Home Hug Surin gets a new driveway

A long drive to the orphanage of Home Hug Surin from Yasoton, saw us once again collaborating on a humid Thai day to bring about what the home required as part of the Hands Across the Water Social Venture Program.

A gravel driveway for the frequently used travel bus and a beautiful paved entrance to the main hall of the orphanage was on the agenda.

After a quick debrief, we easily moved to where we could all add most value, with many of the girls opting to spread the gravel that had been dumped on the drive, and the guys to move the concrete sleepers and commence spreading the sand and laying the pavers for the entrance walk.

The work was hot and sweaty and once again, our hosts paid us special care, providing cool refresher towels, plenty of water and fabulous food to keep us going.

By the late afternoon, the kids were home from school and joined us in the work that was left, loving having visitors at the orphanage and being useful amongst all their new-found foreign friends despite plenty of language barriers.

Once the work was finally finished and we were all exhausted, we enjoyed a lovely debrief and a session of thanks followed by a beautiful meal with the children, who just loved our company.

It’s been said that the ‘workman is worthy of his wage’ and our payment was more than enough in the smiles and thanks of the children we met at this lovely home.  They also showed their appreciation through traditional dance, a spot of hip hop and some songs for us – all to standing ovations..

From younger children, to intellectually impaired teenage boys, this place operates from a place of love and makes a beautiful welcoming environment for all these amazing and resilient children, who have nowhere else to call home,  It is again a testament to the amazing work of Hands Across the Water and the love and tireless work of Mae Thiew in protecting the children in her care.

Sounds sleeps and pleasant dreams were had by all.

 

Collaborating on an orphanage wall

So our day started bright and early with a 4.30 wake up and a flight from Bangkok to Ubonrachatani in the north.

Our group had been looking forward to heading to the Home Hug orphanage as the highlight of the visit.

For most who’d visited before, it was to rekindle relationships with the children and the beautiful Mae Thiew who has been looking after children for 40 years in her local community.

Many years ago, Mae Thiew was moved by the conditions of those in the hill tribes and seeing families sell their children to traffickers for money.

She sold everything and moved to the north, buying land and fiercely protecting the children who came into her care.

Times weren’t always easy and some days she needed to decide whether children needed medicine or food. Awful choices to have to make with many children dying.

Since Hands Across the Water partnered with the orphanage, no children have died.

And so we met the gorgeous children who live under the loving care and protection of Mae Thiew.

Our role at the orphanage was to paint the new wall out the front of Home hug to make it into a welcoming place, help remove the stigma associated with the children, some of whom have HIV and be a highlight for those coming to visit.

We were shown a great video of the amazing ability of art to bring together a community – watch the Ted Talk here.

We then collaborated, came up with different plans and the children chose their favourite, incorporating many ideas into what they’d like.

We eventually settled on a child weilding a ribbon to mirror the saffron colours of Mae Thiew’s robe, green for grass underneath with white handprints of those who’ve visited and blue sky above full of music, love and the bikes for the fantastic riders who every year raise so much for the work Hands do.

We learnt beautiful lessons on resilience and determination from this quiet and steel willed monk.

We drank in the smiles and relished holding hands and exploring the property with the children who taught us that acceptance, tolerance and happiness were still options despite adversity.

An amazing and moving day once again on  day 2 of our Social Venture Program…

 

“Slumming it” for a day…

It’s incredible to me how everyday cliché expressions, can take on new meanings after certain activities.

On returning from Africa last year, each time someone jokingly asked ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing?’… I knew.

And now I know what it means to truly ‘slum it.’

Our mission in the Khlong Toei slums of Bangkok, was to destroy a family home so that a new, better, more inhabitable dwelling could be built on site for a family.

We met lovely On and her son Anon who lived in the ‘home’ and I use the term loosely, it would have been condemned years ago where I come from.

The lower floor was covered in a foot of stagnant swamp water and rubbish and had been abandoned for years.  The only way to the upper lever was through a set of stairs unlike any I’ve ever had to navigate before.

On top of this, On had polio as a child and still carries a decided limp.  Her son, Anon is suffering from leukemia and is currently undergoing treatment.  Yet on each of his returns from hospital, he heads back to this home.

The family mattress was full of holes and cockroaches.  There’s no running water, sewage facilities or cooking abilities at the home.  It really wasn’t much more than a ‘roof over their head.’  The floor boards were rotten and termite eaten and full of holes.

And so we tore it down.

On and Anon are in temporary accommodation for the next six weeks whilst locals come in to build a new, entirely habitable dwelling for the family.  Raised enough so the swelling of the Chao Praya river doesn’t leave part of itself behind each time it floods.

It is this that the funds raised by the 13 people sharing this journey with me go towards.  The Duang Prateep Foundation in partnership with Hands Across the Water ensure that On has all she needs going forward.  The funds we raised cover new mattresses, cooking utensils, pots and the furniture we helped put together.

It was an epic day.  Busy, fruitful, emotional and in turn made us so grateful.  We had highs and lows, but were so proud that we were a part of this great opportunity to afford someone a better life and grateful too for our own families and the homes we get to return to.

Next stop, the orphanages of Yasoton…

Finding financial fulfilment

We’re all seeking the feeling of fulfilment; whether in our relationships, employment or financial situation.

