Baan San Fan Christian Orphanage Thailand
Baan San Fan
Baan San Fan Orphanage was founded in 2005 in response to the needs of some of those left without parents after the 2004 tsunami which devastatingly hit the local area of Phang Nga.
Sam and Gai initially responded to the crisis by setting up a tent and helping out as best they could, they were well versed in looking after children, having both spent their lives working in orphanages in Bangkok....which is where they met and fell in love.
A Swiss benefactor was so inspired by their efforts and wanted to help out so he bought a parcel of land in a local village wherein they could set up the orphanage as it stands today.
The orphanage has now embraced an organic lifestyle and produces much of its own food including exotic fruits, chickens, fish and many vegetables.
The original group of children have now mostly grown up and have gone on to live their lives thankful for the love, care, education and security that Baan San Fan afforded them when the situation might so easily have been very different.
In a country which is predominantly Buddhist it seems unusual to find Christians but Sam and Gai are both committed to their faith and, in fact, draw great strength from it too. Without any outside support or funding for the orphanage it is a mercy for them that they have their faith to keep them going when things are tough.
Gai told me that no matter what problems she faces, she always find comfort or answers by looking to her bible.
Now that most of the original group of orphans have grown up and left, the orphanage has taken on some children who would otherwise have fallen victim to poverty, prostitution or the drug industry.
I've been here for a few weeks, sharing meals, outings, play, chores and worship (although I'm not a Christian) with the extended family....and it really feels like an extended family.
Many of my friends were horrified that I would choose to spend part of my vacation at an orphanage, I could see the awful images that they were imagining in their mind's eye. Yet, the truth is that this is a pretty awesome place to be and the children are all incredibly happy.
If you've never been to Thailand perhaps you won't know how friendly and smiling the people are and these children are no exception!
Home Made Soaps
All of the children are involved with daily chores and also help out raising money to keep the orphanage open. For example:
They make their own beautiful organic soaps, which come in a gorgeous home-made presentation box. The different soaps are lemongrass, coconut, coffee, bamboo & charcoal and mangosteen. They also make their own organic coconut oil and make beach or tote bags from recycled plastic sacks. All of these items can be found for sale on their Etsy store page at http://www.etsy.com/shop/BaanSanFan
Current Chicken House
Having been awarded their organic certification from the Thai Government another way the orphanage keeps itself running is by the sale of organic eggs. Although the markets and supermarkets of Bangkok are about 500 miles away, Gai regularly boards the bus taking her wares to sell.
The sale of their organic eggs has been steadily increasing as they become more well known. Now they have had an offer from a large Thai supermarket that is interested in an order of 5,000 organic eggs a day!
Unfortunately, Gai and Sam don't currently have the necessary resources to fund the building of a big enough chicken shed to house enough chickens for this size of order. Currently, they only have about 800 egg laying chickens.
In the time that I have spent here I have been encouraging people to buy vast amounts of their rather excellent home-made products and I've written to various aid agencies and charities asking for some help or advice or guidance.....but nothing has materialised yet.
I'm very proud of the way they strive to help themselves rather than just getting caught up in being victims and I'm inspired by the strength they draw from each other and, of course, from their strong faith.
Every Sunday the girls' house is transformed into a church as they hold their service. Sam told me that they don't like to leave the place empty because things go missing and so rather than travelling to a Christian church they make their own one.
I joined in, out of curiosity, to see what that was like. Sam confessed to me that he couldn't play the guitar and so the songs of praise they sing are all found on Youtube....strange to think that it fulfills such a wonderful service to those in need!
The children all joined in very enthusiastically with the songs and despite most of the songs being in English everyone seemed to know the words! I still have some of the songs going round in my head today!
Day Out At The Beach
Even the communion was managed with some biscuits and some juice. You certainly don't need to have a special physical location for your worship when the real beauty, faith and love are so strong in your own heart......at least that's what I took away from the experience.
Although I didn't understand any of what was being said I was given an English version of the bible so that I could read the same passage that the others were reading.
Homestays like this are a great way to see Thai life as it really is, I've been on many walks around the local area and have never felt more welcome and popular, everyone waves and shouts hello at you....and I have to explain so many times that I'm just out for a walk and I don't need to have a lift anywhere...but it is always nice to be looked after and asked.
If you are coming to Thailand or are looking for a holiday with a difference then look them up, or you can always just stop by for the day and say hello.
If you are interested in helping the orphanage achieve financial stability via the organic chicken egg project you can donate or set up an event at http://baansanfan.causevox.com/