Vivienne and her husband Peter arrived in Phuket from Perth Australia in 2009. Vivienne’s son Julian was in the process of building a villa in Laem Singh. So Peter came to help. Since then they have retired and have been living on the island.
However, retirement doesn’t mean an end to helping out. Vivienne didn’t need any reason to start volunteering. As a member of St. Vincent de Paul society in Perth and Sydney, Vivienne was working with local volunteers to deliver food for the homeless. In Singapore she volunteered at the Catholic organization Family Life, and assisted on the helpline for young pregnant girls and families. The girls were given accommodation in The Home of The Good Shepherd Sisters during their pregnancies.
Wherever she goes, Vivienne always helps the local communities. The Good Shepherd Sisters (GSS) have a vocational training centre in Patong. It was the first place she visited, where she assisted the Thai Sister Euphrasia as a volunteer in English and beauty classes, along with other volunteers. The goal was to give the bar girls who attended some new life skills. GSS ran a related program helping them find more solid employment outside of the Patong bar area.
The group also worked in the Rassada Pier area in Phuket Town helping the people in poverty. The first school was founded in that area where many children from the fishing families were educated for the first time. A Diocesan priest of Phuket gave GSS the old seafarers building, quite a run-down place harbouring rats and pigeons. Vivienne reached out to get the local World Construction and Engineering Company to help out, and with 50 workers and all the construction materials, it was renovated and rebuilt. It is now known as “The Blue House”, with 22 beds, housing women in need and it is currently being used by The-Seeds-of-Change craft group teaching pregnant women skills. The Blue House also assists those in need who require urgent accommodation.
In addition to the Blue House, The Home of Hope, Topland, is another home where Vivienne and her volunteer team assist the Sisters’ projects. Donated by a generous Italian in Bangkok, it has housed many pregnant girls for their prenatal and postnatal care. Money was raised by the volunteers to send an AIDS victim home to Myanmar, providing him enough money so he could travel home at the end of his life.
The GSS received many donations: clothes, shoes, books, toys, electrical appliances… all second-hand. Vivienne never took no for an answer. Against all odds, Vivienne found a very kind landlord who offered his shop free for five years. With her persistence and other volunteers’ hard work, the Thrift and Craft Shop in Baan Wana Park is also contributing to help the poor children and their families. While the shop helps to clothe the needy, it gives volunteers a sense of purpose and community.
For Vivienne, volunteering gives her a purpose: to help the marginalized and the poor to have a better life. She also strongly believes in children’s education to get them and their families out of poverty.
Constant fundraising, assisting Sister Euphrasia in acquiring an old chapel in Patong, negotiating the sale of the building, visiting different camps, dropping off rice or food parcels, arranging crafts selling at stalls, church, hotels, and gift shops, organizing market-day fairs, Christmas fairs, organizing donations at church… Vivienne did it all to create awareness of the Christian efforts of the Good Shepherd Sisters.
Life is like a painting, with cool-colour brush strokes here and there. But as long as there are people like Vivienne Reis, the base color of life will always be full of warm and glittering hopes.
There is and always will be someone like Vivienne. If you find yourself in a most lonely or desperate situation, he or she will give you a loving hug, will warm up your world with a simple word and lighten up your life. Vivienne deeply believes that there is always a way to help.
Be gentle to the people around you. You should keep your belief in kindness, and act with a good heart. Your heart reflects the world in front of you. Whatever you are showing to others, the world mirrors it right back to you.
By Jill N. Wells
The Good Shepherd Sisters website: www.goodshepherdphuket.com
Address: 66/13 Soi Kepsab, Thavewong Road, Phuket.
Contact: Sr. Dr. Euphrasia Mesomklin, firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Euphrasia Banya Literacy Centre website: www.wearebanya.com
The Thrift & Crafts Store: location: Wana Park – 177 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Road, Thalang. Hours of Operation: 10AM to 2PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.