters and that the words are straight from their hearts…So I didn’t laugh when I saw that the stationary said, “Love is make the world go around” and “Polar Bear”. I have a great mom, dad, and sister, but no brother. God has put brother figures in my life to fill that spot, and I am so thankful to have Tanin and Ahkom care about me and love me like a sister. It’s unbelievable.

MY FAREWELL PARTY, as Kay called it, was a celebration of life. I like calling it Don & Kay’s “Welcome Back Party”, since it has happier emotions attached to it. The kids sang many songs, which is typical for any given night. But since this was a welcome night, the kids sang even more songs. And we laughed through pretty much every one. Lalida, Yupin, and Yupa danced to “Above All” dressed in cute dresses. Lalida did the wrong motion at the start of the chorus, which is pretty climactic, and we all just busted out the laughs. My girls wanted to do the dances I taught them, but they didn’t quite remember them. So that made for an interesting six minutes with comic value. They all sang a song in 4-part harmony, except the group of guys knew absolutely none of the words. So they stood there the whole time uncomfortably while I laughed. :)

Several of the kids also stood up to share such nice words for me. I ended up receiving more bracelets (I already had a lot on my wrist and was having a hard time keeping track of who gave what!). But mostly, I received heartfelt words. Some of the kids let those tears flow, and my heart ached. These kids have so much to give.

Tanin & I surprised the kids with a Karen song. ( I saw the astonishment in their eyes as the Karen language hit their ears. And I wanted to cry the whole time, but I desperately wanted to be strong for the kids. I also had words to say for the children. “Never lose your kindness and generosity because you will change so many people’s lives with it…I am going home with a bigger heart because of you…Thank you for loving me…I’ll call you and help you with homework.” Etc etc etc.

At the end of the night, they did a Karen farewell. They all got in a line and shook my hand. But I ended up hugging them all. And I ended up with more bracelets on my wrist. Somsi and Waraporn were last in line. With tears streaming down their faces. We walked to their dorm, and I hung out with the girls for quite awhile. They gave me the oddest gifts and the sweetest notes, and I know they have more use for the gifts than I do, but they wouldn’t take them back. So I will treasure them forever.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Don & Kay; Piraporn & Tosiporn

The founders of Handclasp, Don and Kay, arrived in Musekee on my last day. I'll write more about them when I share Tete's story, but it was nice spending time with them.

At dinner, I found out that the person who sponsors Piraporn & Tosiporn is going through some financial difficulties right now. So they're looking for new sponsors (many other kids are waiting for sponsorship as well!) Over the past few weeks, I've been feeling the desire to put my money where my heart is. I currently sponsor a child through another organization that I respect (otherwise I wouldn't be sponsoring a child through them!), but only about 15-30% of my monthly donation goes directly to the child. There are administrative fees, the need to support the staff in that area, etc. I understand all of that, but I want every penny to go towards the child.

I starting thinking and praying about sponsoring a child at the HRDC instead, but all these children that I know are already sponsored. I know that shouldn't matter, but it would definitely make my decision easier. So when Don told me about Piraporn & Tosiporn's sponsor, I felt like it was God dangling a string from Heaven telling me what to do. A total God thing.

[I will still support the other organization periodically, as I love how it is so in tune with what's going on in the world and provides relief to countries that need it. I have nothing against the organization; I just want to support a child who I can follow up on easily and keep in touch with his life after he turns 18 (which is when most other organizations stop their aid).]

The first boy that caught my eye on that first evening in Musekee was Piraporn. He was this cute little thing (it turns out he's 13!) with a sweet smile. He was standing in the back with the other guys, and I just knew that I wanted to love him. His twin, Tosiporn, is a little more difficult to figure out. He barely ever smiles and doesn't show his emotion quite like his twin (Tosiporn cries about 3 times a week!).

The twins have 10 other siblings, and the parents love their children so much and work so hard to make ends meet. Kay told me that she once visited their village and cried when she met their mom. Seeing this family made Kay put herself in their shoes. What would she do if she couldn't feed her family? What would she do if, even after working all day, she still couldn't provide for her family?


