Happy Holiday Season from the Home of Joy!

Christmas is just around the corner, and here in Sangkhlaburi is getting very cold – at least for our tropical standards! In the mornings, the temperature goes as low as 15°C (59°F)!

Yet this weather doesn’t make our hearts colder!
Right, Ishvari?!

As 2019 comes to a close, everyone here at Baan Unrak Children’s Home is feeling the joyous anticipation of the approaching holiday season. Christmas and New Years are a very special time for all of us, and we want to extend the warmest of wishes for a lovely holiday season and a very happy New Year to everyone!

– Through these photos, let yourself be carried to one of these fresh, yet sunny and loving mornings of December at Baan Unrak! –

During this season of giving, we want to extend a huge THANK YOU! to all the individuals who have supported and contributed to Baan Unrak throughout the year. Every donation helps secure a better life for over 130 children. To all our donors, while you are reading this article, know that children will wake up in a safe home, eat nutritious food, and obtain an education because of YOUR choices.

2020…

is going to be a very busy and exciting time for everyone at Baan Unrak. Thanks to the incredible generosity and vision of several donors, some very large scale projects are coming to fruition in the very near future. The construction of our new greenhouse is almost complete. Once this important addition is up and running everyone will be able to benefit from the abundance of nutritious and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables that will be cultivated right here at Baan Unrak.

Additionally, we are excited to share with everyone that the dream of constructing our guest house and yoga retreat center in our town of Sangkhlaburi, Thailand is moving from the planning stages to actually breaking ground on this amazing venture. Creating and maintaining a stable, local income stream for our home and providing employment opportunities to the single mothers and the older children of Baan Unrak are important principles for us. Along with the weaving cooperative and our vegetarian bakery, the guest house and yoga retreat center will allow our vision to continue well into the future.

Amazingly, 2020 will also mark the 30th year that Baan Unrak has been providing a safe, stable home and the hope for a better life for many children who have no where else to turn. From unimaginable beginnings of having no family, an unsafe home environment, or a serious childhood illness, many of the children who have called Baan Unrak their home have grown up to attend university, become private business owners, and start families of their own. None of these success stories would be a reality without the support of someone just like you. And with the continuing support of generous and thoughtful donors, the future for the children of Baan Unrak will continue to be bright and long lived.

Thank you all again for your support, compassion, and love. Without you this simply could not work, and with you the amazing is possible!

Happy holidays and a LOVE filled New Year to all!

If you desire to help us, you can do it by clicking the button below:

We are immensely grateful for your contribution…

Everybody Can Make a Difference

We would like to share with you an inspiring story, of how you can support your favorite charity and help keep your life free of unnecessary clutter at the same time.

Our Children’s Home operates solely through the funding that is provided by our generous donors and sponsors. Without this resource, Baan Unrak would not exist and the lives of over 130 children would look very different. Every donor is important to us, so it is a special time for everyone at Baan Unrak when we can thank a donor in person and throw a party!

Mr. Johannes Arvin, a generous and imaginative donor, made a special visit to Baan Unrak Children’s Home on November 10, 2019 to share the love of his family and friends with our children.

Having recently celebrated his 70th birthday, Mr. Arvin had thoughtfully requested of his friends and family to donate to the children of Baan Unrak in place of buying him a birthday gift this year. Mr. Arvin, a long time supporter of Baan Unrak, was then able to present this wonderful, collective gift to Didi and the children personally.

We were honored to be able to throw Mr. Arvin a belated birthday party where the children could celebrate and express their thanks by giving a dance and yoga presentation, a favorite pastime at Baan Unrak!

Mr. Arvin was also able to document his visit with photos and video in hopes of sharing the story, the work, and the needs that the women and children of Baan Unrak face every day.

And as per tradition, we couldn’t be missing to sing our “Thank You!” song.

Many thanks to Mr. Arvin and all his 70th birthday well-wishers!

Your combined generosity and thoughtfulness are very much appreciated!

 

The Japanese Embassy at Baan Unrak

Monday, November 25, 2019 was a very special day at Baan Unrak Children’s Home. We were all getting ready to celebrate the generous donation of a brand-new school bus given to the children of Baan Unrak by the people of Japan! Our guests included three officials from the Japanese Embassy to Thailand and the local governor.

All the children and staff had been working extra hard for the past two weeks to get ready for the big day and everyone’s diligence came together beautifully! The grounds and buildings were spotless, the pavilion was decorated with the flags of Japan and Thailand, and one thousand origami cranes in red, white, and blue formed the flags of Thailand and Japan. It was simply magical to see so many tiny folded cranes dancing together in the breeze!

We were waiting with anticipation, all wearing our best traditional clothes!

