The bigger picture
This blog post is unlike many previous blog posts. This one really is not about what 1Step2Step has been doing in either Thailand or the UK. It is more of a macro view of the progress being made, the steps forward for people with disabilities within the systems that affect them and the hope for future generations that their difficulties cause them less isolation from society.
This blog may mention some aspects of what I do here of which you were unaware. Let’s say I have a few hats here in Thailand. Obviously 1Step2Step is my main hat and I work for the charity as a sponsored volunteer under the government orphanages foundation, but I’ve another hat too. For me, this side role has the same aims as 1Step2Step, but uses different means to meet it, and it came about because an opportunity arose years back that could not be ignored.
This role involves assisting a foundation here with the distribution of funds to the four orphanages in the local area and helping them choose what to spend it on, so it can make a great difference to the young people in their care. Well this year I’m pleased to hear how two of the homes have chosen to spend their share of the funds. Firstly, the older girls’ home: in past years they have taken the able walking girls on holiday for an overnight camp. This year, because of the funds, that group will be larger and they will also have a second trip going of physically disabled girls. Those with cerebral palsy, who use wheelchairs, have never been able to go on this before. Seventy walking girls will have a three-day-two-night break away from the orphanage, do fun activities and make memories. Then thirty girls with cerebral palsy will have a two-day-one-night away after this. Freedom from the ward and seeing so much will be a joy for them.
For me, this is a massive step in understanding that I’m seeing. These are girls I’ve cared for in the past, who literally have been youngsters on my ward and then became too old for the baby home. I hold them in very high regard, but their disabilities have always limited them by the expectations of others for them just to have a life in a bed, waiting for food and changing. Now it has been considered that they too might enjoy the adventure of seeing the world outside their wards. My heart is bursting for this opportunity for them.
Now, if you know me well, you would know that just that news in one day would make me so happy, but there was more great news in the same day with regards to this orphanage. Previously, they had a small physio room and so often when we donated the equipment from the shipments in the containers from the UK, you could see them thinking about how they would store it. Then that particular physio block started to have structural issues in its foundations and so was only used minimally, while the staff tried their best to do physio outside.
I hear that not only are they getting a bigger and better physiotherapy building, they are also getting a swimming pool. Now let me clarify that. People think of pools as luxury leisure facilities, but this is not the case here.
This will be used for therapy for those with tight muscles and training of the girls in swimming skills which could give them the chance to compete.
These are really big deals for the quality of life for the girls – the space for more to receive therapy and the chance to move and stretch in water. Both these and the holiday give them the chance to make memories and be stimulated and potentially improve in strength and wellbeing.
I hear you wondering, “Well, that sounds nice for the older girls, but what about the boys?” The boys’ home has not yet told me what they plan to spend their money on, but I’m hopeful.
There is a third home for the older young people with disabilities within the Thai system and that is a mixed home (boys and girls) which is for those with only physical disabilities. On the same day, this home also told me of its plans for the funds for which I am the administrator. This also made me happy, as I heard it was going to spend it on thirty wheelchairs.
They explained that as children transitioned over from the babies’ home to them, they were not always able to be sent with a wheelchair. (Our home does not have enough for each child, because those we did have were sent with the children growing up, but there were never enough.) So they planned to buy these thirty wheelchairs, quite a lot of which would be the smallest size made here, so when the younger children transitioned over, there will be a chair they could be using straight away. Ok, so that number of chairs is not as impressive as the number of children going on camp at the girls’ home, but it’s great to see forward planning. This, in my experience, is not really the Thai way, so it pleased my heart to think of those nervous souls leaving their baby home to arrive to a new home and new chair.
Then the head physio told me news of another project that their students were benefiting from which filled me with pure joy.
Fourteen children have been given iPads as communication aids. They are able to type and the machine speaks their thoughts out to those waiting to listen. Frustration caused by not being heard is one of the biggest challenges the young people have within these institutions. It’s one thing to have people not listen when you speak, but it’s another when you don’t even have the means to be understood. I pray that this project takes off and that more and more young people get the chance of communication. Then the next step would be to make communication possible for those who can’t understand and type the written word.
Then I hear in an email from an agency for adoptions and from a worker at my orphanage that the process for adoptions seems to have improved.
Four children from our home were in adoption processes and the bosses of the Thai systems for adoption and children’s services have started a new push for children to either be reunited with their families or for their background paper work to be done to move them through the system quicker and on to adoption lists. This is huge and could mean that a further seventy children will have paperwork ready making them eligible to be matched with a forever family.
Please join me in praying that these policy changes will have an impact on the institutions to bring the numbers down. Also pray for the impact on Thai society as more children with disabilities are in the community, that society will become more open to them, and subsequently less children are abandoned because families feel more accepted with the child in the community.
Please pray for all these great and wonderful new opportunities to have a lasting and deep impact, so that more and more children can be considered valuable and able to receive these chances and services. Please pray for those overseeing these things, that their hearts would be warmed by the successes and joys they bring, and that would spur them on to make it so for more and more.
I have found that hearing about the wonderful opportunities staff are seeking for the children gives me hope. I don’t feel I’ve influenced many of these cases, but if seeing children sat well in wheelchairs that fit, or on holidays that bring smiles, or children reacting to being communicated with has had a knock-on effect, I will continue to push for these chances.
I hope this non-1Step2Step blog on the 1Step2Step website has not been confusing at all. I wanted to share that my hopes have been encouraged recently by the pro-active actions of staff around the area with regards to the young people and children within the orphanage systems.
Thank you all for your encouragement. Please do stand with us in prayer for the macro and the micro scenarios we see happening here.