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.

Shraddha Ceremony (A Memorial)

Like every society, Baan Unrak has a collective life signed by different events. Some events are joyful, others are painful, as joy and pain are part of everybody’s life.

Not all the children have the fortune to have parental care, but still, parents are important. No matter what a parent did, they have given us the greatest gift of all… that is life. When a parent is gone from this earth, it is a motive of tremendous grief for everyone, especially for a child.

During the Covid-19 epidemic it has happened to 5 of our children from two different families. One lost the mother, the other the father.

The feeling of having lost someone important was weighing heavily over the children. So we made a ceremony with the purpose of liberating our mind from the heaviness of guilt, of unfulfillment and regret.

Collectively, we meditated…

Then, we made the following affirmations:

“Oh beloved universal Father, may the departed soul of your son/daughter attain higher and higher manifestation, to be free from his/her worldly obligations and find eternal peace.”

To alleviate the palpable sorrow from the assembly, among all the people present we repeated the following for ourselves:

“Beloved universal Father, you have freed us today from the social responsibility towards this departed soul. We return Your son/daughter to Your gracious lap with all the purity of our hearts. Oblige us by accepting him/her who is Yours.”

Then again:

“Oh beloved universal Father, may those of Your children who are separated from Your loving lap and subjected to the afflictions of mundane life, be not deprived of Your loving shelter at the end of their earthly sojourn.”

Incredibly, as we were going throw the ceremony we could feel how the air was becoming lighter and lighter. The feeling of heaviness was lifting away, and, in the end, a feeling of great purity remained.

The members of the two families started to distribute water to the people present.

As we were performing our ceremony, dark clouds were gathering at the horizon announcing a heavy rainfall, but as the offering of the water was going on, the clouds dispersed leaving a very fresh clean breeze.

It was so touching to see everybody coming forwards to accept a scoop of water (symbol of purity) in their palm to drink (as a symbol of unity and sharing). This simple gesture created a powerful bond among the assembly. It was a confirmation that we are family, that we are a society.

As children cannot stay for very long without getting dirty hands, the mothers had the idea of making small cups from tiny leaves.

It is our believe that this social function should be free. Nobody should incur debts or great expenditure to give the final farewell to their beloved ones.

In our own small way, we proved that a spoon of water could be more powerful than great offerings of money, food, or drinks.

This ceremony gave us all we need to move on in life after a great sorrow. It gave us a pure and light heart.

Baan Unrak Conscious Collection START-UP with Our Children Artistic Talent

Baan Unrak is assisting our youth to kickstart their career, while promoting our children art work.

Over the years, Baan Unrak Weaving products have been growing in popularity. We have finally launched online, selling around the world on Etsy and through direct sales.

Our very own Kushuma is taking leadership of this project and will be managing the sales. For Kushuma, this is the opportunity for her to improve her commercial acumen in her chosen field, while waiting for her classes to start in January.

Kushuma loves to dream and design clothes and accessories. With the help of Baan Unrak sewing center, her creations came to life…

Kushuma worked with volunteers Francesco & Laura to photograph her creations, while the children became the models to showcase the products!

Preparing for our online launch required a lot of hard work. Working together to bring this project to fruition requires organization and discipline, from imagination and design to product development and finally online selling. The team of children and Mom’s involved in this project learn and develop their skills together.

Below, some behind the scenes shots…

The children love to be involved and this inspires them for their own futures. During the photoshoot, Kong was quick to get involved, first with the heavy lifting and stage set up, and then, he surprised us all by striking a few poses for the camera, together with his sister Dokbua!

Kushuma is nervous putting her creations online, like every first-time seller would be, but she knows that this business is necessary to support the Children’s Home, the Women’s Project and to provide her a steady income to save and cover her living expenses while at University.

Here, Latika styled by Kushuma…

Kushuma has chosen to study Art and Design at the Srinakharinwirot University. This month she visited the University to meet with the Dean of the Art Faculty and the Innovation Management teacher. They were very impressed to hear that she already has a portfolio and manages her own business online. Meeting these teachers and hearing their feedback was exactly the confidence boost Kushuma needed to continue to pursue her dreams of working in Fashion & Design.

As well as our traditional weaving, we are also featuring a limited-edition hand-painted section on Etsy. During a workshop earlier this year with our volunteer Irene, the children created the most beautiful paintings of scenes from their imaginations.

You can support this initiative by purchasing a bag on Etsy or directly through Kushuma via email – baanunrakweaving@yahoo.com

…This is not the first time that we host a fashion show in Baan Unrak. Here, take a look at the first one: Baan Unrak Fashion Show! (September 2019)

You can find us online at:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/BaanUnrakThailand

Below, Baan Unrak new collection of shawls and blankets.

We will soon be relaunching our Baan Unrak Weaving Facebook and Instagram pages. Stay Tuned!

Art For The Heart

The teenagers have been involved in an art therapy laboratory with the Italian volunteer Roberta, a psychologist really keen on art, who deeply believes in art as a door to the soul.

The outcome of the laboratory was very useful for the educators of Baan Unrak, for them to know how to move on to facilitate the children’s growth.

In the laboratory, the unconscious emotions of the children resurfaced. Art therapy is such a powerful expressive mean, capable of connecting people with their deepest feelings.

Art can land in places where the conscious mind is unable to go. Art allows us to play, through colors, with parts of ourselves without taking us too seriously. Art allows us to rethink ourselves in order to reach new meanings and new life perspectives.

The first session of the laboratory was titled…

“Who Am I?”

A girl looking at her drawing said:

“I feel myself like this big tree, able with its shadow to protect the little plants and animals under it.”

When the children had finished drawing, Roberta used to spend some time with each of them talking about their drawings. One of them said to her:

“I am like this flower in the water. I need someone to grow up well, as the flower needs water to grow up.”

The next session theme was…

Crumbled Wall: the Power of Transformation

The idea was to start with the image of a crumbled wall and then rebuild it making it colorful and beautiful. Fixing the wall means, in a metaphorical way, to come closer to the tough times of our past, looking at them in a reparative way.

What does “Love” mean for you? What does “Being Loved” mean for you?

Most of the children feel really grateful for the love received and have an idea of love as something capable of saving lives.

If you were an emotion, which one would you be in this moment of your life?

The art therapy laboratory ended with the brightest question of all…

What is your greatest dream?