As our guests began to arrive and once everyone was seated and refreshments served, the festivities began with a short introduction by our Master of Ceremonies, Mala!

This was immediately followed by a speech by the Governor of Sangkhlaburi, Mr. Pakorn Karnanachai, who welcomed everyone and kicked off the official start of the celebrations.

Immediately following Mr. Karnanachai’s speech, the children presented three different traditional dances. The first dance was from the Karen Tribal people, the second was Thai, and the third was from the Mon Tribal people. The dancers had all been practicing for the past week and their hard work definitely showed! Each dance was unique in its presentation, all the dancers looked gorgeous in their traditional outfits, and all three dances were meant to offer an honoring and joyful welcome to our esteemed guests.

Next, Miss Chintana Tungtriratanagul, president of the Baan Unrak Foundation, presented an introductory speech.

MC Mala kept our spirits high and introduced our next speaker, Miss Sopa, who grew up at Baan Unrak and following her graduation from law school she returned to Baan Unrak for several years to help many of the children through the Thai immigration system to obtain their official Thai citizenship. Currently, Sopa is employed by a non-profit in southern Thailand. Sopa spoke to the children and guests and we were all privileged to hear her inspiring words of challenges met and the success that followed her hard work.

Quickly following behind Sopa, our founder Didi took the podium and expressed the joy and thanksgiving we have all shared for the thoughtful generosity of the people of Japan. It was a rare treat to see Didi step into the much deserved spotlight to offer our collective thanks to the Japanese officials who were responsible for donating the money that made our new bus a reality. Didi also took a few moments to speak about how the new school bus was a symbol of the inherent value of the children who would ride in the bus to school and the many extracurricular activities we all enjoy together.

Mala then introduced the general manager of Baan Unrak, Chusak Kalayanatham. Chusak is known by everyone at the children’s home having grown up from infancy here, graduating from University, and then returning to Baan Unrak to help lead our home into the future. Never a shy individual, Chusak showed himself to be a gifted and natural public speaker as he shared the humble beginnings of  Baan Unrak, the challenges and success we have all shared over the years, and where we are headed both as a family and as an organization. Sharing the podium with such esteemed speakers and guests was an amazing experience for Chusak as he remembers being a little boy when the Australian Embassy visited our home in 1999. He could never have imagined at that time where his future would lead, or how bright it could be!

Next, we were all given a great yoga presentation by some of the very flexible and talented children on our yoga team. Seeing how each member of the team relies on their teammates for support and safety was amazing and inspiring, it’s truly emblematic of the support we all need and lend to each other every day for our own well being and balance along the path of life.

Following the inspiring yoga performance, we were all honored to hear the inspiring words of our guest of honor, Mr. Sekiguchi, the Japanese Minister of Economic Affairs to Thailand, who was assisted by Miss Tomii Kumiko, who provided her translation skills.

Didi then approached the podium and offered praise and gratitude to everyone who had worked so hard to make the day’s events a success, as well as our continuing thanks to our honored guests and the generous people they represented.

The first act of the day’s celebration was brought to a close by a beautiful and emotional rendition of three songs, delivered by all the children singing in effortless harmony. Smiles and tears rippled through the crowd as we were all moved by their words of hope, joy, and inspiration accompanied by the lovely guitar playing of Aye Moe.

Immediately after the last song was finished gifts from our weaving cooperative were presented to our honored guests and we all excitedly moved onto the next stage of the party, the cutting of the ribbon, that rested upon our new school bus which resembled a giant present, by Mr. Sekiguchi and Didi. With smiles, laughter, and excitement all around, the children and our guests all posed for pictures in front of our new bus.

The celebrations continued with the group photos!

Then, we gave our guests a tour of the grounds, including the weaving center.

And finally Didi presented a group of former children of Baan Unrak and their success stories.

Following such an emotional and exciting day, we were all ready to just hang out together and relax, with a quiet sense of joy and accomplishment shared by all…

 

 

 

The People and Passion at Baan Unrak Cafè

Putting Baan Unrak on the Vegan Foodie Trail with Signature Dishes.
In October 2019 we welcomed very special people from all over the world to Baan Unrak Restaurant and Cafè.

Meet Jaguar!

A Raw Vegan Chef, her name is Jaguar Kukulcan, and she came all the way from New Zealand to help us make delicious and nutritious signature dressings and sauces for our dishes, while also introducing new gems into our menu! It’s Jaguar’s passion to create nutrient, dense and delicious vegan food with a little extra helping of Love (her secret ingredient).
We all certainly felt her love while she was here!

For Jaguar, preparing food for someone is her love made visible… Deliciously visible!

