An unforgettable volunteer experience
..the Children’s Shelter, Northern Mountains
On April 24, the deaf and disabled children resident in the
Children’s Shelter are going on a trip to Sukothai, to the Lampang Elephant
Park, to Cha Am, and to visit two Hill Tribe villages. The aim of the trip
is for the mostly Hill Tribe kids to learn about Thai culture. If any reader
would like to make a donation to be put towards the cost of the trip, please
do contact Joy by email on [email protected]
I arrive at the farm under a huge moon after my visa run to Burma. Mountain
silhouettes. The smell of smoke. I’m welcomed with “Kru Ja!” That’s my new
name. There is no’d-r’combination in Thai which renders ‘Audra’
unpronounceable. ‘Kru’, (pronounced crew), means teacher and ‘Ja’
(pronounced Jah) means ‘sweet lady’, so I’ve got that going for me.
are two irresistible little kids, both resident at the Children’s Shelter.
My room is concrete and has a light and a bathroom with more than 50 daddy
longlegs in residence. I stopped counting. I love those spidery things. They
remind me of being little and watching this crazy bug crawl all over me and
not even being scared. They tickle and they don’t bite, which everyone knows
is the best way to be.
It’s 9:30pm. I’ve been on buses for so long that I decide to take a walk
around the farm. The night is bright and cool. It’s so quiet here. Only
crickets and the spaces in between. Such a stark contrast to Chiang Mai with
it’s endless karaoke and motorbikes and fireworks. The moon reflects off the
banana trees. My new canine friends come to check me out and then decide to
stroll around with me. The gardens
are laid out beautifully in rows and patches; the dark earth in between
makes it easy to navigate. I return to my room and climb onto my bed which
is a mat on the floor.
I sleep great.
I awake at 6:30am to the sounds of two little Thai girls singing. Not all
the kids are deaf, some are just orphans and some have other disabilities.
All were already up and doing chores around the farm. Watering plants,
raking leaves, sweeping, etc. I walk by a deaf 5 yr old busily sweeping a
raised bamboo hut and sign to him.
“Good morning! You are already hard at work!” He puts down his broom and
wai’s deeply, then signs back “Not working, only making ready the day!” Nice
Today, a bunch of kids from an international school in Chiang Mai are coming
up to spend a few days learning about the farm and school here. They all
speak English. When they arrive they are greeted by all the kids, giving
them flowers—then they climb thru a tunnel built of palm fronds and banana
leaves and at the other end their faces are painted with a paste used by the
hill people. It smells like 1000 flowers and herbs. It looks like fun! I opt
to have mine painted, too.
We spend the morning showing them around and explaining the mission of the
farm. Sustainable agriculture, life skills, etc. We have a beautiful Thai
buffet. Kru Dang, (the teacher who is deaf from birth), and I sit
together—he helps me figure out some of the Thai signs I don’t have exactly
right. It seems the deaf school in Chiang Mai uses more strongly ASL based
signs and I will need to adjust to a more strictly
Thai version. He is patient and wears a big grin.
In the afternoon we walk to the hot springs 3 km away. On the way, we pass
by many orchards and I am given the Thai names and signs for each tree,
alternately, as different kids want to help explain in the way they can. We
all enjoy a Thai version of a honeysuckle, which looks to me more like an
orchid, but tastes just the same. We put on sarongs and the kids have a ball
throwing hot water at each other. Dinner is another big Thai feast—then we
sit around the campfire in the light of the moon for a couple of hours. The
visiting kids have learned about a dozen sign sentences and are showing off
skills to the delight of everyone. Deaf kids love it when people are excited
about learning their language. Everybody laughs and applauds. We put out the
fire and I walk back down the path to my room. The moon is so bright I can
see the colour of the flowers as I pass by.
The next morning I wake up at 6 a.m. We start the day with what they call
‘Bamboo Healthy Dance’. We all meet in a big dew-covered field with 6 foot
sticks of bamboo and do yoga with them. After breakfast we go on a 5 hour
trek thru the jungle, teaching the kids about the life cycle of the
different insects who live there, what they eat and how they make their
homes. We teach the signs for things we see along the way. As the jungle
opens up to a clearing we see a farmer walking with 10 white cows. Around
their necks hang bells made of wood. They are rectangular and all slightly
different sizes so the group sounds like a pleasant wooden xylophone as they
saunter along. We make our way down to the creek for a picnic and explain to
the visiting kids about the irrigation of the farm. We build an earthen dam
to help with the water needs of the farm. We all help, but the majority of
the heavy lifting is done by the 13-16 yr old hill tribe boys who live on
the farm. You can’t beat a farm boy when it comes to hard work. When we are
finished we have spanned the 20 foot creek bed with a 3 foot high dam.
