26.9.08

Pictures From Thailand

Well, I finally got pictures posted from the GH's Thailand trip.

As I already told you, the money we raised here was enough for 40 or so refugee kids to move to a new district, closer to schools and hospitals, and where they will be able to get Thai papers.
Here are some of them.
This is Chala. He takes care of them, along with his wife and MIL.

Here's some of what else happened. They weren't able to get into the refugee camps because they were "closed".

They did get into Burma
for a day or two to meet some people on that side of the border.

And they visited a lot of villages.



here's where they slept

and this is a kitchen

Our plans for the future of The Charis Project are more definite.

We want to provide a support network that will help the people like Chala who are taking care of kids who have no families. There are a lot of "children's homes" which are basically people who won't say no to kids who have no where to stay. They are isolated and don't have any resources. We want to connect them, help them, raise money for them, and so help the kids to stay within their own culture and grow up with their own language and customs.

And we're researching about helping to start a rice milling operation in the villages that would be community owned and benefit everyone while bringing in some economic incentive.

Thanks again for all of the support you have given. I am so blessed to have such generous and caring readers.

To see the rest of the pictures you can go here to Thailand Trip.

24.9.08

Sweet nothings

So last night we were talking about an upcoming post that I am working on for Blissfully Wed. And that led to one of those way too late at night "talks". The kind that my husband likes to describe as me telling him what he's doing wrong. It's not that far off. Yeah, smack me.

No really. And I didn't mean for it to go that way, truly I didn't, and I kept trying to end it so he could go to sleep, and it kept going anyway. And in the end he said what may be one of the sweetest thing ever said in the history of marriages.

"I acknowledge that I'm an asshole. And clearly, I always have, still, and will love you."

I had to write that down somewhere to remember the next time I get upset about water far under the bridge and throw it downstream after it so I don't keep trying to haul it all back and examine it again.

I really am blessed to have him.

But that's not at all what today's post is about. Go and check it out to find out what it's about today.

22.9.08

Sniper Hugs

It is a typical afternoon outside my house. Which means that there are a ton of kids and a few parents all hanging out on the hill in front of my door and running madly all over the place. Mostly it is is the kids running madly.

I am sitting on the hill talking to a couple of other moms and holding the Baby in my lap. She sits down right beside me, this girl I know. She's been playing with my children for 2 years now. She's 6 years old. She smiles up at me, this little girl, and I smile back at her and then turn to answer a question and keep the Baby from doing a face plant as she struggles out of my grasp while I put her shoe back on. And suddenly quick as she can, while both my arms are full and I am not looking she reaches out and wraps her arms around my waist and squeezes tight. It is the briefest of hugs, a sniper hug. And then she is up and running off to play again without giving me a chance to respond as I sit there, my heart breaking as I think about what just happened.

To say that this girl's family is going through difficult times is like calling giant boulders crashing down all around a little bit of an inconvenience. She's been through a family member not dealing with addiction, and unemployment, and siblings in foster care, and hopelessness in both parents.

I've seen a few attempts by her to show her parents affection met with misinterpretation and often irritation. Her mom is doing her best, and she's starting from way behind where some of us begin emotionally. She's in counseling.

So it broke my heart when she hugged me like that, lightening fast and then gone before I could respond. Before I could reject her overture. It broke my heart that she had to work up the courage to give me a hug in the first place. The whole situation is just unbearably sad.

And so I, at the first opportunity, hugged her back, and have hugged her several times since then. Perhaps it will be enough? What else can I do besides fill up the time she is with me with as much love as possible against the years ahead? I pray every day that her situation will improve, and that in the years to come she will remember that at least one person saw her, really saw her, and cared, and that that little memory will change things for the better somehow.

****
I'm not saying that her parents don't love her, because I don't think it's true. Just that they are very, very, distracted right now by the hard things of life.

19.9.08

When it Matters

A little girl went missing tonight. She waved goodbye to her friends at the playground, turned down an older girl's offer to walk her home, and that was the last time anyone saw her.

