30 Years of Baan Unrak – Part 3 ( 2005-2012 )

A brief history of the “Home of Joy”

2005

A new year, a new growth for Baan Unrak. A year of achievements.

Our school was built. A real school!!! Dada Shambushivananda, the Kulapati Head of the Gurukula schools, came to the inauguration of our new school.

Our Children’s Home became so full of children that we started to consider to move to another place. The school needed our land too. The school needed to possess at least 2 rai of land (= 3,200 square meters) as one of the requirements to become fully accredited with the Thai Ministry of Education.

We were lucky enough to get a donation from a kind sponsor from Italy to build the new house on the top of a hill.

At the end of the year Boboy, a Filipino baker arrived, helping to make our Bakery more professional.

2006

The home had a radical change.

We moved to the New BIG HOUSE!!!! with all the excitement and challenges. Our previous house was no longer enough for us and the school needed to make a kindergarten on it. The new house construction was completed, and so we transferred to the hill with all our 100 children.

It was a challenge to transport our children to school. Our new house had no road or pathway. We had to take them by motorcycle, walk, and even raft… And one day, we made a bamboo bridge, so the kids could pass to the other side easier.

The first thing we did when we arrived in the new land was to plant trees, in the memory of every child that passed away and could not come to the new land with us. And finally, we were happy to be in our home.

2007

This year began in difficulty, but ended bright and beautifully.

Early in the year, one mother was so tired and slept very late without blowing off the candle. In the early morning the candle set fire to the mosquito net and then the mattress. She was in shock. She could run out of the hut but could not alert anyone. So the fire went from hut to hut and everything was destroyed.

Luckily, nobody was hurt. The mothers and their babies were safe, and the fire was soon put off.

We did our first youth camp with the Brighten Foundation. We went on a floating house to an island behind our home. And another camp took place later in the year for girls only.

Our community had become so big!

2008

After overcoming the challenges of the previous year, with many accidents and a disaster (the Flood), 2008 is one of those years full of sweet memories.

Our meditation center was partially completed on top of the hill. The International Meditation Conference was held at Baan Unrak Children’s Home. The chanting and meditation were performed at the place that we call Baba Room, or the Pagoda…

As a part of the conference, one Revolutionary Marriage (the interracial/international/casteless/non judgemental marriage) was done. The Bride is Bashanti from Philippine and the Groom is Glen from UK. Bashanti was brought up in an Ananda Marga Children’s Home and we were very grateful that she chose our home for such a special day of her life. It formed a beautiful connection between different Children’s Homes.

In the meantime, our children’s effort in the relief work became more organized after the flood of 2007. Our children actively helped the communities, especially the ones affected by the flood.

There used to be another children home in Chumpon, Thailand. It was closed after some time, and all the children moved from there to Baan Unrak with Didi Anuraga. One of them is Sadhana. She moved to Sangkhlaburi as a senior high school student, and in 2008 she graduated at university. Below, Sadhana is receiving the certificate by the then Honorable Prince of Thailand.

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2009

This is the year of pride, of kindness, of starting new things…

Sopa is the second Baan Unrak child to graduate. She studied Law at the university. She chose this subject with the strong determination to come back and help our stateless children to get legalized. She did that and many children became Thai because of her effort.

Baan Unrak concern is to help all. We had an opportunity to do something special when a volunteer couple, Filippo and Ester, came with enough funding. The couple guided by Jacopo, one of our long term volunteers back then, installed a water system with 400 meters of pipes, completed with water tanks and faucets for a village deep in the jungle.

Our teenagers started a program to help the elderly. They went to visit them, listen to their stories and assist them.

Our teens and grown up children started to assist to sell baked goods from our Bakery at the market, as part of the program to learn livelihood while also earning some money for their home. Here, with Harjinder Banga.

While there was already a yoga group, we started a Hip Pop group! With a new series of street performances, including performing to the charity fairs in Bangkok.

2010

Sometime the unrest in our neighbour country Myanmar could be felt even in Baan Unrak. We heard shooting, and at least 5,000 people fled to Thailand. Everything was under control of the Thai army, but these people needed to be fed and protected from the cold nights.