Ask yourself:  “How will I find fulfilment?”

You probably spend most of your life working, seeking a form of happiness within your role, or if not, hoping that at least the financial rewards will be worth it.

But, if our employment doesn’t, or won’t give us what we’re looking for, what will?

I once heard a beautiful expression, “if you can’t love what you do, at least bring love to what you do.”  Is that possible for you?

To throw in another cliché – if life isn’t about “finding yourself” and it’s about “creating yourself” what can you implement to bring you closer to any kind of fulfilment?

Personally, we can set an intention to find peace with our financial situation, or create ways to change it.   Do research, learn more, start investing, be frugal, and live within our means.

We can also learn to create loving relationships with friends, family and finances, and find ways to make a difference to our fellow human beings and financial situation.

In the end, that’s what will make us feel fulfilled.

Are you a Victim of Circumstance?

Many of us feel justified in having little money or savings.

There a truckload of excuses as to how we wound up in our situation.  We got fired from our job.  We got divorced and had to part with assets.  We lost money in the stock market or via bad investments. Pretty much, something happened and the blame isn’t ours.

Chances are, it’s probably true.  But, this form of thinking keeps us comfortably in a ‘poor me’ mentality and we have our armoury of reasons to justify why our financial situation is the way it is.

It can be an easy road to continue to play the victim of past or present circumstances.  Ask yourself if you’re still identifying something in the past that you still use as a reason for your lack of money.

Nothing is likely to ever change if you stay stuck in your justifications. You will likely become more and more welcoming of ‘victim’ style thoughts and feelings.

Try and change your thinking on it’s head.  You are not a victim!  You are a survivor!  We all get our share of ups and downs in life.

The difference that separates us is the meaning we give to the circumstances that befall us and how quickly we decide to bounce back.  Try to view the change as a silver lining that can open future opportunities.  And make a conscious not to not refer to our excuses again.

Think up new ideas for how you can turn it all around and not be a ‘victim of circumstance’ but the ‘master of your own destiny.’  Become a product of your future efforts and decisions instead.

That may sound easier said than done, but the more your practice, the easier it will become.

I won a trip to the Bangkok Slums!

Well, there’s a blog title I never thought I’d write… or even be a little excited about, but as it turns out, in 9 more sleeps, I’m off to Thailand.

And as much I’d love to be sipping Mai Tai’s by the pool at a stunning resort… that’s NOT what this trip is all about.

I recently attended the Future of Leadership forum in Brisbane which has a fabulous number of brilliant speakers donating their time and resources to raise funds for the amazing charity, Hands Across the Water (aka Hands or HATW.)

One of the prizes on the day, which I was fortunate enough to take out, was a trip for the Hands “Social Venture Program.”  This 6 day program will take me from the Khlong Toei Slums in Bangkok to the community Projects and orphanages in Yasothon, Northern Thailand.

The people I’ll be meeting aren’t famous for the attention they garner, they aren’t social media stars and they don’t drop quotable quips, but they are possibly the most amazing people for the impact they have on their local communities and the lives they live.

It will be my privilege to spend time in their homes, learning and changing myself.  I feel so blessed to lead the life that I do, and cherish the moments where I can learn and grow as a human from these remarkable people who do so much, not because they want to be famous, but because they can.

We’ll be relocating a very deserving family from the slums into temporary accommodation, then demolishing their home for locals to be able to come in and build a new, habitable dwelling for the family.

Then we’re off to Northern Thailand to work with the Home Hug orphanage, be involved in the community project in Surin and make a difference however we can before returning to Bangkok.

So far, I’ve been able to raise $2,000 for this fantastic cause and I’d love if you’d like to contribute too: Donate Here

If you’d like to know more about the amazing work that Hands does in their Social Venture Program, or have your corporate or colleagues involved, you can check them out here: HATW Social Venture Program

I look forward to sharing my adventures as I go and will keep you posted on this amazing trip.

Time to get Honest with Yourself

Most of us like to think of ourselves as an honest person.

It’s a fabulous quality and one that we often admire in others, and we tend to deride those who we know don’t live up to their promises.

Yet, chances are, we lie to ourselves all the time.  Are there things you don’t like to face up to?  It could be our weight or our health?  Possibly our financial situation isn’t the most desirable or where we’d like it to be?  We may have issues in our relationships we don’t want to face, addictions to overcome and other personal battles to wage.

Are you guilty of telling yourself that things are really better than they actually are?  We all have issues we’d rather not deal with.  It often seems much easier to keep busy than to stop and face our challenges.

Unfortunately, putting things off can just delay the inevitable.  Not dealing with our financial situation now, can mean disaster down the track.  Don’t look back years away and say, ‘I wish I’d started sooner and I wouldn’t be in this mess now!’

It takes courage to look at how things really are.  Take off the rose coloured glasses.  The alternate can cost us our health, wealth, relationships and happiness.

Being aware of what needs to change is the start of any process.  Committing to start making change, not pushing it away, however unpleasant can be the first step to start hunting solutions down, or even having them appear to us.

It’s not easy to find the courage to face our fears, yet being honest with ourselves, taking responsibility for the situation and committing to turn things around can yield amazing results.

I’d love to hear what you’ve decided to ‘fess up to, tackle and change in your life and how it turned out for you.