I love this charity! In 2008 I had the privilege of visiting my sponsor child, Tor, in Thailand so I was able to see Compassion's work with children and families first hand. I was so impressed by the love, devotion and enthusiasm of the Project workers that I met in the small rural village of Chiang Yun. Tor is now 13 but has unfortunately left the program because his grandfather and father have both remarried and he has gone to live with his grandmother, too far from a Compassion Project to remain a sponsor child. According to the last report I got from Compassion he will "study non-formal education and help grandma to grow rice". I still think about him and hope he is getting on alright. Here is an excerpt from the blog post I wrote after I visited Tor:

In the morning director from Tor's project and the translator were waiting for me in the Khon Kaen hotel lobby. They were clearly very excited about me being there and we chatted for a bit about the day ahead. I asked if they might be able to help me buy something for the family before we went. I had in mind something like a pig or a goat perhaps... but Sadjit, the project director, said that they really needed clothes and that she would take me to 'Big C' to get some things. OK, great! At 'Big C' Sadjit helped me to buy clothes for Tor, his sister Peung, father and grandfather as well as some bulk milk, shampoo, ovaltine and some other essentials.

As we were driving to Chiang Yun where Tor lives, they told me that I was the first sponsor visit they have had to their project and they even went out and bought a camera for the day. We went straight to the Chiang Yun church which partners with Compassion to implement the sponsorship progam in this area. What a surprise to find about 60 people there waiting to greet me, with "Sawasdeekaaaaa's" and necklaces of flowers. I felt like the queen coming to town!! Amidst all the excitement I was introduced to Tor and his grandfather and all manner of other people and then ushered upstairs to their main meeting room.

Some of the children danced and then Sadjit introduced me to everyone and had me come up the front to say something which was also a little unexpected. I bumbled out some thankful words that seemed to satisfy everyone and proceeded to be showered with gifts including a very loud pink Hawaiian-style shirt they insisted I don immediately. As many people were wearing them for the New Year water festival celebrations (albeit not so fluorescently pink as mine) and we were about to have a mini water festival of our own, it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Outside we sat in a long row while the children came past us pouring water in our hands, rubbing powder on our cheeks and blessing us for the new year. A much more tame version of what would be happening all over Thailand in a few days, where the whole population would be drenched and powdered from top to bottom with new year joy.

After drying off a little Daeng and Sadjit took me out with Tor and his grandfather to meet his father and sister at their house. It wasn't in the centre of a rice paddy at all but in a street just off the main road of the town. It was a 2 story wooden house, with the main living area downstairs (I think many Thais use the upstairs for storage because it's so hot up there, but I'm not completely sure)... downstairs they had a mattress-less double bed where all four of them sleep, a cupboard and a tv with cooking area out the back. Tor's mother left with a man to live in Germany and doesn't support the family financially in any way. His grandmother died a couple of years ago. The father and grandfather drink a lot apparently. His father makes about AU$25 a week as a town garbage collector. Tor's grandfather is the primary care giver as the father is working and in Bangkok a lot with his new wife who lives there. His grandfather clearly loves the children dearly, but he is quite frail and I think life must be very hard for him.

We sat on a bench at the front of the house and I gave out the things I bought for them at Big C as well as some things I brought from Australia for the kids. Then the grandfather presented me with a beautiful piece of handmade silk cloth that his late wife had woven. I was extremely humbled as it was probably one of their prized possessions.

We took Tor, Peung and their grandfather out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. The food was so 'Thai Spicy' that I cried and sniffled my way through the meal much to everyone's amusement. What amazed me was that no-one else got so much as a teary eye, including the children. Making conversation with the kids was difficult because they were so shy and I could only draw out muffled one-word answers. But I suspect that having lunch with a big snivelling foreigner would be something they would talk about for years to come.

I spent the later afternoon at the church with Sadjit and Daeng before we headed back to Khon Kaen for a hot pot dinner. There were 3 other project workers with us and when they took me back to my hotel, they all came into the lobby to farewell me. One by one they took my hands and expressed their gratitude that I came to visit Tor. I was so touched by their humility and by all the hard work they put into the children in the project. I left them feeling like I had made good friends who I can hopefully visit again in the future...

To find out more or to sponsor a child visit the Compassion website here.

Some information from the Compassion website:

Compassion is an international Christian child development and child advocacy ministry committed to working in partnership with local churches around the world to foster the spiritual, economic, social, physical and emotional development of children living in extreme poverty in over 26 developing countries.

Compassion works with the individual child from the womb to university to address their economic, social, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Compassion partners with the local church to implement our holistic child development programs: Child Survival, Child Sponsorship, Leadership Development, Critical Interventions.

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