Baan Unrak and other NGOs in the area cooperated to help these people. Overnight Baan Unrak was able to collect blankets for all of them. We cooked for them, we brought water and provided medical assistance (Dr Paolo was in our team).

Even when the girls did have a good house, our boys still used to leave in huts. Finally we got a donation good enough to start building a good home for the boys.

Brighten foundation used to visit us every year to hold a youth camp. However, this time, beside the usual games we had a game to understand the creation of the universe and the evolution of the species. Here, the children building up a dinosaur with their own bodies.

2011

A year full of accomplishments and new beautiful programs.

We became partner with the local high school. We signed a contract with the authority to open junior high school classes at Baan Unrak school under the home schooling program. This was a great achievement, as we knew that our children needed our coaching for some more years. Teenage years are such a sensitive time.

We organized a wonderful program for 22 of our children. They had the opportunity to travel to Singapore and Malaysia with the support of AirAsia company. It was an incredible cultural program. The children had the opportunity to show their skills in singing, dancing and acrobatic yoga performances.

We completed the construction of our Boys’ House. Finally!!!

2012

In this year, we slowly made our infrastructure better and better.

We decided to dig a well. We were trying to solve our chronic water problem. Siamgroundwater.co.th came for a survey and for the drilling. It was the beginning of a long time struggle to secure water for our children and single moms.

The memorable adventure of the boys by bicycle. Our teenagers studying in Bangkok took a big challenge, cycling 400 km from Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi. It was an attempt to raise consciousness about Baan Unrak, and at the same time a fun adventure for them to experience.

We started building a new kitchen (our current kitchen).

We connected with wonderful visitors and volunteers that have left a great impression in the minds of our children.

Stay tuned…

…for the continuation of our story!

30 Years of Baan Unrak – Part 2 ( 1997-2004 )

A brief history of the “Home of Joy”

1997

This is the year we met Me Lek. She became one of the pillars of strength of Baan Unrak. She came to us in search of refuge, but she ended up staying as a care mother. She is in charge of all small children and all care givers. Beside that, she became the main teacher in our kindergarten.

A delegation of the British embassy came to visit us and left a big donation to improve our weaving center. They also donated sewing machines.

In 1997, we became a registered organization with the department of Social Welfare in Thailand.

They recommended us to MEU, the social services of the Matsushita company of Japan. They rewarded us with a big donation, and our Didi went to Japan to collect it! Below, the ceremony and the awarded certificate of commendation.

With that, we bought our dream house. The owner gave it to us at half the original price, and it turned out to be exactly 20,000 USD, the money donated to us by the Matsushita company.

1998

Another year of growth. With the help of the British embassy, our weaving center was expanded. We switched from small looms to big looms to become more productive.

The children were trained to help others, by Didi, from the very beginning. Here we see Jyoti, one of our big girls, handing over a relief bag to a poor mother with her baby.

Jyoti motivated all the teenagers of our home to go to collect vegetables and bananas to be brought to the refugee camp. In this way, the Baan Unrak children relief program started, and it is still going on nowadays.

The children did not think only about themselves, but also about the people suffering around them. They grew to become part of the society.

We celebrated the marriage of our first grown up girl. The ceremony was conducted under the Ananda Marga Yoga system.

1999

This was the year of social recognition. The Australian Embassy awarded us with the AusAid grant, and the Australian Ambassador donated from his own fund to improve our kindergarten program and community study center.

It was a help beyond money, as they made the point to send their Minister of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Honorable Philip Ruddock MP and his wife, to our opening of the AusAID program. It created such diplomatic impact for us in Thailand, and a recognition among the local authority.

This event allowed us to upgrade all of our educational programs, kindergarten, study circle and community study center.

The Cultural program started at our home. The children performed in public for the first time, with the Karen traditional dance.

2000

A new millennium arrived, with challenges and sweetness. We got into so many sad things, but we also found out that miracles can come at any moment in life, and people were willing to help us in a very generous way.

