Comments for a Cause! In the month of August I had 31 comments, equaling at $15.50 donation to my church's VBS mission towards Global Ministries' Family Village Farm. Thanks for helping me not only further the youth of my church's mission project, but also for helping the youth in this Indian village and school.
In the month of September I'm excited to be donating $0.50 for every comment made on my blog to Make Our Day.
I have connected to different Comments for a Cause programs through many ways - local connections, social media connections, and sometimes the connection is simply unplanned. The latter is how I learned about Make Our Day. Katie, founder of Make Our Day, had contacted me through her other job and she had noticed my Comments for a Cause program last month helped an orphanage and school in India. She commented to me how much she respected that and that it reminded her of the orphanage she works and teaches at in Thailand. From there, I continued the conversation and learned about her love and passion for these kids, which has resulted in her starting a non-profit, Make Our Day. I asked Katie to share a little more about it, so hopefully all you can get a glimpse at the joy and devotion I've felt since first connecting with her.
What is your background - education, brief life story?
I majored in fashion in college. Prior to coming to Thailand I was a Buyer for several years in the sports apparel industry. So, no experience in teaching or non-profit work. Starting Make Our Day was a complete 180.
What led you to Thailand?
When I was in college we were assigned the book, Not For Sale, by David Batstone, as required reading for the importance of sourcing fair labor within the garment industry. Many of the more jarring examples of human trafficking and specifically child slavery, were rooted in Thailand. Once I became restless with office work and made the decision that sitting behind a desk was not for me, Thailand was the first place I thought of. I did zero planning. Bought a one way ticket and that was it. Leap of faith, or temporary insanity, the jury is still out.
What is special about Thailand for you?
I am a very restless person, impatient, always over-committing. Thailand is so chaotic at times that it has a reverse effect on me and I feel uncharacteristically calm being here.
What do you not enjoy about Thailand?
Ironically, the things that I do not enjoy, tend to be the things I value the most about my time here. For example, I can't stand the inconsistency of their scheduling (transportation, schools, shops, everything) but it has taught me patience. I don't like that lying does not have a negative connotation in Asian culture, but it's taught me to read people for their intentions and be more understanding. I don't like the language barrier, but it's made me a better listener and a more concise communicator.
How did you get the idea for Make Our Day? Was there a big "Aha!" moment, when you realized you had to do something?
You bet! It was a Friday, last period of the day and I was completely exhausted. I had been working at the school for six months (in Thailand) and was seriously thinking that that week may have to be the end of the road for me. I decided to kill the last little bit of class by teaching the word weekend (with wild cheering and celebration to follow... or so I thought.) Instead, several of the munchkins (a term of endearment Katie uses when referencing the children) started crying. One ran to lock the door (as to keep me in the classroom) and another ran to the front of the class bawling and hugged me around the waist and asked, "Teacha will you stay here!!" I told the munchkin no, so he responded (still crying), "Will you come to my house?" Sure I said and we walked to his house, which turned out to be an orphanage. I knew that was God's way of telling me, "Nice try... but you're not going anywhere." Saturday Playdates started the very next day and Make Our Day was born.
If you had to sum up the project in one sentence - what would it be?
Make Our Day seeks to mobilize the minds of munchkins while putting smiles on their faces and courage in their hearts.
What do you hope the kids learn or gain from your programs?
A desire to learn, the ability to trust, and courage to ask for help when they need it.
What problems do the children face and how do you help?
Most, if not all, have been the victim of some sort of family trauma (physical or sexual abuse, drug addiction, abandonment, or orphaned by the 2004 Tsunami) and the coping mechanisms I see most often are anger, fear, anxiety or withdrawing. The only way I know to help is to slowly, but consistently, build a relationship with individual children that makes them feel loved and shows them the way to love others. This takes time, consistency and resilience.
I love reading your updates - in addition to touching me emotionally, they always make me laugh. How do you maintain a sense of humor while dealing with such heavy issues?
As language is an obstacle, a love of fun and play is what really bonds the munchkins and I and makes a deeper trust and learning possible. I'm a kid that never grew up and they've had to grow up too quickly. I don't always know what the munchkins need from me, but I know they don't need pity. It can get hard, very hard actually, but as with anything, love and laughter are the best medicine.
I have seen the Get Involved page on your website - is there anything specifically needed right now?
I am taking my initial program of playdates, adding my role as "Techa", and am opening a tutoring center in walking distance of the munchkins school in January 2017. Our greatest need is for people to sponsor students on a recurring monthly basis to ensure they have a safe place to study with trusted adults on a consistent basis. Consistency is the key to the success of the program. You can sponsor a child through our Facebook page, Paypal (send to firstname.lastname@example.org), or by Mail.
Anything else you'd like to share?
There is a platitude I often go back to that goes, "If you have much, give of your wealth. If you have little, give of your heart." Don't fall into the trap of thinking that money is all you have to contribute. Money is necessary yes, but in the end, it is the people, not the money, that have the impact. We need both.
So help me this month, help Katie and all of the munchkins in Thailand by commenting on any of my blog posts, old or new, and I'll donate $0.50 for each comment. What was the most interesting thing that stood out to you about Katie or the Make Our Day story? Remember to Comment for a Cause!