For 3 weeks, Jaguar worked with us in our kitchen, teaching us how simple, locally-grown ingredients can be turned into mouth-watering dressings and sauces to complement our dishes. Every day, we shared a different Baan Unrak dish together, trying all the sauces so that we can confidently recommend the best pairings to our guests.

During her stay, Jaguar was inseparable from Laura, a volunteer from Ireland who’s been coaching the team at our restaurant for the past 3 months, sponsored by Sunline Foundation from Singapore.

Jaguar’s stay coincided with “A Journey Back Home”. All of us at Baan Unrak Restaurant were so proud to support the conference with our delicious food and Jaguar’s new signature dressings and sauces. The feedback was better than we could ever have hoped for, it makes us so proud and confident for the future. One of the guests, Khun Rainjita even stayed behind to learn more from Jaguar. She was so impressed!

On Jaguar’s last day, we thanked her for everything she had taught us in her short time here. From Jaguar we also learned how to make cheese, ice cream, granola and yoghurt… the vegan way.

Come and try it yourself!
Our best kept secret: mango purée, a dollop of rich cashew nut yoghurt, topped with mango chunks and a sprinkling of granola.

Jaguar will be back in 2020 for more.

Introducing Boboy!

In 2019, we also welcomed Boboy, Baan Unrak’s very first baker, back to Sangkhlaburi. Boboy has a special place in his heart for Baan Unrak. He moved with a Dada to Thailand from the Philippines 14 years ago, and Didi gave him his first job working at our bakery. He quickly became known for his delicious melting cheese bread and chocolate cake.
Boboy is a real success story for Baan Unrak Cafe & Restaurant. The skills he learned here as a baker and his customer service experience meant that he has been able to spread his wings and explore Thailand. After having spent 6 years here, Boboy was recruited to work at Resotel in Sai Yok, a 4 star resort. He is working as the baker and has learned so much over the past 7 years there. Now, every time he has a day off, he comes back to mentor our new baker Muller, who is learning so much from him.
When Boboy visits, the kitchen is a hive of activity and sweet smells. He turns on the oven well before the sun rises over the lake and goes to sleep hours after the sun sets behind the Mon Bridge. He has all of the ovens working at full capacity as he guides our baker Muller and the team on how to make light pastries that melt in your mouth, fluffy blueberry muffins, rich chocolate balls that our customers love with their espresso, and our absolute favorite, the Kinder milk slice, with layers of chocolate sponge cake and a creamy, sweet filling that is an absolute best seller at the evening market.
Boboy loves coming back to Sangkhlaburi and showing his appreciation to Didi for all that she has done for him over the years. He has become an accomplished baker, a fierce artist at work, with a passion for sweet treats.

Our New Menu… The Making Of

All the new dishes are available at the restaurant and will be on our new menu soon! Our long term Italian volunteer Francesco is doing photoshoots of the food (and eating it all afterwards!) so that each dish can be shown “true to life” on our menu and to promote us on social media.

Below, a teaser from the breakfast shoot.

And a Pizza Party!

Make sure you like, follow and share our posts on Instagram and Facebook!

Instagram @baanunrakrestaurant
Facebook @baanunrakrestaurant
Webpage: baanunranrestaurant.org

Finally, to check out our number 1 position and great reviews on tripadvisor, click here:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303919-d3578670-Reviews-Baan_Unrak_Vegetarian_Restaurant_Bakery-Sangkhla_Buri_Kanchanaburi_Province.html

We are looking forward to greeting you all here soon!
Love,
Namtan, Nandaoo, Chickoo and Muller
(the Baan Unrak Restaurant team)

The Magic of Loy Krathong

“It’s been the best Loy Krathong so far at Baan Unrak!”, Didi said the day after. Indeed, it was a great evening… with an unexpected and thrilling ending!

Loy Krathong is a very heartfelt festival here in Thailand, celebrated on the evening of the full moon of November.

On that day, the children came back from school in a hurry, and quickly got busy making the Krathongs from banana tree trunks and folded banana leaves, crafted into a lotus shape and decorated with flowers, three incense sticks and a candle.

On this very special evening, we also had very special guests celebrating with us: our friends and sponsors Stephanie and Christian. We all gathered at the dining hall, and by candlelight we chanted and meditated together.

Then, accompanied by Aye Moe’s guitar, we walked down to the lake singing Baba Nam Kevalam – Love is All There is.

Our workers did an amazing job in preparing for this event. They had perfectly smoothed the bumpy dirt trail that descends steeply towards the lake, and placed lights all along the path, making it easier for us to walk in the dark.

On the lake shore, it was time to thank the Water Goddess. Holding the Krathong in our hands, eyes closed, we paid respects and made a wish. Then, we released it onto the water.

The Krathong’s floating away symbolizes letting go of our bad emotions. Its flickering candles slowly disappear, and we can start anew free of negative feelings.