In 2000, we opened up our arms to some seriously sick babies as a result of human trafficking. And we had our first encounter with HIV…

The baby was so sick that we feared for her life. But at the end of the year, the child suddenly became well. A miracle??? Or was the result of the test on antibodies defective? For us, it was a miracle that our baby survived.

A visitor came and was so impressed with our loving environment that he decided to give us a donation, which was enough for us to buy the small land aimed at making a sustainable project for the future.

2001

This was a year of blooming for Baan Unrak.

Didi A. Anuraga came back (she was also with us for one year at the beginning of Baan Unrak) to recover but she did not just sit idle. She started training yoga for kids.

This is our very first yoga performance in Bangkok, in the event of the Vegetarian exhibition in a big department store in Bangkok.

Visitors started to come more often to Baan Unrak. Our lovely environment had inspired the then young couple very much. They decided to get married and start a family life.

Angie, who used to be our visitor, fundraised in Japan for us and brought a group of English teachers to volunteer. It was the beginning of a long-lasting partnership. For 18 years their group has been fundraising and returning to Baan Unrak to bring happiness to the children and to celebrate Christmas.

2002

In this year we improved a lot our education and yoga performance.

Didi A. Anuraga gradually took over all the educational program in the home. She improved the programs and gave them more structure. In the photos below, our students wearing uniforms at the kindergarten, and at the primary school with professional teachers.

This year we had our first fundraising performance in Bangkok…

…as the children were doing yoga beautifully.

Even though there was a beautifully painted story behind the performance, the yoga overshadowed the hand-made backdrop, a creative way of “Yoga Theatre”!

2003

Another amazing year of growth and contribution. Our efforts were recognized and more and more help came.

Didi Mangala (now Didi Ananda Manimala) arrived at Baan Unrak. She assisted the sick children and started the Bakery & Internet Café, the place where our teenagers got vocational training. For this project Didi Mangala selected the 3 eldest teenagers of the home.

The Minister of social Development and Human Security Mr Anurak Chureemas presented a plaque of appreciation to Didi A. Devamala as an outstanding volunteer, for devotion and valuable contributions to the interests of Thai society. The plaque was given in the occasion of the National Social Day and Volunteer Day of 2003.

We made a great effort to register our schools. One of the requirements was to have a suitable building on a registered owned land. Our friends from Bike Aid Singapore organized a fundraising to make the school building. They biked all the way from Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi (about 400 km).

2004

This year, we saw the full circle of life. We saw someone making a new life, while someone had to go…

Our excellent girl Jyoti had grown up and it was time for her to get married. She left us after a beautiful ceremony cheered by all the children and staff of Baan Unrak. Didi and Dada conducted the marriage and wished them happiness.

With the funds raised by Bike Aid Singapore we could start to build our school.

Dr Mitra contacted with us earlier in the year. He came to assist the very sick people of Sangkhlaburi, and many of them had great results. Dr Mitra came with Dr Kun Monthaka, the representative of the Thai government for traditional medicine, to conduct researches on Homeopathic treatments.

There had been so much happiness all around the year, but we also had to accept some sadness. Some children came to us too sick and we had to send them to Rest in Peace, still with Love.

Stay tuned…

…for the continuation of our story!

30 Years of Baan Unrak – Part 1 ( 1990-1996 )

A brief history of the “Home of Joy”

1990

This was the year that we started to serve refugees fleeing from Burma, now Myanmar. The first were students who rebelled against the regime and were hiding in the jungle. Then, entire communities began fleeing Burma. We were right there to help.

We bought a small piece of land, and so, our project began.

By the end of 1990, after meeting the spiritual master Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, Didi came back with the determination to do the project for the master, fondly known as Baba.

1991

The work started. Dadas, Didis, Margiis gathered to plan the Neo Humanist Foundation. Didi took care of the first child, Joy.

We built our first house, but sadly, it burned down once it was completed. However, the Neo Humanist Foundation was officially founded. The logo was designed by Didi Ananda Carushiila.

1992

We had our first group of children. Below, the naming ceremony for our first baby boy, Tarakanat. However, until today he is still called… Baby! 

