“I recently offered to support a child through UK Care 4 Thailand. You never really get an opportunity to see the family you are supporting. It is normally a case of pay your monthly contribution and just hope the money is being well spent. However, I had the opportunity to fly out, meet my sponsor child and his family, and see exactly how helpful my money would be.
Accompanied by two members of staff from Tonkla (The Thai organisation working with local village community leaders in finding support for those children/ families most in need), I made my way towards a large, dilapidated hut, which clearly was in a poor state of repair. On the porch was an elderly lady, who was my sponsor child’s grandmother; she was in poor health, weak and unstable on her feet. I had bought lots of shopping for the family, which she was extremely grateful for.
My sponsor child then came running out of the hut and greeted us all with a smile and a Thai ‘wai’ (wave). His nickname was ‘Atit’ and his grandmother explained that most of his time was spent looking after his grandfather who was bedbound and paralysed on his left side due to a series of heart attacks and strokes. Atit attended to his toileting needs; massaged his limbs in order to keep the blood flowing and avoiding them seizing up; helped to feed him as well as washing and dressing him. It was incredible to think that Atit was only 8 years old – yet he was a full time carer for his grandfather when not at school.
The grandmother explained that Atit’s father worked as a farm labourer and was rarely home during the rice season. Off season, he struggled to find regular work ut would do what he could to try and bring in the minimum wage of 300 Baht (£7.50) each day he could find work. I have no idea where Atit’s mother was. I felt it was rude to ask. The Tonkla staff later informed me she had left the household when he was a baby and never returned. There was very little regular money coming into the family and they lived off a diet of bamboo soup. I learnt that my monthly contribution would help to buy new school uniform, additional food and other essentials to help make life just a little better for the family.
I asked Atit what one thing in the world would he like. His response was immediate – “a bike”. I asked him why? He told me he had to walk 2km a day to get to school. A bike would help to get him their quicker. He told me most of his friends had bikes, but his family were poor and he knew it was something he could never have.
I clearly got caught up with the moment. I chatted to the Tonkla staff and said I would like to buy him a bike and they thought it would be an excellent idea that would provide maximal impact. They suggested we take my sponsor child to the local town and buy him one there. We explained this to my sponsor child and his face lit up with happiness and disbelief.
One hour later, we arrived at a huge Tesco Lotus store. As we approached the automated doors, Atit stopped and stared. The Tonkla staff explained he had never been to the town before and going to a large store was a new experience for him. It also took him a while to get on the escalator, as he was mystified where the steps disappeared to at the top. We ate lunch at the store and he experienced his first ever ‘eat what you like’ buffet. I’ve never seen a child eat so much. He also filled a bag up of food to take back for his grandparents to enjoy.
At the bike shop, he tried and tested various bikes and settled on a bright red one.