Day 5 at Bann Fueng Fah orphanage

Time to record progress

That’s another “working week” completed at the orphanage for Nicola and 5 days experiencing what goes on in this corner of this needy world for me.

We’re all tired now, so after a quick, short sleep, it was a trip up to the Major market for takeaways and a quick shop at 7-eleven for breakfast supplies for me, before returning home to rest. My choice this evening was king prawn noodles, a fruit smoothie and papaya. And very tasty it was too. I think the Thai stall in Lancaster market and the Thai restaurants in Lancaster and Morecambe will see me as a regular customer when I get home!

So now it’s time for me to reflect on my week. How it’s flown.

Love and play combined

I’m surprised how tiring it has been for me and frustrated that my physical limitations have prevented me from being as helpful as I would have liked to have been. In addition to my mobility issues, I have been more deaf than usual since I got off the flight from Hong Kong. So Nicola would have every reason to be fed up with having to repeat herself: “John would you. ……” but she has seemed very patient and understanding. For me it’s been a case of ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. This work really is one for young people but it’s probably been a good workout for me. I haven’t sat on the floor so much for 30 years which means I haven’t got up and down from the floor so much either.

Playing together

But if the “volunteer” hat hasn’t fitted me so well as I had hoped, it has been an extremely invaluable experience for me as a 1Step2Step trustee. It has corrected several preconceptions and given me insights into our goals and achievements that no amount of words, pictures and videos could have provided. Most of those insights will, I hope, inform my contributions at Trustee and Committee meetings back in the UK.

Play session

In previous posts, l have said that Nicola works with 6 children but today, being a Friday, there were 8 children arranged in a continually changing pattern around the TV which was showing a selection of dvds. Two children who usually stay on the Ward were added to Nicola’s group. Like all her children, they receive her loving attention and care – ensuring they sit or lie in the correct position/posture, are changed if necessary, and any medical dressings changed or applied. I’ve noticed how many of these are needed so thanks must go to 1Step2Step supporters who have sent these out. You know who you are.

The children have a very wide range of abilities and physical and mental challenges. Their health varies and requires continuous monitoring. First job in every sesssion is getting the toys, medical box, “dirties” box, clothes, shoes, nappies, dribble towels, mats, wedges, cushions and any other equipmement from the cupboard that might be required; and putting the fitted sheets on the mats. Then bringing the children out from the Ward, one by one (unless the rascally Mr B decides he can come out of turn) changing and dressing them.

Two of them, Mr S and Mr C, are fed by nasal tubes directly into their stomach. Sometimes Nicola deals with that. Sometimes she feeds solids to some of the other children, one at a time: a time consuming activity. But like all Nicola’s activities, that involves concentrating on good positioning and posture, in an extremely loving way.

The sessions “usually” consist of playing with the children individually or in pairs, with the aim of developing their potential in a fun way. The children who are not the current focus are left to play by themselves with favourite toys in reach, and (do I need to repeat it?) in good position /posture, wherever possible.

Mr B might be taken for a walk and today Mr S played skittles with his electric wheelchair.

At the end of the day, everything has to be put away, the “dirties” box emptied, used clothes, sheets and towels taken for washing, and the strollers (push chairs for those of you reading this in the UK),  walkers and chairs etc re-aligned tidily.

Re-reading that, I can see why we are all tired. But that tiredness is accompanied by a warm feeling. I have grown to love each of these children in just 5 days, because Nicola has shown me how, by example, ably aided this week by Sally. My thanks to them and to God, whose inspiration it was and is.

John Slee.