Our children, stateless, running away from Burma, didn’t have any right in Thailand, and could not go to the government school. Therefore, we created our first classroom and our first kindergarten.

Meanwhile, our relief operations continued…

1993

We created our first garden at the Home. At the same time, our regular relief work in refugee camps continued. Here, bringing blankets and clothes to the needy.

Our school, opened just one year before for our children, but welcoming all the children of the community, had gradually reached 50 students.

This year we also opened a new school, on the other side of the village, that counted over 100 students from the start.

1994

This year marked new steps in our care for humanity, as we established our sewing center. The children learned how to weave in the traditional Karen way. Weaving was not only fun, but also, the children got a little pocket money from it. The fabric they made was then sewed into magic bags!

Below, our children and our first sewer, who helped to assemble the fabric making a “magic bag”.

Here, Didi and Jyoti making magic bags.

Still, we were sending our help to our neighbours, as they were all needy.

1995

There were some radical changes…

Here, Didi is accepting a new baby in a civil dress, so as not to create misunderstandings with the sacred orange robe of Thai Buddhist monks.

We were forced to close our two schools for the stateless children of the area. There was a law for government schools to accept stateless children. However, Didi had to make extra pressure for the law to be applied. And so, our children started to go to government school. Here, dressed up in school uniforms as the law required.

Poor mothers of the community, after seeing our children receiving small money gifts for their woven material, requested Didi to include them in the weaving program, as they too needed money having many children to take care. And so, our weaving program started.

We didn’t have a weaving center yet, so we were bringing the threads to the women’s houses, and about a week later we would collect the cloth from house to house.

1996

In our 6th year we faced some big challenges…

More and more children were coming to Baan Unrak, the Home of Joy. Finally we could find a new house, big enough for us. Below, the house entry ceremony.

When a new baby came, our sewing lady helped feeding him along with her new born baby. See how cute they are?

Sangkhlaburi used to be jungle, and our children would get sick of malaria from time to time. Didi too, the Big Mom of the house, got seriously sick at this time.

In this condition, the children became completely disoriented, and they became the target of human trafficking.

Jyoti, our oldest child, kept the children together and sent the alarm to our Neo Humanist friends in Bangkok when Didi lost consciousness.

As they came to know the situation, our friends immediately drove to Sangkhlaburi overnight. They talked to the children, assuring them. They made sure that Didi was well taken care of, and they took charge of the home. The trafficker was chased away.

This makes us feel good. Even though our Neo humanist friends live far away, we know they are there for us when it is really needed.

Stay tuned…

…for the continuation of our story!

To Eat or Not To Eat?

We make sure that our children always get good food. There were periods when our cooks were not so good, and we were all suffering! Not everyone is able to cook well, but now, we are very happy with our cooks. They care.

We get variety of food. It can be Thai, Karen, Burmese, Mon or Jungle food. They keep the menu interesting with an assortment of different dishes.

We feel that our children are not lucking anything when it comes to nutrition. We get plenty from our bountiful “jungle store”! Bamboo shoots, yellow flowers, ferns, different kinds of tuberous plants and roots, fruits and leaves.

We eat enough, and sometimes we feel that we can afford to skip a day of eating. It is another kind of lesson, another kind of learning, to increase our mental strength and will power and, at the same time, to cleanse our body.

DETOX CAMP

Some months ago, while in quarantine, we took the opportunity to introduce a detox and fasting camp to our grown-up children that are now managing the home, and to our university students that came back home for the lockdown period. Our volunteers were there too: Francesco, Lina and Zia Caterina. They were the most inspired and the most enthusiastic. Our children just followed with perplexity! Gradually, some of them started to become interested and got into it.

We learned to make healthy juices and smoothies…

…consuming them joyfully with fruit and salad.

We had yoga classes…

…sunbath, spinal bath and steam bath.

We also went for a mud pack in the jungle!

Zia even climbed a tree and jumped into the river!

The detox camp turned out to be a great success.

Zia Caterina felt the Detox & Fasting program was so beneficial that she desired to promote it more. So she came up with an idea.

