Friday, August 20, 2010


Music began thumping and I looked up to see all of the kids gathered at the far end of the room. As the hip hop melody drifted towards me, they lined up and began a cat walk of sorts; one at a time showing off their modeling skills. They walked towards me, blowing kisses on either side, performing dance like twists and turns to outdo their forerunner. When one boy added a dance move to his strut, the other kids quickly swarmed the center of the room and began demonstrating their break dancing moves. The girls continued blowing kisses and giggled embarrassedly when they saw I was watching.

The fun soon ended as the kids made their way outside and picked up their sacks, some full of cans and other recyclables, some empty. An argument broke out between two of the kids.

“I let you borrow 20 baht, and I need it back!”
“I know I borrowed it from you but I cannot pay you. I don’t have any money. I have no money and you know that.”
“I just need the money.”

The argument escalated as they threatened to hit each other. These kids have grown up on the streets; they don’t know how to talk calmly about a situation. They’ve been raised by violence. Survival and money is at the forefront of their minds.

Children should be allowed to live as children. Children their age are usually juggling time between family, friends, homework, and play. Yet, these beautiful children have to go to the streets everyday to collect garbage. They are expected to bring home enough money to feed their parents and younger siblings.

I hope that when they’re older, they will think back to those mornings at the drop in center. I hope that when they have children of their own they will remember the desperation and fear they felt when they approached their parents with only a few baht in hand, even though they’d worked all day long. I hope that when they look in the eyes of their children, they will realize that they deserve to be children. I hope a lot of things for these kids. But I guess that more than anything I hope that they will know how much they are worth. And if given the chance, they could have the potential become doctors, teachers, or even runway models.

Photos by Michelle Larson :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

James 1:27

"When you see her, when you meet her, you'll understand why we need to help her. Maybe you'll get an idea for what she needs." I entered the situation slightly uninformed. The only briefing I received was that this woman from the garbage dump was pregnant, due any day, and she was sick.

I first saw her from far away. She looked like she should have given birth weeks ago. She still worked, sorting through the garbage, looking for anything of value. We approached her and she slowly led us to her house. If this woman was in America she would have been assigned to bed rest weeks ago I thought to myself. But there is no such thing as bed rest here, if she can't work, she can't feed her children.

Her home was small and humble. Bamboo slats tied together with twine was their floor and bed, and tarps lined the bamboo frame of the roof. The walls were decorated with knick knacks; a Buddha calendar, a photo of the King, anything of beauty they've found in the garbage. This one small platform was where she slept with her two young children. Stench rose from the cracks in the floor, trash, mud, and excrement lay underneath. She invited us inside and we perched with our feet hanging over the edge. A pig snorted through the trash below.

As I spoke to this woman, and saw her worn and worried face, I couldn't even fathom being in her situation. She has had four husbands. They have all either died or left her. She has two young children to care for. She lives in a garbage dump. She's pregnant with a child who's father is just a memory. I guess in some ways, that's the story of every migrant that lives in Mae Sot. As we left, I said to her, "Sister. We're here for you. We're going to do everything we can to make sure you and your family are cared for. Please don't be afraid, we are your friends. You're not alone"

When she went into labor we took her to Mae Tao Clinic. It was there we discovered that she has HIV. The situation we thought had been bad had just gotten worse. I don't know much about HIV, but I believe that someone who's been diagnosed has only a matter of time before their immune system becomes unable to fight off viruses. This woman who lives in a neighborhood of garbage is so susceptible to quickly falling ill and dying from a common cold or open sore.

I've been to visit her in the hospital a few times. She sits with her baby. She is quite. I tell her how beautiful her baby is, how she is going to have a wonderful life and her face breaks into a small smile.

"Do you want her? Will you take her? I cannot keep her."

Jesus. Oh Jesus. Let your presence fill this town. Let your Love overwhelm every heart. Let there be Justice and Mercy. Give these people something to hold onto. Something that goes above their situations and circumstances. Be the Father to the Fatherless; the Husband to the Widow; the Hope of this Nation.


Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

like pulling teeth

She stood at the corner, far enough to look like she just happened to be passing by, except that she wasn't just passing, she had come with a purpose. They were a tattered looking pair. One older girl, maybe 21, though the stress on her face made her looked older. She clutched a baby to her chest. The younger girl was one I knew, a regular at our drop in center, but today she lacked her smile.

"Daughter," I called in Burmese, "come here."
She came. Her face grimaced in pain.
"Are you well?" I asked the two girls.
"No," The elder answered. "Her tooth is not good, and the baby is sick."
We peered into the girls mouth, her back molar was completely rotten.

It's moments like this where you need to be able to make split second decisions. These people had problems, and it would do nothing for them if I were to say, "Okay, I'll call a meeting this week and we'll get back to you next week."

"What can we do?" I looked up at the two Burmese speaking interns Compasio has recently hired. "Let's take them to Mae Tao Clinic."
The girl's tooth would have to be pulled, and no Thai hospital would take them. Mae Tao Clinic is free for anyone who comes.

We rode to the clinic. The woman and her baby sat behind me and she tightly gripped my waist, I wondered if she had ever been on a motorbike and I made sure to drive slowly as to not frighten her.

As we entered the clinic, I saw many people milling about, waiting for a chance to be seen, to be cared for. We approached the table and received cards. Esther and I went with the little girl while Daniel stayed with the woman and baby. We walked into the dentist area, and after taking a quick look at her teeth, the doctor told her to sit. Esther and I sat beside her while the man prepared the anesthesia. She gripped my hand tightly and tears escaped her eyes as the needle entered her cheek. After a few minutes the man returned and began to extract the rotten tooth. The girl cried and squeezed our hands even tighter. "It's okay! It's almost over! One more minute. You'll be okay." We reassured her with every word we could. The tooth came out, and she was done.

We returned and sat with Daniel and the sister.They knew they could come to us. I pondered to myself. I think that's really amazing. It must mean everything for these people who have virtually nothing, no one on their side to know that they can come to us with their needs.