An hour later she still was not home. My neighbor chased me down as I was walking, oblivious to all of this, to ask me if I had seen her.

Another neighbor and her daughter were going door to door near the playground. Her friends were carrying her picture around.

And as the GH abandoned our dinner guests to go searching into the night I noticed several bobbing flashlights. People that I only know by sight, but have never spoken with past hello, out in groups searching for a little girl with long black hair. The men were in whatever state dress they had been when the knock on the door came. Rushing out without shirts, in flip flops, with flashlights they combed the neighborhood.

The 13 year old who was the last to see her walked by again looking distressed. I asked, "Are you worried about her?"

She burst into tears and sobbed in to my shoulder, "It's all my fault. It's my fault. I should have walked her home."

And I said what anyone would say, "No it's not. It's not your job. You offered to go with her. She said 'no thanks'. No one blames you."

And still she sobbed on for a while until I suggested that she come in. But she wanted to continue her search.

The police were called and people gathered near our apartment to watch as her mother made her way down the hill to speak with them.

Only on her face was not worry, but relief.

Her daughter was home. Her dad picked her up on the way to her apartment and took her somewhere with him. And didn't tell anyone, not even her mother. She was never in immediate danger.

And then the search party turned into something a lot more like party and people were hugging each other and chatting as they made their way back home and to find others who were still searching and tell them the good news. And many words were said about her father, not all of them pleasant, but none of them truly violent so great was everyone's relief.

And I'm left with a sense of gratitude toward these people I barely know. It's comforting to realize that they are the kind of people who will drop everything to help in such a crisis, even for someone they don't really know. I am warmed to observe how quickly they are moved by compassion when it matters.

17.9.08

The Fabulous Thing About 4 Year Olds

is that when they are present as you assign early morning chores to their older sibling they beg to be given a job too. And when you scramble internally for something to give her so that it sounds like you were thinking of her all along, (What? You never do that?) and tell her she can wipe off the bathroom counter in the mornings she says, "Can I clean the toilet too?"

And when she wakes up the next morning, and you have already forgotten about it, that's exactly what she does. And she does it well.

15.9.08

Barbie shows and life

Today we went to the grocery store, the kids and I. And at the check out the Boy and the Girl scattered as usual in the direction of the movie displays nearby. They came running to me as I walked out of the store yelling, "Mom, come and look it's The Diamond Castle." With princess Barbie as the main character no less.

So I used my standard evasion and said, "Not today. It's time to go."

And as we walked home from the store the Girl went on and on about how she wants me to buy her that show someday so that she can watch it. I don't know what it was today, if I was feeling particularly testy, or rushed or distracted but I chose this moment to completely dash her hopes.

"I won't ever buy you that show. I don't want you to watch shows like that. I don't think they are good for little girls to watch."

And then there was much sorrow, and loud crying, and also many questions. They all sounded like, "BUT WHY MOMMY? WHY CAN'T I? WHY DON'T YOU WANT ME TO WATCH THAT SHOW."

And since I had already stuck my foot in it, I decided that I may as well explain it all to them. So I told them about Barbie, how she looks kind of like a grownup woman with her breasts and hips, but how no real grownup woman can really look like her. I told them about airbrushed magazine pictures and little girls who grow up expecting to look like the images they see when they become woman, and learning to hate their bodies and themselves because they don't look "right". And I told them about little boys who grow up expecting grown up women to look that way and adding to the way that grown up girls learn to hate their bodies with their expectations.

And then I told them about the girls who hate their bodies so much that they stop eating to try and get their bodies to look more like they think it should. And I told them that some of those girls die because they go too long without eating and their bodies eventually just stop.

The tears had stopped by now.

And then I told the Girl that I never wanted her to feel like being pretty was the only thing that she had of any value. I told her that, while I think she is very pretty, I think it's more important that she is kind, and smart, and helpful, and chooses to do the right thing most of the time; that she is loving, and funny, and a great person to be around. I told her that I wanted her to watch shows that would help her develop those parts of her self more than I wanted her to watch shows that would make her wish she was pretty in the same way the Barbie is pretty.

