The Orphanage – Part 2 By: Charles R. Vaught Jr.
The Orphanage – Part 2
By: Charles R. Vaught Jr.
(Written recently but the story is from 2010 and much has gotten better)
From the dormitory I followed Stu to where the children bathed, an outdoor area devoid of privacy.
“Over there,” Stu gestured to a low rectangular concrete water basin encased in dark green mildew. “That’s where the kids wash their plates and dishes.”
Examining the dingy dish wash station, I asked. “Do they use hot water?”
“No, the water is tepid at best and that goes for their bathing water as well. Directing my gaze to a concrete trough, in front of which was a poorly constructed sheet metal wall, Stu informed me. “That’s the urinal. And this right here,” he pointed to a square tub made from concrete, also coated in green fungus, “that’s where the boys bathe.”
“Seems pretty disgusting that all the boys have to bathe in one bathtub.”
“No, no it’s not like that”, Stu corrected me, “they use buckets to dip into the water and give themselves little bird baths. Come on”, he said, “let’s go check out the kitchen.”
Along the way the children were at recess. In the dry dirt field boys played soccer, they played tag, they shot each other with finger guns the way boys do. The girls laughed and danced, while others played jump rope. They all looked so happy, as if they were unaware of the dire straits they were living in. I couldn’t see a hint of sadness or disappointment.
Crossing the field we came to an open-faced pole building: one wall, a roof, no doors, no windows. “This is where all their meals get prepared,” Stu explained. Under the roof was a waist high wooden table stained from the countless meals that had been prepared on it. Stu hit the table top with a flat hand, “And this is what we cut on.” A few feet away were two propane burners and four rough-looking economy-sized rice cookers. At the end of the rice cookers stood an electric fan, motionless. It was hard to tell its original color for the thousands of black flies that covered it. In a saddened tone he went on, “This is life for the kids.”
I imagined eating meals that had been prepared under such unsanitary conditions and my stomach began to curdle.
“What’s a usual meal for the kids?”
Like every other aspect of the tour Stu did not hold back in his response. “Every meal is rice, and depending on the donations they receive from the head abbot—people will come to see him—and if they bring fish, the kids eat fish that day, if they bring pork, the kids eat pork that day, chicken, chicken. But there are always vegetables, and there are always noodles so the kids always have plenty to eat, there’s just not always plenty of protein to give them. So that’s one of the things I’m always working on. How I can get them more protein in their diets, because when they get sick they don’t get the vitamins that they need to get better quicker. If they get a cold or a sore throat it stays for weeks, sometimes months.”
At that moment, given the opportunity, I would have adopted every single child there.
Heading back to his parked motorbike Stu relayed the following story to me.
“There is actually one girl who is really good in track”, he paused as he greeted two orange-robed monks we passed. Quickly he put his hands in a prayer position, bowed his head, and gave the traditional Thai greeting of sawasdee krab. “Anyways, like I was saying, we have a girl here who is a real star in track. I mean she’s won a bunch of awards and if they can get her enough money there is a big school in Bangkok that they want her to go run track at. If I can help get her there, I’m going to get her there. I mean, it would definitely change her life.”
As we reached the area where his motorbike was parked I noticed the words ‘We love’ scrawled on the wall in big blocky charcoal letters. I pointed towards it.
“You know”, Stu said, a glimmer of hope in his voice, “that’s one of the things I like about this place, is that even though it’s graffiti, it says, ‘We love.’ Through all the bad stuff that happens here, there is still love and compassion and fun. It’s a great attitude.”
Stu was right, there were things that I saw that made me want to weep like a baby, just as there were beautiful things as well.
A half hour later found us riding back to Chiang Mai. The humidity had increased tenfold, going from aggressive to overwhelmingly oppressive. In the course of our tour the sun had turned my pale flesh to bubblegum pink. As I sat on the back of his motorbike, hot, sticky wind blowing on my burnt face, we passed through rice groves and I reflected on all that I had seen. Here was my friend, a personal chef to the stars back in Los Angeles, who had given up everything¬–money, cars, privilege–to come to Thailand and spend his life helping those kids. His actions made me reflect on my own reasons for coming to Thailand: to adventure, and redefine myself. Suddenly, my noble intentions became glaringly selfish.
By: Charles R. Vaught Jr.
First, I would like to give a huge thank you to Charles for taking the time to write this story, it means a lot to me to have other ways of showing you what it was/has been like here. Again this is Charles story, how he felt and how he saw things. I do have to agree with him on much of what he said. That said out of respect for all of the people involved and the kids, I will only post some of the pictures and talk about some of the things.
I have been at the Wat for 6 years and I have seen many, many things. I have laughed a lot but I have also cried myself to sleep plenty too but not so much anymore. As I said at the end of Charles first part of his story that they do some really great things for the kids here but things can always be better. I am so grateful to Jemma, the woman that introduced me to the Wat, I am also thankful to all of the people that have helped me here in Chiang Mai to pave the way here and for Stu and The Kids.
Even thought there are some sad things in the story, we are making a difference and I truly believe that. The Wat is not so “hot” on having volunteers and I have seen them come and go but they let me stay so that must mean something. Stu and The Kids is doing our best to help as many kids as we can to continue their education. To date we have 2 boys that graduated and are working in their field of study, electronics. Surisit lives in town and Thammasak studied Korean language and moved to Korea. We now have 5 kids in university, 2 studying accounting, 1 studying Business-English and 2 studying computer-business. We are so unbelievably proud of them!
On my last trip to the states we had our best year ever as far as fundraising goes but this said we could always use more. The more we raise, the more kids we can help. We have enough funds for 4 kids and nearly enough for one more so if this story, strikes a cord with you and you would like to help us, help more kids, please feel free to click on the donate bottom and do what you can. A one time contribution, monthly, everything helps. And if you have any questions just send me a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for taking the time to stop by www.stuandthekids.org.