Baan Jai Dee, The Story of an Orphanage
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” quote by Aesop. Every once in awhile it’s a good idea to take a step out of your life and enter that of another. Not only does it benefit you but it also benefits someone, someone that you might never see again, but someone who you will remember.
During the February break we visited an orphanage called Baan Jai Dee, the experience was eye opening, here’s a video made while at the orphanage.
Baan Jai Dee is an orphanage established by Allan and Sam Schmidt, who both love and care for all the children living at the orphanage. At the time of the visit Allan wasn’t their but Sam along with two other missionaries kept the orphanage on track and running smoothly. Baan Jai Dee, which means home of the kind hearted provides safety, education and much more for the kids staying there. All the kids staying at the orphanage are either orphans, abandoned or relinquished children, with one sometimes even two parents in jail. We stayed at the orphanage for three days, playing with the kids and teaching them about verbs and nouns.
During our stay there we visited one of the many schools that the kids attended, an elementary school. As the kids approached the car they started whispering to each other and pointing to my hair. At the time I didn’t understand what was so extraordinary about my hair, (since it’s the same as theirs: brown and kind of curly). Until one of the girls came up to me and said, “your hair is so long, can I touch it?” I gladly obliged and each of them took turns playing with my hair. Which is when I noticed that all of them had short hair. Seeing this I realized that at school they weren’t allowed to have long hair, unlike me. In fact my school has students who dye their whole head obscure colors: purple, blue and I’ve even seen red once. This showed me that a small privilege to me can make a world of difference in someone else’s eyes because it holds power. Giving people a choice gives them power because with power comes responsibility. The responsibility to use or abuse the privilege. For me school is a place where long hair is the norm and dyed hair is nothing noteworthy, (well, at least not for the teachers). We students have the power to be an individual and explore who or what we want to be. For them the length of my hair was a privilege that they didn’t get. For me hair was something that could be kept short or long, a small superficial feature of what makes me, me.
Privilege gives an individual power just as the collective majority has most of the power. When the kids attended school there was always a separation between them and “normal” kids. Many of the kids come from smaller ethnicity groups around Thailand such as the H’mong. This also led them to be looked down upon because of their ethnical difference from the Thai students. Everyone knew that they came from an orphanage and this set them apart, they were known as, “the Baan Jai Dee kids”. The majority had agreed unconsciously to keep these kids in a separate area with slightly different rules. This allows some of the students to bully (small things like pulling hair, albeit it’s still bullying) the kids who live at Baan Jai Dee since the teachers will sometimes look the other way. Being seen as aliens and weird the kids would sometimes come home (to the orphanage) feeling a bit down. However, after talking with Sam they’d cheer right back up and go outside to play, their smiles coming quickly and their laughs lasting long.
However, one thing to keep in mind when looking at how the kids are treated unfairly is that they are living in a community environment that is not yet as open minded as other communities. In Thailand the majority follow buddhism and there is a belief that if you did wrong in a past life you will be reborn into a “lesser” animal or be in some way deformed in this life. Seeing as the kids that they go to school with are still young (just like them), the bullying will eventually stop as they get older and become wiser.
During our stay we cooked spaghetti bolognese with the kids. This way the kids could try new things and find out what they might and might not like. It’s important to try new food because within food lies the story of a culture. By introducing the kids to spaghetti we also showed them that Thai food wasn’t the only food. The kids also enjoyed the cooking part of making spaghetti adding the meat, tomato sauce and the herbs. Little hands fidgeting with tomato cans asking us, “when can I put this in?”.
Having responsibility in the orphanage motivated me to do a lot more than just play with the kids. It’s important because if no one has the responsibility for this little community than who will do anything? Who will educate the kids? Who will feed the kids? Who will play with them? Dividing the responsibilities lessons the load and also ensures that whichever ‘task’ you’re given is done well. This trip really helped see how important it is that everyone does their ‘task’ or responsibility. That communities value individuals but what makes a community is the small interactions between these individuals. The task that each individual is given, when combined amounts to much more work done. We’ll definitely come back because, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Quote by Aesop.
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Dreamer aka. Juliet