FASTING & REWARD!

Zia suggested:
The children that complete a day of fasting, the next day will be rewarded with a lot of fruit and… a special meal at our Restaurant & Café!

As we announced the program, the next fasting day we had an incredible number of children that wanted to join in!

The first time, 24 children went on fasting. Some consuming fruit and milk, some only drinking water, while the bravest insisted to do a complete dry fast.
Then, they enjoyed their reward!

We did not expect this success, therefore we reached out to Zia. It is a beautiful initiative, but too expensive for us. Zia really believes in this program, for the positive effect that it had on her body and mind. Therefore she offered to find sponsors to improve our children’s health and mental strength.

Up to now almost all our youth have experienced fasting. On average, we have 18 teenagers fasting per cycle. They seem to rotate and take turn to fast! And even if it is only for teenagers, the younger keep asking to be allowed to join in.

The reward of going to eat at our Restaurant & Café is a huge inspiration for our young adults! It means for them the possibility to go out and choose the food they are going to eat. It gives them power managing their 100 Baht coupon. They find the way to get the best out of it!

They see this reward not to gorge themselves. In fact, they keep little boxes of food to bring to their friends and siblings at the home!

It is such a pleasure for them to be able to Give. Thank you Zia Caterina to help us with this program to help our youth to get healthy habits and to develop kindness.

What is the benefit of Fasting?

It is yogic discipline to fast on particular days of the month in connection with the moon cycle. There are 4 days that we recommend for fasting: Full Moon and New Moon, and the 11th day after Full Moon and New Moon. “Dry fasting”, more than healthy, is deep cleansing at the cellular level, provided that is brought to an end properly.

N.B. We do not recommend for children to do the fasting alone. They should do it under the guidance of an experienced adult.

New Life in Baan Unrak

The 30th anniversary of Baan Unrak is approaching!

The upcoming 24 of October, we will celebrate 30 years of Baan Unrak, The Home of Joy.

For this, we would like to invite everybody to come.

We will celebrate together, and with our new baby everything will be more lively!

He is a breeze of freshness.

He announces a new phase for Baan Unrak.

A new chapter in our story…

His name is Danaviira, the Giver. (Dana Veera)

Born the 3rd of September, he was given to us on his third day of life.

Since his arrival, he has so many visitors every day.

We are all enthralled by this new life!

Children, care mothers, staff, volunteers…

Everybody comes to admire him!

The care mother who takes care of him, together with her own 3-year-old child, are so happy.

Dana is a new brother for him, and for all Baan Unrak children.

Welcome Home Dana!

You are all invited to Baan Unrak
the upcoming 24 of October 2020,
for our 30th Anniversary.

Our grown-up children, volunteers, sponsors, well-wishers… everyone that has a good wish for Baan Unrak.

Let us know in advance,
at baanunrak@gmail.com

A Dynamic Play Ground

Finally, the children have access to the bicycles everyday!

For years, we had to keep the bicycles locked most of the time, limiting the play time and needing constant supervision, otherwise everything would be destroyed.

How is it possible, that we can now open the bicycle area everyday?

Because a group of children now has taken responsibility for it, together with our handy man Piwin, and the day-guard Muller.

Now, being the guard is not a boring job anymore, but it is a challenging task. Beside keeping clean and guarding the entrance, they have to repair small electronics and machines, such as fans, irons, mixers, and… bicycles!!!

Our New Bicycle House

We recently completed the bicycle workshop, right next to the entrance. Our teenagers Vijay and Aung Ko Zwe, passionate mechanics, take responsibility for the bicycles and the children at play. The younger Jirapet and Wanchai are their assistants. They love to disassemble and reassemble the bicycles. They love to…

“Fix Bicycles!”

Often enough, a child shows up to get the bike fixed…

And then, back to ride!

Children enjoy it so much, as they say…

“Play Bicycle!”

This is how a Sunday morning looks like, at Baan Unrak play ground.

We devised a great, yet simple system to make it all go smoothly.

Tags!

