founder of the Rejoice Urban Development Project is Englishman
Steve Hallam, from Cheshire. Steve has spent a lifetime in
service to humanity in one way or another, so the fact that he
has continued to do so in Thailand should perhaps come as no
surprise. However, unlike many who have come to Chiang Mai to
help the less fortunate, he is doing this as a personal
commitment, not as one to a god or as part of a religious
belief. He left a successful business in the UK, saying, “Life
is more than collecting money. It was time to pay back.”
He was born in Macclesfield in Cheshire, the
only son of a career Post office worker. As far as the family
was concerned, Steve would also join the post office, and so
when he was 16 years old he followed his father into the postal
service, starting as a motorcycle delivery boy. Steve did not
mind this at all. Like most 16 year olds, to be given a
motorcycle to ride was a dream come true.
However, Steve had another dream. This
involved working with people, and he harboured the notion of
going into medicine or the police force. His hero was in the TV
series Fabian of the Yard. Those dreams were, however, a little
way off yet.
When he turned 18, the post office asked for
the motorcycle to be returned and he had the choice of either
becoming a postman, or work behind the counter. Neither
appealed. He looked at the police force, but he was too young at
18 to be accepted; however, he found he would be accepted as a
nurse, so leaving postage stamps aside, he stamped his mark in
nursing, emerging after three years as an SRN (State Registered
Nurse), and with an SRN girlfriend, whom he wanted to marry.
Life can have some strange turnings, and
Steve’s has had some. The young couple applied for a loan so
they could buy a house, to then find that SRN’s did not
qualify for a mortgage! Not even with their combined incomes.
However a policeman, even a probationary constable, qualified
for a rental allowance which could be used to pay a mortgage. At
that point, Steve Hallam made up his mind to follow Fabian to
He spent the next two years pounding the beat
and then applied to join the Criminal Investigation Department.
He was accepted and sent to Scotland Yard for detective
training. Steve ‘Fabian’ Hallam was on his way!
He progressed through the police force,
ending up with the regional crime squad, working on murder
enquiries, a posting that covered a ten-year span. This kind of
police work is demanding. “You were never at home,” said
Steve. This did not do wonders for his marriage. “The irony of
it all was that I joined the police force to get married, but
the police (work) finally broke it!”
He looked at his options again. One was to go
back into uniform, another was to leave. “I was getting burnt
out, so I got out and formed my own security company.” This
was 1977 and the UK economy was burgeoning. “Banks would ring
you up, begging you to borrow money,” Steve said. In this
climate, and with his connections, Steve and his security
company did well. He was joined by his cousin, also recently
divorced, and the two of them oversaw a rapidly growing company.
“We were just collecting money,” said Steve simply.
They also spent the money on items such as
overseas cruises, and then they decided on a holiday to India
and to look at the Taj Mahal. They saw more than the famous
monument. “I saw kids scrabbling in rubbish dumps for food.”
It was at that point they decided it was time to pay back.
The decision was to get rid of everything in
the UK and help in some way with the AIDS problem in India as
carers. Steve spoke to the British Foreign Office about the
proposed move and was asked did he have a second choice, as the
FO did not feel that India in those days was safe for expats.
They did have a second choice, Thailand, and so arrived in the
They went to Pattaya and saw the late Fr.
Raymond Brennan of Pattaya Orphanage who advised them that
certainly there was an AIDS problem, but the sufferers did not
remain there, but went back to their home villages up country to
be cared for.
The next step was Bangkok and contact with
the Catholic Church saw Steve and his cousin being involved in
the setting up of a hospice in Pathum Thani, and then joining
Fr. Joe Meier in Klong Toey to set up a 30 bed hospice there.
“We were it. We were the staff,” said Steve, devoting five
years of his life to the unfortunates from the slums.
Eventually their money ran out and with the
economic crash of 1997, it became easier to find people to work
as carers and so Steve and his cousin came to Chiang Mai.
“We came up to start our own hospice. We
had no money, but we had contacts in the funding agencies, but
up here we found that the AIDS patients were staying at home
with their families. A hospice wasn’t needed, but a home care
So the Rejoice Urban Development Project came
to be. The name ‘Rejoice’ did not have any religious
significance, but came from the young lady who used to be the
‘Rejoice’ girl on the hair shampoo adverts! There are
stranger reasons for names, no doubt, but the project has a nice
‘sheen’ to it, and is now formally recognised as a
foundation in the UK, with application pending in Thailand.
Steve’s vision cares for 150 children a week and provides
medicines and scholarships for children infected and affected by
Fabian of the Yard has come a long way!