Christmas is the celebration of love and charity. And today, for many people, the celebration of gifts … Some rush through the city in the last few days before Christmas to do some last-ditch shopping.
Instead of a gift I would like to share the story of Surapat and me, because I am not only the founder and chairman of Thai Care (RTF’s close partner from Germany), but also a foster mum for two children from Thailand.
Surapat was taken into the project after his father had died in a traffic accident shortly before. The family was/is very poor, the mother does not only take care of Surapat, but also of the handicapped uncle of my foster child and also looks after the grandmother.
In 2010 we started with our foster program. We took in children whose families had hardly anything for a living. Above all, they have too little to afford to send their children to school. In order to really find those who need help most, the villagers decide together whose children and their parents need the most urgent additional support. So Surapat came to our Mae La Noi foster program after the death of his father, the family’s main earner. At the first meeting with me and the foster children in the house of the mentor Suda, I was very excited and looked everywhere if I recognized Surapat somewhere. I only knew him from a photo until then and was really pleased to finally get to know him. But then I was told that he was ill and would not be there today. I was disappointed …. but I thought better it hits me as one of the other new foster parents. So at least I can hand out the presents to the other children and take pictures so that the foster parents receive their first letters at home. Fortunately, Suda does not live so far from Surapat, so after the meeting we drove to the hut of Surapat’s family together. They have a simple, but beautiful and stable wooden hut on stilts, as it is common in the mountains. Unfortunately, we did not find any pigs or chickens, because that would mean that you have “made it” and could handle your own life. Under their house stood a hammered object, a wheel fastened to a branch with crossbar. “My dad made it for me, I want to become a pilot” … ugh! ‘You’ll never become a pilot you poor little boy,’ I thought at that time. But pity was actually out of place, Surapat beamed with joy all the time during our visit and he is a happy, carefree, little boy. At first it was difficult to get in touch with him … very clearly, he had never seen a blonde woman of 1.86 meters in his life, who sits on the floor with him at his home and stared at him all the time! A very uncomfortable situation. So I started to play Memory with him, that’s what I brought him. After some time, the first card flew through the slots of the floor – I looked at him and laughed, but really I was not warm with him, he has not even looked at me out of timidity. But then, suddenly he grabbed my arm and said something to me, which of course I did not understand. It has been translated to me that I should be careful because there was a bug crawling that bites and then it would hurt. And then he laughed at me: we had broken the ice ☺
When I got back to Chiang Mai, I bought a tricycle and asked the staff of the Raintree Foundation to hand over the bike to Surapat as soon as they get back to the area.
In the winter I got a funny drawing sent by him. I do not know what exactly he wanted to draw, but I was very happy about it.
The following year, I visited him again. It was much more relaxed, he had become a curious little funny boy. We even sat together on a bench and he looked at me directly, that would have been unthinkable a year ago. We met with all the other foster children in the Suda’s house and handed over the gifts from the foster parents. Surapat was happy, laughed a lot, and had done well the day. Later I asked him if he had a special wish and that I would like to give him something. He said he had no special wish, but it would be great if I could look after his wheels, somehow his bike would’t work. ‘Cute’ I thought, he could have something but do not want anything new! Through my profession as a teacher, I then automatically draw comparisons, such an answer would have been unthinkable in Germany. “No no, I do not need anything new, the old one is good enough, it does not work 100% anymore, but maybe you can check it out later!” Ha, definitely not like a kid here in Germany, if it could wish for whatever it wanted.
In order to look after the bicycle, we drove to Surapat’s home after the meeting. There, the mother told us that the bike was not broken at all, but she would always let the air out of the tires, because Surapat would drive across the mountains to the other side of the village … and she would just be afraid for him, I imagined him pedaling and disappearing like the wind out of sight of his mother …. what should he do, he wants to be as fast as a pilot!
The next year, I visited Surapat at his school. Like every year in summer and winter, the children write a letter to their foster parents and draw a picture for them. Surapat had not prepared a picture for me that year. I did not mind. But Suda told him that it is not ok.
‘If he does not feel like it, he shouldn’t have to draw a picture for me’, I thought. I had the chance to meet him in person, therefore the picture was not necessary. Of course, the fact that the other foster parents are happy about a drawing is something completely different. And by the way: The other kids love to draw! But my Surapat is just a little rebel … and he is allowed to be one. You do not always have to do what others want you to do, I understand Surapat well. I’m the same. Nevertheless, he drew something for me. He drew a dinosaur from the outer wall of the school. Freehand. And it was great! I was really excited how well he could draw … hahaha, if he just wants to!
But in the following years the desire to draw apparently never really showed up…. therefore every year I am amused about his doodles, while other foster parents get true masterpieces. There are more important things in life than wanting to draw. Much more important is that he is well, that he has enough to eat regularly and enjoys going to school. And that he asks me over and over, when I will come back to visit him again. He writes me that he misses me and that is much better than a painted piece of art ☺
I am glad that I have Surapat as a foster child. For 8 years I have been accompanied by the little one, who is not that small anymore. And I accompany him. He knows that I will help him and be there for him whenever he needs me. And he knows he can go to school because there is somebody at the other end of the world who makes that possible. Simply because not everyone has equal luck in life. And I want to give back a bit of my happiness and thankful life.
I have not been able to visit Surapat for 5 years now, so I am of course much more pleased with his letters. I am happy to receive his stories of what he wants to become, how he helps his mother at home, how he celebrates Mother’s Day, how he would help the poor and homeless if he were king.
Once he wrote that his favorite animal is a parrot. When his father was still alive, he had a parrot, which Surapet fed with rice and bananas every day and who could also say his name and a few other words. When his father died, the parrot died too and that made him very sad. And I this time I did not get a doodle picture, but a wonderful picture of the parrot he misses. I bet Surapat worked very hard on that painting, perhaps because the parrot reminds him of his father. I do not know, but it touched me a lot.
In September 2017, he wrote how he would change the world if it was in his power. “I would change the world full of green nature, full of trees, flowers and beautiful colors. The people would be full of love, living in a community and helping each other. I would fill the world with peace, change the world without selfish people. ”
This cute little tricycle-driving rebel has become a wonderful boy. With an attitude I wish many adults had. I hope that I can accompany Surapat for a while before he is big enough to be able to stand on his own feet. By then he should enjoy his childhood and not have to worry. And therefore I am his foster mum. A sponsorship is something wonderful. You do not just give, you get back a lot.
I wish you a Merry Christmas!