Since coming to the center, the boys have gained some weight, and I expect them to be even taller and bigger the next time I see them. :)

Washing Machine?

The girls who went to Chiang Mai got back really late at night, so some of them didn't go to school the next day. So we spent a lot of that day together...hung out at the store, went on walks. But they hid behind me as each truck drove by in case it was a teacher. Hahaha.

They asked if I needed any clothes washed. Since I planned on donating a handful of clothes, I figured we could wash them together. So we gather up two black buckets per girl, one for bathing and one for washing clothes. Then we walked down a realllllly long path and ended up at a stream. There's constant water flowing in from a pipe...and little fishies swimming around. There are wooden boards that add up to be about a foot wide. So the girls can stand on it with the flowing stream underneath. It was so much fun hanging out with them!

They sang songs...Pah Wah Low Love, I Don't Know About Tomorrow, Draw Me Close, Thai pop songs. Then they begged me to sing them "a song from America". The only ones I could think of at the moment were little kids songs like Mary Had a Little Lamb, the ABC song...and The Climb from Hannah Montana: The Movie. Yikes. I don't know why these were the only songs, maybe because I was put on the spot. Given my song choices, I chose The Climb. Hahaha.

Okay, Please Put Down That Gun

A day or two before I left, I spent the afternoon watching Methom weave/taking occasional attempts at weaving on my own. Another staff lady came in, chatting with Methom and keeping us company. Then she left. Minutes later, I heard voices, Methom hurriedly told me to keep weaving, then SPRINTED out. So I'm about to set things up when two men walk in. One guy has a HUGE gun. Huge. They're wearing camo pants. A somewhat conversation ensues. It's mostly me looking at them in disdain.

I hear the words "Methom", "police", lots of pointing to themselves and to the weaving and to me. They're kind of laughing, kind of trying to tell me what to do. And I'm just thinking, "Yes, I'm scared. I know Thai police are corrupt, oh no. Don't stare at the gun...."

Then I got annoyed with them. Obviously, I don't speak Thai. Stop talking and laughing at me. So I continued to give them an annoyed/blank stare. Crazy thoughts are running through my head. Why did Methom run off? Is she in trouble? Am I set up?

They point at me and tell me to go outside with them. I go. They stand in the porch area of the female dorm (the weaving area is on the first floor of the dorm), and I just stand at the doorway, barely answering their questions. I don't see any staff people in sight. Umm...?

Finally, Akhom walks by. I give him a look telling him to come over NOW. The guy puts his gun in the truck. They all talk. Finally one guy acts like he's taking a picture, then shows me his ID card. Akhom tells me they're here to get Karen shirts from Methom. I eventually put it all together. OH! The Thai government wants to be more serious about identification and wants each person to have an ID card. But since it's nearly impossible for everyone in the villages to go to Chiang Mai & get their picture taken, the government sent people to Musekee.

The gun is for protection.

But what were they thinking bringing a gun into a female dorm? It was four feet long.

So the two men and the staff just have a little chat, and I laugh it off. But next time they should leave the gun in the truck and be less annoying.


I got more nail polish for the girls (and apparently some of the boys) in Chiang Mai. 1 clear base coat, 1 clear top coat, and several different colors of nail frosting. The girls LOVED the clear stuff, and they kept calling it "see kaw", or white. Apparently white is almost every kid's favorite color. Interesting, huh? I don't think anyone I grew up with chose white as his/her favorite.

Anyway. I set the nail polish on a table for the girls to use, labeling the base and top coats, and made it clear that the students were to share everything. But on the day I left, two bottles were left. The base coat first went missing, then the top coat, then the magenta, then the gold, then I lost track. Crazy kids!

And the boys...I'm not sure how this all came about, but I gradually noticed more and more boys with nail polish on their fingers and toes. I know the older girls were painting the nails of the younger boys, but it kind of weirded me out when I saw the boys painting their own nails. I painted hearts and smiley faces on some of them, just to make it more interesting, but wow!