Ray of sunshine
PHUKET: The island of Koh Sirae, in Tambon Rassada east of Phuket Town, was badly hit by the 2004 tsunami.
Monday 23 April 2012, 02:23PM
Years later, some orphan survivors of that natural disaster and other underprivileged children are now able to live a comfortable and normal life in the Phuket Sunshine Village, initially with funding from the Lions Club of Phuket Andaman Sea and French Red Cross.
More than 120 orphans and other disadvantaged children, aged from under one to 16 years old, from Phuket and surrounding provinces, now live in good care in 12 houses in this sunny village, run by the Phuket Sunshine Village Foundation, formed in 2005.
The village is largely funded privately by donations from the Lions Club of Phuket Andaman Sea and other Lions Clubs around the world, especially from Germany.
Most of the children were helped to come to the village by the organisation Childwatch Phuket, which assessed that the parents of some of the children were no longer able to care for them. The village is at full capacity now.
Young boys and girls live together in bright, clean accommodation and sleep on bunk beds in dormitory rooms in the houses, under the constant care of live-in house mothers. Adolescent boys and girls live in separate houses and all the children eat together in a big covered outdoor canteen.
There is a big playground in the middle of the village, and more land has just been acquired next door for a sports playground for older kids. The village’s small library has computers for children to use.
Conveniently a local area school is just five-minutes walk away, and the children troop along there each morning. Some older ones now go to vocational college. Plans are being made to help the children study further or join the workforce as they graduate from high school.
On our visit, one of the Foundation directors, Tom Gottchalk, from Germany, who also runs a wedding business, walks through the village with a tiny resident no taller than his knees. His mind is very much on the need for the foundation to raise the five million baht it costs to run the village each year.
He says as the foundation is entirely privately-run with very little help from the provincial government, donations are crucial to keep the village going.
“We try to make the living arrangement as close as possible to an ordinary family home with children of different ages and the house mothers,” says Mr Gottchalk.
The children have a full life, playing games and attending English classes after a long day at school.
At the weekend, many go sailing, learn archery and go on group excursions.
By his side is Peter Davies, an English teacher who last August moved here from Chiang Mai to teach some 60 children at the home. He says that the children are keen to come to the English lessons he provides at the Phuket Sunshine Village in the new English programme.
The students understand more now and are starting to converse in this new language.
Donations can be made online at phuketsunshinevillage.org. Contact 076-252-204 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Visits to the village can be made by appointment.