The new covid19 directed way of finishing well
Hello all. As you should be able to see from the previous blogs, we as a charity felt it was right to wind up our ministry of 1Step2Step and thought 2020 was going to be the year of finishing well and spending our funds on big projects. Alas, that didn’t work out, so we started on the adapted plan of how to finish in the best way we could, using those funds we still had to make the biggest legacy and impact possible.
This blog aims to show you what we have done and have been working on since September 2020 when we were looking rather dormant. We have been working hard behind the scenes researching and resourcing how the funds we were blessed with could still be a blessing.
We formulated a list of things we hoped we could buy, do and create which would leave a lasting impact. Some were dreams of the past which didn’t get completed, like murals for the isolating rooms in the sick ward to help brighten the hopes of children who were contagious. This had been something I had tried to start, but didn’t manage to do. Well now it’s a reality. I had some old curtain liners from Mum’s house and a huge piece of cardboard. I stretched the liners over the cardboard, primed and then painted a Winnie-the-Pooh themed design on the two big pieces. One was a daytime and one was a night scene. It was nice to be creative for the good of the orphanage. I made one smaller one too to be sent over with them.
Some of you may remember from earlier posts about Miss ND, a little girl in the community who was starting to walk and going to school after her disability limited her opportunities. Well, the third small painting was for her, because her dad was going to help me with an aspect of this project. Once the paintings were complete, I took them off the cardboard and rolled in them into a long box. This was then posted to Miss ND’s dad who put a wooden frame on the backs of each one for me. He then also delivered them to the orphanage for us. So, we used a bit of the funds to bless their family too, instead of paying some stranger to mount them for us, without being sure it was done right. He did a great job and Miss ND got her smaller one to have at home. These were put up on the wall to help brighten the days of those who are sick and in this side room.
Another now completed project is that of helping the orphanage keep on top of when medication is running out or about to go out of date. This has been a struggle that I helped with outside of my 1Step2Step role. I used donations of funds from other sources to fill the gaps when the supply had run out and the children needed nebulizers or medication for Miss A that the hospitals rarely stocked. Knowing these difficulties were going to continue with the system they had in place, we have been able to upgrade their system to prevent this happening. We bought the orphanage a second-hand but refurbished computer from a kind contact of mine who had volunteered many times on trips with the children and had created electronic resources in the past (like extra-long and extra-safe extension cables for the suction machine or electric wheelchair charging stations). Nurse T then sourced a company that could create a new database to be installed so that the efficiency of the system could be maintained. This has been a big help in preventing children having to go without the medication they need. Nurse T was even able to get the database installed remotely, so no additional outsiders came into the nursing station.
The orphanage has done amazingly to keep all the children and staff well and to prevent Covid19 from entering the home. One concern they had was that if the children did get sick, 5 of the 11 oxygen machines were not working. This need became a practical opportunity to leave a legacy. Nurse T contacted a company to take those machines and see which could be fixed and which would need to be replaced. We were blessed with the great news that with various solutions all could be fixed at reasonable prices. We were able to get all the Bann Feung Fah orphanage oxygen machines working and available for use. We pray that this will mean that any child in need of oxygen therapy will be able to have it available for a long time to come.
The nurses and nursing assistants daily check all children on all wards for wounds that need treating, from pressure sores on the non-mobile children to bumps and bashes on the lively active children and everything in between. They go from ward to ward treating these skin conditions, wounds and sores with sterile wound case kits. They go to the sick ward treatment room for wounds that need stitches etc. A few years back, I helped to find an autoclave for sterilizing the tools for those kits. It needed to be a fast, industrial model, because of the intense needs for these kits. In talking with the nurse, we realised that buying a whole set of these tools would mean more rotation of the tools, so they would always have sets ready when the need arose and waiting for the autoclave would be a thing of the past. Spending some of the funds on this has helped to make possible greater infection control in wound care.
It has been our policy as a charity to provide funds for funerals when one of our children has passed away as we feel they are our family. In the light of our charity concluding its ministry, but some of our children still being in the homes, we have been working with the four homes to leave a fund for each child for when they need a funeral. This is an on-going conversation with some of the orphanages, but most have now put those funds safe for those that need to be covered.
In my years in Thailand, I made contacts who worked in similar fields of work, with whom we shared ideas and thoughts. Nicole was one of these who helped create Mr S’s communications board amongst other things. We would communicate over Facebook about the hard days and the joys and confer over the best ways to do different things for the good of the children we worked with. She was based in Chiang Mai and was mainly focused on communication skills with various methods to try. Her work in Chiang Mai has won her the favour of many high-profile people, including one of the Royal Family.
In some of the work she does with families, it’s helping families keep their severely disabled children at home, which is something that always warms my heart. This is why we have felt it a good use of some of our funds to help Nicole and her team’s work. There are four ways we are connecting with Nicole’s work. Firstly, giving them a fund for families with children in need of milk formula and nappies, so that the children can be managed at home and kept well more easily. The second is helping Nicole and her team start a pilot scheme with eight families to provide them support and resources to help them stimulate their children’s learning and development. This will involve monthly visits and then weekly online contact with a team of professionals. They will use a pack of stimulation resources and story books to be read with those tools to bring about greater skills in the child. We are blessed that Nicole and team are willing to add the Bann Feung Fah teachers into this project, sending them the packs and a video series like the parents get. They can watch them in a teachers’ staff meeting and then implement the material with their group of children. This will help the staff improve their understanding of how to relate to the children and get more out of their story telling times.
