Outreach and Relief have always been part of the life of Baan Unrak. Didi started in that way (1988-1990) coming often to Sangkhlaburi bringing clothes, food items and medicine deep inside the jungle where the displaced people were hiding. The first inhabitants of our Home were from those very communities, where many people were dying from malaria and other diseases leaving the structure of the family vulnerable. Young women were also violated and left alone to care for their babies.
When the Home started, in 1991, Didi did not stop her relief operations and very often she was bringing some of her children along to help and learn. The children were Didi’s advisors and helpers, and they could recognize if someone was taking advantage taking more than was allotted.
As our Home started to fill up with children, those relief operations suffered and the trips in the jungle became rarer. All of Didi’s energy was channeled to maintain the Home in Sangkhlaburi, and having no time to travel to Bangkok to collect material and raise funds our relief operations were slowly dying.
At about the same time, the system of refugee camps was established and international NGOs were taking care of the problem, so Didi thought that her duty for those communities was over (it was about 1996).
But it was not so for one of our girls. She was 14 years old, and she was given to us because of her extreme serious physical condition, that required her to be near the hospital all the time.
Her name is Jyoti, and in our home, she improved and became healthy. Even from very far, her connection with her community became stronger day by the day.
She could sense and feel the suffering of her people closed up in refugee camps. She knew that her Karen people could not nourish themselves with only beans, rice and oil given by the big NGOs. They need leaves or flowers or roots of the forest, not only for eating but also to smell to touch or just to see. They are the real elves and fairies of the jungle. (see the previous article)
They cannot leave without green. In the refugee camp at that time they were not allowed to grow their vegetables, they could not wander out the periphery of the camp and their spirit was suffering.
It was Jyoti that made us notice that, requesting permission to lead a team of children to collect greens around us and harvest whatever she could at the plantation of our neighbors, or just in the jungle near us.
As a true Karen she saw the waste of big plantations of jackfruits and bananas, where those fruits where never harvested but let to rot instead. When the raining season started, the nature was so bountiful with an extensive area of roselle, Jyoti was only thinking about her people. Roselle’s plants are so important to make a variety of sour dishes and a favorite of Karen people.
Her effort was indeed appreciated and needed. As our old pickup was approaching the camp, hundreds of refugees used to run towards us and in a minute, everything was gone: bananas, jackfruits, roselle chilly, all was gone.
Jyoti has revitalized our relief effort and brought it within reach of our children. It was many years ago, but Jyoti’s example never died and after that other children took her example to do similar operations in times of extreme emergency.
As it happened again in 2010, when there were a lot of conflicts at the border town of Three Pagodas Pass and thousands of refugees poured into Thailand. Our children were there again giving water, food, and blankets.
Back to the Present:
Nowadays many camps have closed up, and many people have been given asylum in a third country or have joined the local community.
Our children always want to be part of the community by contributing in any way they can. It is important for them to be there to help, to be in touch with their roots and never forget their people.
We never forgot the spirit and care of Jyoti and we never stop our efforts towards the community as often as we can.
Now, in these holidays, the very first job of our children was to serve our local community. There are still many people out there neglected and suffering.
We are very thankful that “Sai Baba Seva” Group gave us the opportunity of giving 20 solar panels to install in the house of the poorest, to bring light and electricity.
Our children with the supervision of volunteers did a great job. It was a great service, a great learning and a great experience. We thank all those who have contributed to the solar light operations.