Each child is assigned one bike with one number. Thus the child will be responsible for that bike. This new system proved to be very successful, and the children like it too! They take much better care of the bicycles.

In the meantime, there is so much going on all around…

For the children, every thing is a game.

Every thing is a discovery.

And there is more than just bicycles…

Sepak Takraw

It is a sort of acrobatic kick volleyball, very popular throughout Southeast Asia. Players are allowed to use their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball, which is made of woven rattan.

Our children love to play it, and, needless to say, they are very good at it.

On weekdays, children gather down at the play ground in the evenings.

Here, we can also make new friends!

And we play until it gets dark.

Even our workers, and some neighbors too, like to come in and join the games of Sepak Takraw at Baan Unrak!

We are happy to see our children becoming stronger and lively, having the opportunity to socialize with people from outside the Home.

Our play ground is becoming a vibrant meeting point, to be together in a healthy and dynamic way.

Most Welcomed Help

Help comes to Baan Unrak in so many ways and forms.

There is a lot of goodness in the world, but we can hardly see it, because the bad things are louder. But here in Baan Unrak we can come in touch with the noblest part of whoever comes closer to us.

Most people have a need and desire to do something virtuous and honorable for humanity.

They may not advertise it aloud, but their actions speak more than words.

Even Covid could not keep away our most valuable helpers. The volunteers! Covid did not allowed Lina to leave from Baan Unrak. She came to pass with us only few weeks, but because of Covid her time here became longer than 6 months.

Like our children she became engrossed in a neo humanistic lifestyle training to keep the spirit and the energy high during lockdown. We had meditation classes, detox, fasting, positive affirmations and social guidelines for an integrate living.

She was so grateful for these teachings. And she showed her appreciation in every way she could, being of whatever service to us.

In her own words…

“This is my way to Thank you”

She was a very capable and efficient volunteer. We could all see that she gave her best, no matter what was her task, she did it with full dedication and focus.

Here is what some of our university students that benefited from her services during lock down say about her:

Prema: She is helpful and think about others. For example, the first time we met, she did not know me but she helped me with the Excel. She sacrifices her time for me. She helped me so much in my studies and my life.

Ice: Laura (Lina) is a smart woman, she is full of energy. I always saw Laura with her beautiful smile playing with the children. She is my friend, my sister, and my teacher. If I needed help, she was always there for me. Laura (Lina) is the best.

Oratai: I like to Thank Laura (Lina) for so many things. For Helping me and Baan Unrak children. I am glad that I came to know her. I hope that she will come back to us in the future.

Our children that followed her in her sport activities say:

Vijay: I admire her and I want to be strong like her. That is why I follow her in the running. She taught me how to run properly. I really like to be a sport man.

Karuna: I learned perseverance from her, and I really want to be strong like her. I like her.

The children that she trained for life skills say:

Kushuma: She is a nice person; she has helped me out with the Etsy (online selling) and I appreciate that. This will help me with my study in the future a lot and it will help our children home too as I am going to sell Baan Unrak’s products.

Latika: I’m grateful for learning conscious drawing. I know that we could make a living out of it but just for now I am grateful because it makes me feel fresh silent inside.

The staff in our restaurant/bakery also want to say something to her:

Kiran: “I really want to say, Thank you so much for helping Baan Unrak and the Bakery.”

Mai: “I am happy that I met her and I’m very thankful for the help she gave to Bakery and me.”

Her work for the bakery was notable. We got benefit in so many ways. We feel that we are fortunate to get a glimpse into the best aspect of someone’s personality.

It is our belief that the coming together of moral and good people will bring dynamism and vitality to society. Thus society will undergo a cleansing and it will purify itself.

We are waiting for the big change! Therefore our motto is: “Moralists of the world Unite! Unite! Unite!”

Full Moon Festival to Bring a Change

The past Monday we held an exciting ceremony at the Pagoda. A ceremony that had the power to renew us.

This astrological time, marked by the full moon of the 7th month of the Moon calendar, has a favorable effect on people’s minds, helping to turn negativity into positivity. Some societies, especially in Asia, really believe that all celestial bodies cooperate to this change. Some countries, on this particular day, used to reduce the sentence or even release some people from jail.