After a nap, we all go out to pick the vegetables for dinner. While we pick,
we munch on the tamarind fruit off the trees. We point out the ones we want
and the farm kids climb the trees with the ease of monkeys, and drop them
into our hands. It is dark and sweet and gooey. We march our little sticky,
dirty tribe back up to the rooms to shower and get ready for dinner
Next week…a visit to the kids’ home villages.
What have they done to deserve this?
Care for Dogs.
Last week we were called to see 3 dogs being kept in cages that were not
just small and filthy but inhumane. In most other countries, this would
immediately activate legal action against the keeper on grounds of
cruelty to the dogs. However, laws in Thailand do not prohibit such
practices and only through committed endeavours and consultation are
results achieved, sometimes with compromise and sometimes with success.
Today was a mixed result.
happy little ‘Wriggly Fluffy’, safe at home in the Care for Dogs
shelter, being cuddled by Karin.
After very careful discussions with the keeper of the dogs we managed to
release one of the caged dogs into our care, apparently after being in
the cage for nearly 4 years, with only very occasional release. She was
very excited and, once in the careful hands of Khun Nod, she turned from
an angry caged monster, pacing from side to side on rotting faeces and
shed hair that formed a thick mass under the cage, to a cuddly and
affectionate bundle of fluff.
The keeper of the dogs then agreed to open the door of the black
Labrador’s cage. Once out, he immediately ran around, showing his
happiness at being free from his evil cell for a while. He rolled over
very submissively to each of us, a worrying sign, but looked in
excellent condition. However, due to his excitement, his penis grew to
amazing size, with the bulbus glandis swelling, and his corona so
enlarged, that we were not quite sure whether he has TvT. With the head
of his penis being so gorged with blood and not smooth at all, we were a
little concerned. We will try to get him to our vet soon, after we have
gained more of the keeper’s trust.
The other reward we scored today was to be allowed to take away the
mother of the puppies—next week we shall have her sterilised, after
which we shall return her and then sterilise her pups when they are old
The 3rd dog, the Rottie mix, we found to be still locked in her prison
cell in another area of the wood-working factory. Poor girl—she looked
so depressed, and her cage was in an even worse condition than the
fluffy bundle’s cage. This girl was actually laying on dirt & faeces,
and the cage was far too small and inadequate for a dog of her size. On
approach, she seemed extremely submissive and looked a very sorry sight.
As we left, she made a desperate attempt to appear angry and menacing.
The keeper of these poor dogs has agreed to come to the shelter to visit
his released bundle of fluff and, after quite a long and controlled
discussion about animal welfare, we believe we have introduced the first
seeds of awareness which we plan to nurture and help to grow. There are
still dogs at risk here from human ignorance & neglect; we will try to
make a difference to their lives as best as we can.
Answers to those
Where can men over the age of 60 find younger, sexy women who
are interested in them?
A: Try a bookstore...
What can a man do while his wife is going through menopause?
A: Keep busy. If
you’re handy with tools, you can finish the basement. When you
are done you will have a place to live.
Q: Someone has told me
that menopause is mentioned in the Bible. Is that true? Where
can it be found?
A: Yes. Matthew 14:92:
‘And Mary rode Joseph’s ass all the way to Egypt.’
Q: How can you
increase the heart rate of your 60+ year old husband?
A: Tell him you’re
How can you avoid that terrible curse of the elderly...
A: Take off your
Q: Seriously! What can
I do for these crow’s feet and all those wrinkles on my face?
A: Go braless. It will
usually pull them out.
Q: Why should 60+ year
old people use valet parking?
A: Valets don’t forget
where they park your car.
Q: Is it common for
60+ year olds to have problems with short term memory storage?
A: Storing memory is
not a problem, retrieving it is a problem.
Q: As people age, do
they sleep more soundly?
A: Yes, but usually in
Q: Where should 60+
year olds look for eye glasses?
A: On their foreheads.
Q: What is the most
common remark made by 60+ year olds when they enter antique
A: ‘Gosh, I remember