Opened: Tsunami Refuge and Youth Centre
In Thailand the settlement worst affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 was Baan Nam Khem, on the Andaman coastline a short drive north of the holiday resorts at Khao Lak. It is believed that over 3,000 people, more than half the town’s population, died at Baan Nam Khem on the day of the disaster. Many of the children and staff at the Duang Prateep Foundation’s Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage, in the nearby village of Phru Teaw, came originally from Baan Nam Khem.
Now, thanks to the Duang Prateep Foundation and the generosity of Australian and UK donors, the residents of Baan Nam Khem have what they have wanted for over six years: A tsunami escape tower. They also have a children’s nursery and community and youth centre.
Through the fund-raising efforts of Bob Wolff, Clare Moon and others in the UK, the land for the new centre was purchased in the name of the Duang Prateep Foundation as long ago as 2005. However, delays then followed, as
there was uncertainty as to whether the government would order that the Baan Nam Khem area would be totally cleared of human habitation.
When finally the long term viability of Baan Nam Khem was assured, Australian donors came in to support the construction of the long-wished for building. It was possible to build the new centre thanks to the generosity of Australian donors organised by registered charity Hands Across the Water. The key sponsors were the National Associated Retail Traders of Australia
(NARTA) and the Australian branch of UK construction company Laing O’Rourke.
When completely finished the three-storey building will have accommodation and office rooms as well as the nursery school and rooms for community activities. The top floor is a flat roof area, where it is estimated 1,000 people could find refuge in the event of another tsunami disaster.
The town of Baan Nam Khem is ringed by lakes formed from abandoned tin mines. The lakes make escape from tidal waves difficult and contributed to the high death toll in December 2004. The flat roof on the new building gives local residents the convenient escape point, which they have longed for over recent years.
To coincide with the conclusion of a Hands Across the Water bicycle rally (see story below) a celebration took place to mark the partial handover of the new building, with the key benefactors from Australia present.
Guests were welcomed to the centre by drummers from the Duang Prateep Foundation’s New Life Project at Chumphon. There was a dance performance by children at the new nursery school. There were speeches by DPF founder Prateep as well as Mr. Peter Baines, the founder and
chairman of Hands Across the Water and Ms. Kay Spencer, the NARTA managing director.
After the formal proceedings everyone toured the new building, including watching the children absorbed in their Montessori system learning (photo left) and visiting the roof for views of the
A further celebration is planned when the contractors hand over the completed building in a few weeks, with the formal opening ceremony provisionally scheduled for December 26 this year, the seventh anniversary of the disaster.
Over 50 cyclists raise more than 15 million baht for Thai orphans
Following on the successful Hands Across the Water cycle rallies in 2009 and 2010, this January two cycle rallies, with a combined total of 53 cyclists, travelled over the 800km between Phetchaburi, a short drive south of Bangkok, and the Duang Prateep Foundation’s Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage.
A total of over 500,000 Australian dollars was raised from the two rides and this time there were two orphanages which benefited from the support: The Duang Prateep Foundation’s Baan Tharn Namchai and the Baan Homehug Foundation, which manages a home for over 100 children at Yasathon in Northeast Thailand.
On the evening prior to the start of both of the rallies, the Duang Prateep Foundation hosted a party for all the cyclists. The visitors toured the community around the foundation (photo right), were told about the work of the Duang Prateep Foundation and were entertained by dance and music performances from children and youths.
The party for the first group of cyclists was especially memorable as it coincided with the arrival at the Duang Prateep Foundation of founder Ms. Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, after almost eight months away (see story above).
The day after the party, the cyclists were driven out of Bangkok in the early morning to start their ride from Phetchaburi, where they were seen off by DPF staff and children.
The first group of riders were joined on the journey by Ms. Suthasinee Noiin, the founder of Baan Homehug, and a colleague. The second group of riders were joined by two staff from Baan Tharn Namchai.
The second group of cyclists visited the Duang Prateep Foundation’s New Life Project at Chumphon during their journey south, see story below.
For the final kilometres of the journey the cyclists were joined by children. For the first rally, it was children from the Baan Homehug Foundation on the bikes. For the second rally it was Baan Tharn Namchai children riding
bikes. DPF founder Prateep also rode the last few kilometres of the second rally (photo right).
