Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 396: The Dhamanurak Foundation .. giving hope to kids in Kanchanaburi (Posted March 11th 2014)

It’s a long and complicated story, but my girlfriend’s parents died when she was really quite young.  Thankfully for Nongnoo, her extended family were able, and willing, to take care of her until she was old enough to finish high school and venture out on her own. Sadly, even here in Thailand where family units are relatively strong, such support isn’t always forthcoming.
Every year to celebrate her birthday, Nongnoo hosts an amazing party. She carefully chooses a venue and invites a few of her closest friends and about fifty total strangers to join her. Her friends are there to help with the organising, and the strangers are young orphans who weren’t as fortunate as herself. If you’ve read my book Ashes to Boonville, then you’ll know a little about my own early start in life, so you’ll understand that when Nongnoo asks for help, I’m the first to volunteer.
(Nongnoo's Birthday Party 2013)
 After three months of planning and raising money, ten volunteers set out from Bangkok at an amazingly rude hour and headed to Kanchanaburi Province. Nongnoo had raised 40,000 Thai Baht, around $1,300, or three months salary, and this year’s chosen venue was the Dhamanurak Foundation about 150km east of Bangkok.
 The Dhamanurak Foundation is described as a ‘non-informal education centre’ and was founded back in 2004 by a wonderful Nun called Jutipa. In essence, it’s now home, health centre, school and family for around 125 kids between the ages of 1 and 16. Not all of the kids are orphans, but I suspect that for some their home circumstances have made Dhamanurak a much safer and more loving alternative.
 The kids here at Dhamanurak are cared for by a small group of Nuns and a wonderful group of volunteers, and the Foundation is funded entirely by private donations. Conditions here, even by local standards, are best described as being ‘basic’ and everything is in short supply, everything that is except for the love. The home’s located on the side of Highway 3199 and every day thousands of tourists pass by its gate on their way to visit the waterfalls at Erawan National Park, though I suspect that not one of them knows that this orphanage even exists.
(Some of the things that we brought from Bangkok. The whisky and Beer cases only contain food .. we drank the real stuff the night before)

 (Nongnoo hanging-out with some of the kids)
 (Two of the boys play happily for an hour with two simple glass marbles)  
 (One of the Nuns carrying two of the smaller kids to lunch)
 (Twins in SE Asia are very common, especially it would seem in orphanages)
 (Many of the kids seem to be lost in thought, but when you face the challenges they've faced so far in their short lives, that's hardly surprising)
 (Two boys playing happily with a broken plastic toy camera. It was either that or to wait for the two marbles or a broken computer mouse)
 (Young guy proudly showing me his mushroom house)
(The dormitory for the older boys is functional. The dormitory for the younger kids is a relatively modern building. It's called 'The Alice Home' and was built in memory of Alice Glenister. Alice was teaching here on her gap-year, but sadly lost her life in a kayak accident in Laos)
 (The Alice Home)
 (Volunteers and some of the amazing Kids)

The day at Dhamanurak has touched me, deeply, and we’ll return here soon. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a little more to help improve the lives and futures of these amazing kids. Physically they need everything, and every little helps, so if anybody reading this would like to know more, or to offer a little help, then please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or a Facebook ... thanks for reading.