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Forward from catastrophe

Barnhem has become a community cornerstone.

charityculture
By Shayan Amin

Friday 13 May 2016, 03:53PM


Children at Barnhem now have a structured playground.

Children at Barnhem now have a structured playground.

Barnhem Muang Mai has come a long way from its initial purpose of an orphanage and shelter for children and families affected by the 2004 tsunami. They’ve become a cornerstone, regularly contacted by local teachers and family members of children who either do not have a parent, or otherwise need a place to be cared for. Susanne and Hans Janson and Khun Wow currently care for 31 children between the ages of five and 17. A lot of thought is gone into the care of these children, even before taking them in. 

“If we believe we can help the child, and that the child will be better off, then we take them,” explained Hans. They conduct home visits and do as much research as they can to find relatives
who could possibly take the child in, making sure that Barnhem is only a last resort for children.
Built six weeks after the 2004 tsunami, the basic facilities were sufficient for the needs at the time, but the hasty construction was not built to last.

The last time The Phuket News followed up with Barnhem, they were looking to build new dormitories. They have completed those, as well as a large roof and a concrete floor for the children’s playground, and have now moved on to refurbishing the older buildings to ensure their safety and structural soundness. This can be attributed to the fundraising done by the Barnhem refurbishment Project, launched in 2014. Barrie Buck, one of the co-founders of the project, explained: “There was a lot of stagnant water. That allowed a lot of mosquito larvae to grow; the waste water wouldn’t go, which attracted vermin, then snakes. A friend in construction
looked at it and said it was a danger, especially to the children.”

It was with this friend, John, after talking about it overnight, that they formed their plan to rebuild the compound with the children’s safety in mind, and they broke ground last November. Their initial plan was to ask for material donations: cement, bricks, labour hours and so on, but these were not sufficient to cut into the total costs of over B14 million.

Luckily, The Alba Care Foundation reached out to Barnhem and made a massive donation, and this, together with major donations from Paresa, Happy Child Foundation, The Sam and Ruby Charity, Odd Fellow and Lars and Helena Tenerz, raised enough funding to build the new dormitories, and to continue the improvements on the compound. The refurbishment of the older dormitories, where they are improving the structural soundness of the buildings as well as sanitation and electrical wiring and similar repairs in the dining room and kitchen, are expected to be completed by September this year. They will have a total of 16 rooms for the children, and each room is built to acommodate up to three children. For the Jansons, it is important for the children to have a sense of family, and especially maintain their identities as Thai children. The facilities are planned with that in mind, focused on providing cleanliness, sanitation and basic safety, making it possible for the children to develop a sense of belonging and familial ties with one another. 

There is no formula for getting this right, but with one of their former students studying multimedia at Mae Fah Luang University and their eldest also on his way to getting to university, it’s safe to say that Barnhem has more than exceeded their own expectations from when they first started. With 10 full-time staff and a rotation of volunteers, Barnhem also allows for corporate social responsibility activities from companies such as Siam Guardian Services, Paresa Resort, Dewa Resort, Twinpalms and Gecko Community School. A Swedish man, Calle Wollgard who has biked from Sweden to Phuket with four companions to raise money for Barnhem, will be conducting a second bike trip around the world for the same reason; work done at Barnhem continues to inspire.

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