The full moon was lighting up the sky, and for a moment it was covered by heart-shaped clouds. It was magical.

We also lighted up floating lanterns, Khom Loy, and let them fly away in the night sky.

Then we gathered around the fire, holding hands in a circle, and chanting some more.

Riding the Fire

When everybody was returning home, only a few children remained around the fire. One of them declared: “I’m gonna jump through the fire!”. No one believed him.

It was unbelievable to see, yet everything went good under the supervision of a few grownups. According to the children, the fire wasn’t hot at all!

Here is how we celebrated Loy Krathong before.

Adventures At Sea

This holiday season we’ve been lucky to go on vacation. This time we went to Pattaya! A generous sponsor invited us to his place: a big house immersed in the nature that could fit all of us easily. A perfect place to play our classic “holiday games”!

We also found a nearby school yard, the perfect space to play some more!
Our host was very friendly and helpful. He also brought us to his favorite museum in town: a temple with a collection of Chinese art. We really enjoyed seeing the paintings and sculptures through our sponsor’s knowledgeable eyes.

In the late afternoon, we would always go to the sea. We found our quiet spot in the southern tip of Pattaya bay, with the skyscrapers of the city in the background. The children loved playing, splashing and swimming in the golden light of sunset.

The children were divided into groups to perform the daily duties of cooking and cleaning. The same groups played against each other in the games, and every activity was given a score. Even the best ones to cook were awarded… 40 points! At the end of the vacation, the winners would be proclaimed.

The Island

One day, our volunteers wanted to give the children a special experience, and so we went to Koh Lan, a small island in front of Pattaya. We went to the pier, took the ferry and sailed across the sea.
Once on the island, we looked for a quiet spot away from the mass of tourists. And so, from the main beach we walked along the rocks, exploring… until we could see a solitary beach in the distance. Full of joy, we climbed further.
When we got there, the sight before our eyes was disarming: plastic, plastic, plastic, and more plastic. Rubbish everywhere. Once an idyllic natural place, now ruined by humans. It’s alarming to see what we are doing to our planet.
The dismay of the grownups was counterbalanced by the unshakeable positive attitude of the children that – being special, pure creatures – were able to see beyond the piles of rubbish. In no time, they were already at work building a raft with all that waste material. It was surreal, poetic to witness.
What would have been a failed excursion for the grownups, became another exciting day in the life of the children. It was a great lesson for us adults.

Not only Pattaya…

Some other children spent the vacation time in Bangkok. Others went to Burma (Myanmar) accompanied by our teenager-in-charge Aye Moe. According to the reports – and we have no doubt about it – they all had a lot of fun too!

A Journey Back Home

We had the honor to host a regional conference of Ananda Marga here in Baan Unrak. The theme of the conference was “A Journey Back Home”.

It signifies the Journey that every human must undergo in order to come to know their true essence. To find that point of equipoise and peace hidden in everybody’s heart.

We wanted to give the best to all our guests. That required a lot of work and sacrifice from everyone included the children. And they did their best, as many of the grownups were absent due to the vacation time.

The first to come one early afternoon were two monks of Ananda Marga, also called Dadas. They were very impressed with our children and our children very attracted by them.

The long hair and bears, the flowing orange robes, their magnetic smile. Everything was unusual and interesting. One of them was also a master skateboarder, and beside that, he was a former champion of Muay Thai. The time that our children spent with them was enjoyable.

After few days, more Dadas and Didis (monks and nuns of Ananda Marga) came. We listened to their talks, stories and jokes, and also chanted and meditated with them.

After the Acharya meeting, we expected more Ananda Marga guests. This time they were family people, and some of them brought their children too.  They came from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. We had more than 70 guests all together. Our facility was very full.

They had their special meetings, and from our side we made sure to join them in most of their meditation sections. Incredibly, together with them we could easily extend our 15 minutes chants and 15 minutes meditation to 20 minutes and sometime to 30 minutes. It was amazing to be with them, as it is among family members.

We longed to have even more time to spend with our guests. In the last day of the conference we had the opportunity to perform for all of them. We gave our best, we sang our best songs and danced our best dances. It was so engaging and enchanting.

The next day most of our friends were leaving, but some decided to remain over for a very unique spiritual excursion, discovering the beauty of Sangkhlaburi and the majestic Kao Len lake aboard a floating house.

Our children and volunteers took this opportunity to enjoy a bit longer of our guests’ company. So they rented another floating house to move along with our guests to guide and assist them. The spiritual energy of our guests bubbling up with the pearl of laughter and splashing of water of the children.

The combination of the purity of the ones with the innocence of the others. It was a unique experience that stole the hearts of our guests forever. In this way they will never forget this place and never forget us.