Now there were smiles, and some giggles as I mentioned all the things about her that I like.

We went a few more blocks and she asked, "Can I watch that show when I'm a grownup?"

I answered, "I don't think you will still want to when you are a grownup. But when you are a grownup you will be able to make all your own choices and I won't tell you what to do anymore. So you could watch it if you want."

"Yeah," she said, very seriously, "because when I'm a grownup I will know better and when I see it when I'm a grownup I will choose to live."

And then she kept saying it all the way home like a mantra, "When I'm a grownup I will choose to live."

And I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. I hope she does.

11.9.08

An open letter to Americans who don't vote

Seriously? You aren't going to go and cast your vote on election day?

What? It's too much work? You are too busy enjoying the rights and freedoms you possess in this country to take the time to educate yourself about the issues and have a say in the process by which your country is governed? Because it would be a shame for you to have to take some time away from watching your regular television programming to do some reading and make a choice wouldn't it?

And yes, I know what day it is. What 9/11 means. That's why in spite of all the other things I was going to write about to day I'm writing about this instead.

I'm not from the US. I don't even like some things about the US. But I tell you, if I could vote I would. My children are US citizens, and their futures will be affected by the decisions made on election day. But the stupidest decision I think it is possible for someone to make is to refuse to make one at all.

Do you have any idea what it's like to live in the rest of the world? Do you know what is happening in Zimbabwe? Do you have any concept of the incredible privilege that you enjoy every day?

You have the freedom to disagree with people, even the president. You have the economic freedom to make a living by whatever means you choose as long as it's legal. You have the right to own property. You have the right to not be taken away to prison without being charged and given a a fair public trial. People still disappear every day in China, never to be seen again. You have the right to decide how many children you want to have. No one is going to take you from your home and forcibly sterilize you if you choose have more than one child. Medical rape, I call it.

If you are a woman and someone rapes you your voice and testimony are heard in a court of law, they are weighty evidence against your attacker. So is physical evidence. It may be hard to face him, but the chances are he will be punished. Ask women in Afghanistan what happens if they are raped. Ask them how often they are able to find 5 men of good standing in the Muslim community to testify against their attacker for them in order to prove that it was done. Ask them what it's like to have a family agree to a suicide pact because that's all they can do.

You may feel cynical. You may feel that you don't have a real choice at all. You may feel that it doesn't matter whether you cast your vote or not. You would be wrong. And I think that if you choose not to vote, if you choose not to "Think about all that stuff that's just so stupid and pointless" that you deserve to have your freedoms taken away from you, slowly, one by one, until you no longer recognize the country of your childhood, until other people who care more have decided policy for you. And let me assure you that the motivated aren't always the ones I want making policy for the country my children will live in. I don't think that they are always the ones you want either.

I find it incomprehensible that people in this nation would be so apathetic and feel so entitled to the rights and freedoms that they enjoy that they would not take responsibility for their part in exercising those rights and making the choices that they have the freedom to make.

Someone said that "with great power comes great responsibility" but here is what I think is even more true. WITH GREAT FREEDOM COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY! What you have, here in the United States, in fuller measure than most of the world, is great freedom. And whether you like it or not, that freedom is a responsibility as well. Or that freedom can be lost.

If you really want to stick it terrorists, vote. Exercise the rights and freedoms that you have. Continue to value the principles and ideas that made this country so unique in the first place, and that make America what it is. Care damn it.

Is that so hard?

8.9.08

A Boy's Work

"If you can do two days worth of school tomorrow I'll take you to work with me when I go the day after." the GH said to the Boy last week. He's renovating the bathroom at his parent's house right now, so it's a safe place to take a child.

"I could come and watch you work dad?" he asks.

"Oh you will do more than watch me work, you will help me to get my work done. I'll have jobs that you need to do for me."

I watch as the Boy's visibly swells with delight at the prospect of working with his dad.