Both groups of cyclists were welcomed by dance and music performances. For the first group of cyclists there were two dance performances from Yasathorn children and two by Phang-nga children. For the second group, the entertainment was just provided by Phang-nga children.
After lunch at Baan Tharn
Namchai, both groups of cyclists rested after their journey before evening parties at the Le Meridien
Left: At the conclusion of the second cycle rally: Hands Across the Water Director Peter Baines is back left, fellow board member Kay Spencer is front centre wearing white, with Prateep Ungsongtham Hata to her right. Also in the photo are some of the cyclists and residents of Baan Tharn Namchai.
At the first party the entertainment was provided by children from the Yasathon home with children and staff from both foundations joining the cyclists in celebrating.
At the second party the entertainment was provided by children from Baan Tharn Namchai and youths from the New Life Project. The former entertained with a Manora dance performance, a classical art form of the southern part of Thailand (photo right). The latter provided fire-eating and fire-breathing entertainment.
For the second year in a row there was a marriage to celebrate at the second party. Niwan Jantawong (or Nong, as she is known) lost her family in the tsunami. While grieving at the
death of her two children, from very soon after the disaster Nong dedicated herself to caring for other children and it was not long before she became a staff member of the Duang Prateep Foundation, first helping at the tents and later at the Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage.
Nong’s own direct experience of the disaster and her knowledge of local dialect and customs made her an invaluable presence in helping the distressed children over the following years. Nong also completed the Hands Across the
Water cycle rally in January 2009. In 2010 she was sponsored to visit Australia for three months, during which time she attended English language courses in Melbourne and visited Sydney.
For the children and staff at Baan Tharn Namchai, as well as her colleagues from Bangkok and her Australian friends, the marriage celebration was an emotional occasion and an affirmation that although disasters are never forgotten, there is always hope for the future.
The photo shows Niwan and her husband with Peter Baines on the right, Nicole Perry on the left and other well-wishers from Australia and Thailand.
On the day after the second party at the Le Meridien Khao Lak, the opening ceremony took place for the building at Baan Nam Khem, see story above. The same afternoon at Baan Tharn
Namchai a triangular football tournament took place between teams representing Hands Across the Water, the DPF New Life Project at Chumphon and Baan Tharn Namchai.
Hands Across the Water are already planning two cycle rallies for January 2012. All people interested in participating should get information from Hands Across the Water direct http://handsacrossthewater.com.au/the_big_ride
Children’s Day for Phang-nga orphans
On National Children’s Day staff and children at the Baan Tharn Namchai orphanage were celebrating at two different venues.
The Le Meridien Khao Lak hotel hosted a party for thirty children and thee staff from the orphanage.
At Baan ITV village the children’s activity centre managed by the Duang Prateep Foundation was the base for another Children’s Day celebration attended by forty children (photo below).
Also present were two staff from Schneider Electric (Thailand) who travelled from Bangkok to join in the fun. At the party there were dance performances by children and games organised by foundation staff. Every child took home a gift.
Schneider Electric (Thailand) helped the Duang Prateep Foundation’s relief work after the tsunami, with support for the Nithan Caravan puppet troupe based at Baan Tharn Namchai and donations to aid the mental recovery of the young through activities such as music, art, dance and sport.
The day after Children’s Day the focus switched to the impending arrival of the first of the two cycle rallies.
On Sunday 9 January Ms. Kay Spencer the managing director of the National Associated Retail Traders of Australia (NARTA) visited the orphanage for lunch with children and staff. NARTA is a key sponsor for Hands Across the Water (Australia) and Kay is also a board member of the charity.
Two days later 44 children and six staff from the Baan Homehug Foundation arrived at Baan Tharn Namchai, in advance of the cycle rally group, which included the founder of their foundation. The following day Baan Tharn Namchai staff took their visitors from Yasathon on a sightseeing trip to Phang-nga Bay, where they could see the spectacular rocky islands made famous in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.
The highlights for the remained of the month at the orphanage were the activities with the visiting cycle rally groups, see above.
Meanwhile in far away Wisconsin, Namthip Nilawong, a girl from the orphanage, is experiencing the harshness of a Wisconsin Winter half way through her year of study at a high school in the USA. Her host Karen Dahl, the organiser of USA registered DPF support organisation Flame of Hope Foundation, reports that Namthip is loving experiencing the Winter landscape, but preferably from the warmth of a car or a building.