You wake up in the morning to the whine of a mosquito hungrily seeking breakfast. Your body aches where it pressed against hard floor during the night. You fling a hand out to the side and encounter nothing but air. You are alone. You remember her leaving. She walked away from you, from this poverty, from the hungry faces of the children.
You get up and go into the girls room. 15 small bodies are strewn across the floor on a wall to wall carpet of sleeping mats. "Get up," you call, "You must go to school."
One of the smaller girls curls up tighter holding her stomach. "Is there any food today," she asks?
The question twists at a constant pain inside of you. For days it has followed you as you look into pinched faces of lethargic children. Always hungry, always needing more. You are hungry too. But you are used to being hungry, you can deal with it. It's harder for a 10 year old.
You don't answer. Instead you go to the boys room. Some of them are already up. They are pulling on the borrowed uniforms you had to go into debt to rent for a month. They can't go to school without them.
But how will they learn when they have nothing to eat?
Education is their future, their way out, but soon there will be nothing left. Nothing for food, no uniforms, only hungry faces, and debts you cannot repay.
Your credit has run out with the grocer. There is no one left to borrow money from.
Soon someone from the government will come and take the kids away and charge you with neglect. For a few years now you have been their home, their sanctuary. You have kept them from harm. If the government takes them they will be deported, sent back to the violence they once escaped. Or they might be captured by slave traders and forced to work as sex slaves in brothels in Bankok. All alone in a hostile world.
You can't let that happen. You need to find a way to hold on.
There are whispered promises. You cling to them. Money coming from people who want to help. Your friend has a plan. In a few months these children will be citizens of the country they now live in. Can you hold on until then?
You pray it is not too late.
You send them off to school, promising the skeptical driver that you will pay him this month. You know he doesn't believe you, but miraculously, he still takes the children to school and back. 40 kids can't be driven on the back of a motorcy. And it is too far and too dangerous to walk.
You go over everything again, the cost of rice, toothbrushes, mosquito nets, uniforms, food, cooking fuel. You wonder if you can find work during school hours to pay for some of the expenses. It is so much harder now that you are alone and have to be home to care for them all the time.
You start walking to an internet cafe you know of. You have been making friends with the owner. Maybe today he won't charge you to send an email.
You use what English you know and write a note to your friend who is far away.
Currently the kids do not have enough food, each day they are facing crisis of food.
Maybe help will come in time.
The Back Story
Chala's wife left him this month. Her parents decided that he wasn't taking care of them well enough and so they left. According to their culture they can make her to go too since her husband isn't keeping up his end of the bargain. They were helping him care for the children but now he has no help at all.
They moved to a new district because Chala has a friend in the government who will give the kids citizenship papers. This is really important for them to have. It makes their futures much more secure. But the move brought unexpected expenses. The new school demands that they have new uniforms to attend. They are now in an area where malaria is a problem and they need mosquito nets. Their rice cooker broke and they can't afford a new one. It costs more in fuel to cook rice in a pot.
We have a plan that may be able to make this orphanage self sufficient, or at least less dependent on donations, but that will take time too.
Thailand isn't cheap. It's not expensive compared to here, but it's not as cheap as say, many parts of Africa or India. The price of food has more than doubled in the past year and the value of the Baht compared to the US dollar is higher than it used to be. It's 30 baht /$1 right now. That means that Chala's ideal operating costs, where he even has enough money to pay some staff to help him, comes to about the same as what it costs us in one month to take care of a family of 5 in San Diego, California.
He can feed 40 kids on a little more than my monthly grocery bill for 5. About $300-$500. The more money the more protein and vegetables they get in addition to rice three times a day.
We've been able to send him enough to at least buy rice until the end of the month out of our personal finances. We are holding some fund raisers in December that we hope will be successful.
If you would like to help you can make a donation
All of it will go to help the kids. And you can tell others about it too.
If they were your kids you would hope someone would take care of them when you couldn't. I'm sure their parents hoped the same thing once, before they died.