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A Fairy Tale (Gan and Tha)

August 29, 2016

On Friday morning, September 18, Mrs. Gung from Sarnelli House received a strange phone call. A female voice inquired whether we had a girl named Gan living with us. (September 18, Gan celebrated her 13th birthday). Gung said yes, we did, and the caller burst into sobs of joy. It turned out that Gan had a long lost sister.

But let’s step back to the beginning. In the year 2001, three little girls were on the news. South of Udorn, the Thai government has an orphanage for girls. That spring, three little girls were to begin school. Wanphen was 8 years old; Gaew was 6, and Gan was 5. They were orphans and all three were HIV positive. The school was situated in the village of Khao San, and villagers vowed to block their entry. Teachers sided with the villagers. The governor of Udonthani province sent police to enforce the order that these children were to be allowed to go to school. The morning school opened, the little girls and their police escort were barraged with stones and garbage. The national TV news showed reluctant police, villagers with faces distorted by hate, and three utterly terrified little girls. The next day, the governor tried again, and this time the little girls and their escort were again greeted with bottles, rocks and garbage. On the third day, I received a phone call asking if I would take the three girls. I readily agreed, but with one stipulation. Reporters and Khao San scum were not to find out where the girls went.

The girls came, and they were frightened of me, and scared to try to go to school again. Sr. Godzilla was head honcho of Rosario Catholic School, and agreed AIDS-infected children could attend, as long as they didn’t show signs of AIDS.

Today, the three girls are happy, healthy (even though they must take anti-retroviral drugs) and live in Nazareth House, where teenage girls who are infected and who are not live happily together. They attend school with their friends, and have excursions together.

Back to Saturday morning, September 19. Gan could not really remember a sister. Gan had blocked out all memory of her life prior to coming to Sarnelli House. The girl that phoned told us that she would come up from Bangkok on the morning tour bus. She would have a white traveling bag, and carry a big teddy bear for Gan. When the older sister, Tha (real name Narirat) saw Gan, she ran to her, crying and hugged her. Gan appeared quite uncomfortable and shy.

It took a day before they really talked, and I was later able to glean information of their lives. Gan is now 13 years old, and Tha is 24. When the mother died, an evil aunt sent Gan (then 3) to the government orphanage, and later told everybody Gan had died. Tha couldn’t take the abuse at home, and at the age of 14, went to work in Bangkok for 500 baht a month (US$10). Later she met a really nice kid from Yasoton and they married and now they work in a factory making beauty products from herbal roots and leaves. He makes over $300 a month, and Tha makes $250. They live with her husband’s mother, a nice lady, who also works part time in the factory and helps take care of their one year old son.

Tha never really believed that Gan had died, and by use of the internet, traced Gan to the orphanage, and finally to Nazareth House. Before she returned to Bangkok, Tha asked Gan to go live with them. Gan said she would visit, but she is staying at Nazareth House, to be near Father.

And that, my friends, has this old man walking around proud as a peacock but also happy that Gan has family to love and cherish her.

Fr. Mike

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