Nicole is self-funded to live out in Thailand. Her work aligns with the objectives of 1Step2Step and she is offering support for the Bann Feung Fah teachers, so we are going to support her general needs for six months. We hope this will relieve that concern for a time and help her know how much we value what she is doing to help isolated families keep their children at home and help them develop. We believe that the more of this she and her team can do in improving the situation for families, the more it will be acclaimed and shape the thinking of society regarding these children, who are much like those in whom we just spent 14 years investing. As I said before, the project is planned to be a pilot scheme that gets rolled out to many more families in the future, which in turn will hopefully build up a network of supported and advocating families to help society as a whole. We hope that especially the education and medical profession take notice across Thailand.
Finally, through Nicole’s contacts, we have been able to pay for membership for the Bann Feung Fah teachers to join the Special Needs Teachers’ Association, so they can access learning resources and training, as well as having access to communicate with the trainers when they are struggling with a child. Originally the hope was to bring Nicole and some of the trainers to Bann Feung Fah for a one-off seminar, but due to the spike in covid cases, Bann Feung Fah managers were anxious about visitors coming into the orphanage. This alternative solution brings even better impact and resources into the hands of the teachers and provides lasting access for a whole year. This really does feel like God adapting the plans for the greater good. I’m glad to have this connection to Nicole and her wealth of knowledge within Thailand, as we can’t be there with Bann Feung Fah staff to push towards more progress. We leave it in God’s hands and pray that all the contacts and resources we are investing in now can have an impact.
Other projects in the pipeline include the sending of a further pile of the small adult nappies to help those bigger children who are more comfortable in nappies that retain more. We have had some donated and bought some where the original intended users had grown out of them. It always feels good that we are stopping things going to landfill without being used first. I know re-useable nappies may be better for the environment, but when we have brought those in in the past they were not used and now we are not there, it would be even harder to get them accepted.
We were blessed as a charity with £5000 left to us from my Mum, Sally Anderson’s will and we feel strongly that this should be used for a special project. In talks with Nurse T, one of the things she wondered about which seemed like a wild dream, was providing feeding pumps like those she had seen used on the study tours in the UK. A local doctor, who had been to assess some of the children who were failing to thrive, said to her that the difficulty is that they have such small and sensitive stomachs, they can’t manage the quantity of milk that is needed at the speed it is administered with the Bolus style of feeding (when you have the tube attached to a raised bag and the milk goes into the body using gravity). In their conversation, feeding pumps were the best solution to this, but neither knew how the orphanage would find these pumps that are not used as standard in Thailand as they are in the UK, or manage to pay for them if found.
We have been researching and connecting with people continuously over the last two months about this. Finding appropriate companies in Thailand was challenging. The ones who supplied the milk formula didn’t import the pumps and feeding bags, even though they took a leading role in the UK. The need had never been there, so they had never done it. We called many Thai and UK contacts about this. In the UK, the pumps are standardized and are government funded. This means that when they are issued to families, they are to be given back after no longer being needed, meaning that very few are sold second hand. The companies that make them sell them privately, so we struggled to find companies that sold them to the general public. We investigated places like America, where families do buy their own equipment, but sadly the voltage in Thailand is different to the USA. In the end, Nicole provided wise advice as she had been doing this research a few months ahead of us. She had also seen a pump on a stroller in Thailand on a child’s chair and taken down the brand and investigated it.
This is the company we are presently taking to. One main reason for this is because the feeding bags and lines you need to connect the milk to the pump and the pump to the child don’t need to be specialist brands that are hard to find. For this pump, you can use supplies that Bann Feung Fah can access and which do not need a further big budget. This pump is also available in Thailand and the company will service and maintain them for two years and then fix them after that for a manageable fee. This is looking hopeful, but there are still some stages to go through to make this hope a reality. This use of the special funds from Mum’s will is fitting, as the feeding of the children and their tiny frames was always something that bothered her. Her favourite child, whom she supported on the first holiday, Mr S, often struggled with feeding and ended up being tube fed. She longed for Thailand to catch up on this aspect of care and now with her funds we hope it might be possible within Bann Feung Fah and maybe become the norm in the future as medical staff see the benefits. It was Mum’s wish that these funds make the biggest possible difference. In her honour, we will put a little plaque on each one we get, so that it’s known these pumps were provided because of her.
There are a few other things that we are working on, but since December we have been working to allocate the funds. As things have been bought and completed, we have met to review and discuss what is possible next and how successful each thing is going to be. We originally budgeted 80,000 Baht for the oxygen machines, thinking some would be unfixable and replacements costly, but that project was under 14,000 Baht, which meant the next review meeting could discuss more possibilities. I had no idea how much a feeding pump would be and was struggling to find out, so I could know whether our hopes were realistic. This week I heard news that they are affordable.
One of the challenges is the different time zones between countries. Thailand has its morning when I am sound asleep and then when I wake and ask Nurse T to find out some information, she makes calls, but then they get back to her the next day and so it goes on.
I have found it such a blessing to be working with Nurse T, whose English has made things so much easier, and with her desire to make all these things happen. I’m also thankful for Khun P, who has made possible aspects that needed senior management approval and for her help with matters relating to teachers.
The hope of the charity is to conclude all the spending by the end of February 2021. We are cutting it tight, but we are heading to around then. No aspect of this has been straightforward, but when is anything that is innovative or forward thinking? To strive for hopes that have not previously been realised always takes work to forge new paths. Adding in the extra factors of time zones, cultural differences and varying standards of doing things from different countries and you have a challenging mission. Thankfully all our work prior to this date, our great relationships formed over the long term and the 1Step2Step methods of building on success after success, I’m pleased to say we have been blessed with ways to use the funds well and set the orphanage off into the future.