This is, indeed, a propitious day for those who wish to change.

Giving New Names

We felt that this was the best time to infuse goodness and strength to our newly arrived toddlers, and to all the children that wished it, by giving them a new spiritual name.

Our name affects mind and spirit. Here in Thailand, people don’t use their given name. They prefer to use a nickname, often with a superficial meaning, such as Beer, Radio, Pig, Barbecue, Guitar, Snake, and the list goes on.

Everybody’s name should elevate and inspire, not belittle. We are called by our name every day, and it affects us at a deep level. We chose to give great new names to our youth, with good and powerful meanings. They deserve it. To the little ones, we just gave it to them, to strengthen them; the big children asked for the change.

Kung, for example, is a newly arrived  teenage boy, and his name means Shrimp! Then, how can such a name empower him?! He wished to change his name. Now, he received a new one with a powerful message: Ganadeva – the one who helps all those in difficulty.

The Ceremony

Back from school in the afternoon, the children wore the uniform crafted by the care-mothers for the special occasion of the yogic dance competitions of Tandava and Kaoshiiki. The excitement and energy was high.

The care-mothers didn’t just sew the uniforms, they forged them like armors for a very special battle. The battle to defeat fear, and glorify love.

We all walked up the hill for a collective meditation.

Then, we were ready to start the process of transformation. All Baan Unrak was there to make it happen.

An auspicious mantra was chanted while the babies were bathed in a basin, with the bigger children pouring lukewarm perfumed water and letting yellow flower petals fall on the baby’s skin. Then with the child wrapped in a towel… the new name was announced to all Baan Unrak community.

We, as a community, made a promise and commitment to the children, to arrange for their physical growth, provide for their mental development, and succeed in effecting their spiritual elevation.

Below, the ceremony for Nong Hong, who was given the name of Prabha – the girl who is bright, full of Divine Light.

Then it was the turn of the other little ones. Below is Tanwar, whose spiritual name is Turiya – one with Supreme Love.

For the older children that wanted their name changed, instead of a bath ritual, we felt that it was more appropriate to announce their names after performing Tandava and Kaoshiiki. These yogic dances have the power to bring about the transformation within, fighting the inner battle between positive and negative tendencies.

The Competitions

We had 4 yogic dance competitions. In an incredibly encouraging atmosphere, drums beating, hands clapping, and everybody shouting “Baba Nam Kevalam!” – Love is All – under the watchful eyes of the judges, only the best performers remained on the ground. The girls performed Kaoshiiki.

The boys competed with Tandava, the mythical dance of Shiva. Little Nay Bla Soe left everybody speechless with his exceptional dancing. He jumped at incredible pace with perfect style, his posture impeccable, seemingly tireless. The 5-year-old looked like a fully grown man. We had to stop him, though it seemed that he could go on forever. He was the natural winner! His spiritual name is… Narada – the one who brings devotion.

Out around the water tank in the night, torches held aloft, the bigger boys were giving their best at every jump, galvanized by the extreme cheering of the spectators. Keeping up a great rhythm throughout the performance, while also showing great technique, Em was the deserved winner.

After the ceremony, we all went down to the kitchen for a very special dinner, much later than usual, followed by delicious cakes made fresh at Baan Unrak Bakery.

A Re-Encounter with Our Big Gentle Friends: The Elephants!

In Thailand, elephant tourism used to be a major business. Now that tourism is gone because of the pandemic, elephants are leaving the “sanctuaries” where they used to entertain tourists all year round. And so, hundreds of elephants are returning to the villages where their owners come from.

These elephants are now in danger of survival… So used to life in captivity, they can’t survive by themselves in the wild. We learned about the situation, and word came that a couple of elephants that used to work in a sanctuary in Kanchanaburi had returned to a village not far from Sangkhlaburi.

And so, we decided to contribute as we could, going to visit these majestic creatures and supporting them with a donation to their mahouts – the elephant keepers.