Needless to say, any time he got sidetracked at school the next day all I needed to do was remind him of his desire to go to work with daddy tomorrow and he was right back on track. Except for the times when he couldn't sit still for excitement and instead would do things like bring out his jeans with the hole in the knee and say, "I could wear these tomorrow when I go to work with daddy. Sometimes dad wears jeans for working in. I'm going to need strong work clothes tomorrow when I go and help Daddy at work you know." Or he would look up from his book to ask, "Why don't I have work boots mommy? Why haven't you ever bought me work boots? I should have work boots because I'm going to work with daddy!"

He strutted around the neighborhood that evening, after completing two full days worth of school work successfully, announcing to all of the other 6 and 7 year old boys and girls he plays with, "I'm going to work with my dad tomorrow! I'm going to help him do his work!"

He spent 5 hours at Beema's house the next day doing exactly what he was told to do. He pulled drywall off of the frames and carried it outside. He fetched and carried. He held stuff when he was told to and proved to be an excellent junior assistant. And then he ate some lunch, had a rest and played for the rest of the day before coming home late in the evening for dinner.

Covered head to toe in gray dust he spoke proudly and casually of his work day. His shoulders seemed broader, his body more loose and capable. He carried himself as a man that night, rather than a boy. His stuck his chest out proudly as he told me about his labors in the casual confident manner of one who knows they have done their job well. In one day he seemed to have matured by several years.

As I watched him across the dinner table I couldn't help but wish he could go to work with dad every day. It filled him up in a way that a day with mom never would, that I knew. And yet, there are those pesky child labor and home school laws, and he does need to at least know long division before I thrust him upon the adult world forever. We definitely need to make something like this happen more often though. My boy longs to be a man.

I guess it's time for some more meaningful jobs around the house too.

We are a Cause on Facebook

So I finally figured out how to link directly to our Facebook cause page. If you are on Facebook you can join and recruit your friends to join the cause and get updates. Cool huh?

The Charis Project

Real post coming soon. Sorry, it's been a crazy busy couple of weeks.

And I missed another person

Undercover Mutha also linked back to the refugee kids post.

Thank-you.

5.9.08

What your gift did.

It's taken me so long to post this because I wanted pictures, and video. I wanted to show you as well as tell you. And there are many pictures. But they were taken on a borrowed camera, because it's better than ours. And then there was the trouble of getting a cable to download the pictures. And then there was the realization that neither of us have the software on our computers that will deal with this camera that isn't ours. So it is taking time.

The GH spent one night in Burma and spent a lot of time meeting people in the middle of nowhere. And then he went to meet Chala and the kids. And he gave them your gift.

Chala has a friend who is in the government and is willing to help him get the children Thai papers. But to do this they all would have to move to a different district and there was no way to afford it. Your gift has made possible what was impossible before. Because of the generosity of the people who visited here and gave, Chala and 40 kids will be able to move.

They will be closer to schools and hospitals. This means that their transportation costs will go down when someone gets sick. They will get government documents that give them legal, non refugee status in Thailand.

I don't know how to explain the significance of this for the children. They will get to take advantage of the Thai health care system, which is quite good, though not free. They will get to go to school. They will be allowed to get jobs and grow up and live in Thailand as regular people instead of refugees should they chose.

It would not have happened without your help.

Everyone pat yourselves on the back and tell yourselves what wonderful generous people
you are. Chala says, "We have been praying this for the kids."

Thanks for being the answer to prayer for these kids.

1.9.08

quick question

If the Mormon Missionaries* come to my door to try and convert me to their religion and instead I manage to sell them handmade Karen bags to support our cause instead, does that mean I win? Or does it mean that I'm becoming shockingly good at this fund raising business? Or is it just testimony to how cool the bags actually are?

*They are usually nice boys so be kind to them instead of laughing at them when you see a few riding around in the sweltering heat on their bicycles.

Postscript:
The GH is home. Hooray, and sigh of happiness. I have a very exciting story to tell you about what Chala was able to do with the money you sent, but it must wait until tomorrow. And I have yet to see his pictures or videos either. The man must sleep first. 50 hours of travel make him a little cro-magnan like in his conversation skills.

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