Meeting Noamujee and Noatumee

We drove to a nearby village, and then ventured into the jungle. This was an adventure in itself!

We had to cross bamboo bridges, pass through a river…

We had been walking for about half an hour, when we heard a deep, incredibly vibrating sound. Our eyes lit up, on alert, scanning the forest around us.

Suddenly, a huge shape appeared

Immense in the thick jungle, an elephant was coming towards us…

The vision took our breath away.

The moment you see an elephant for the first time, it’s a moment you will never forget for the rest of your life.

Words cannot describe the emotion of being face to face with such a beautiful, gentle giant…

We quickly became friends. The children fed the elephants, which, as we learned, eat an average of 300 kg of vegetable food every day!

Noamujee, the bigger of the two, is 28 years old, while Noatumee, the smaller, is her grandmother, and she is 57 years old. We came to know that Noamujee’s mother had passed away, probably being poisoned.

Taking care of elephants is traditionally a family business in Thailand, passed on through the generations. And so it is also in the case of Noatumee and Noamujee, which have been with the same family for decades.

After getting acquainted, we all went down to the river!

A Re-Encounter

Our children have a great bond with the jungle. Indeed, they are the children of the jungle!
The jungle is so important for them, and so it was for the elephants…

Nonetheless, these majestic creatures have been deprived of it, as they were brought to live in the sanctuaries.

We could feel that both of them had this longing, this desire to meet each other again. There was a magnetism between the big great animal and the little children.

The children had this instinctive need to be close, and the elephants loved them. Seeing  the children and the elephants together, it felt as if a piece of DNA was missing, and now it clicked together again.

It has been such an important experience for the children, but we realized that it was so important for the elephants too!

It was indeed a re-encounter, as until about ten years ago there were many elephants around Sangkhlaburi. And so, to meet the elephants again it was the right of our children, that are, naturally, the children of the jungle.

It was… Elephant therapy!

There is a mutual language between these animals and the children, and they are re-discovering it now together. They feel that what they had lost… it has come back to them.

Our children are the little fairies and elves of this magical land.

They love to search for nature’s hidden treasures. They love to go finding vegetables in the jungle, that’s where they belong, and they instinctively know the roots, grasses, tubers and leaves that they can collect or not.

Our children came to us when they were small, and yet they know all this! Sometimes they amaze us… They know not because they saw, but because… simply, they just know.

Therefore, it was only natural that our children and these wonderful, majestic creatures would meet, and connect, again.

Waiting for the Rain

It never happened in 30 years that we didn’t have water in July. The water level of the lake has dramatically, continuously decreased over the past months.

Our goats used to cross the lake by boat on their floating house to go grazing on the other side. Now, down at Baan Unrak Farm, a temporary bamboo bridge is more than enough to cross the small river that the lake has become.

Usually, the lake dries up almost completely in April, at the peak of the dry season. Then, slowly the water level begins to raise again. But this year, we are in July and the lake is completely dry.

Last year, in this period we had lot of water. We were… Dancing in the Rain!

This year, the children are playing football on the dried lake!

No matter what happens, the children always show us how to live with joy every moment, and how to see the positive side of everything.

Last year, Burma was flooding and we did a relief expedition there to bring aid. This year… there is not even enough water, to the point that we have to drive 20 minutes to the river to wash our clothes…

…at the river, we take a bath far from home too! Shampoo included. And the children, of course, play in the water.

Kong, not a follower, found the perfect spot to wash his clothes in secluded peace…

At the river we also perform our daily meditation sitting on a big rock, facing the flowing water, immersed in the nature around us.

Phudoy, 11 years old, looked like a little big yogi perched on that rock.

Every season brings its own beauty and, equally, its own challenges.

The lake is the primary source of water for Baan Unrak Children’s Home. This year, the lack of rain and dried lake mean that we are not getting the beneficial effect of having water for our cleanliness from that source. And yet, we are getting the bad effect of a normal rainy season, which is… a lot of mosquitoes.

Many children are becoming sick now, but fortunately we are taking care very quickly and efficiently with our homeopathic medicines.