Visits Home

The Thai New Year or Songkran falls in the school holidays and this is traditionally a very special time for families to get together. Some of the children living at Sarnelli House have relatives who come and drive  them home for a few days or a few weeks. Other children have no families or can’t remember their homes or relatives. These children look on sadly when families come to pick up children to take for a visit home and you can see the wish in their eyes that it was them going home.

Peter and his grandfather

One such boy is Peter who came to Sarnelli House when he was 4 years old, he is 12 years old this year. Both his parents have died from HIV/AIDS and he went to live with his great grandmother who tried to care for him and who sent him to the local village school for his education. However, when the school found out that Peter’s parents had died from AIDS they didn’t want Peter at the school. Some teachers from the school visited Peter and his great grandmother and gave milk for Peter, and even took him to hospital where he tested positive for HIV/AIDS.  Peter’s great grandmother realized she couldn’t care for Peter or access or afford his health care, as at that time people with HIV/AIDS had to pay for all their treatment and she came to the only decision open to her which was to give Peter to Sarnelli House who could provide for his health care and education.  

Peter and his greatgrandmother

This month Peter was taken for the first time to visit his village and to see if any relatives were alive who would remember Peter. After a 2 hour drive out into the dry, flat countryside stopping at various small and impoverished villages and using the 8 year old address which Peter’s great grandmother had given the Sarnelli House staff the house of Peter’s relatives was found. Peter has very little recollection of his life before Sarnelli House yet he was excited to know that he had relatives. Peter was led to a small house amongst banana and mango trees where the village dogs barked and trotted over to investigate the strangers. He met his great grandmother who is 90 years old, almost blind as well as bent over from years of working in the rice fields. She was sitting on a bamboo table clutching a long bamboo walking stick and when she was told Peter had arrived she tried so hard to get up and eventually she stood to touch Peter. She stroked Peter’s face over and over like she was rediscovering the imprint of his face on her palm lost almost 8 years ago. Peter sat quietly at her side with tears in his eyes and listened to her talking about him and his parents. There was little physical demonstration of affection exchanged but the emotions and feelings were very real and could be felt by all those privileged to watch this reunion.  Peter also met his grandfather and spent some time with both him and his great grandmother in their little house with the dirt floor. On the way back to Sarnelli House Peter was quiet which is unusual for him as he is always happy and boisterous. He is proud and happy that he has found his family, now he is one of those lucky kids who has someone to go home to in the holidays.

Bang and her grandmother

Bang Lek came to Sarnelli House when she was 10 years old, she was terribly sick and frail with AIDS and TB and for a long time had to be closely cared for and had numerous admissions to hospital and handfuls of medicines to take. She has now been at Sarnelli House for 5 years and is 15 years old this year. Her health is much improved and she manages taking her medication by herself and is well despite being short for her age and having some learning difficulties because of her earlier illnesses and starting school at an older age. Bang Lek has graduated from living at Sarnelli House to living at Nazareth House a house for teenage girls living with HIV/AIDS. She has also gone from a quiet, timid, giggling girl to a young woman who still giggles but is up on the latest Thai music and movies. Bang Lek visits her grandmother every year in the holidays. Her grandmother is in poor health with diabetes and high blood pressure and lives in a poor village but she is always delighted to see Bang Lek. Bang Lek usually stays for the day and immediately loses the teenage attitude and runs around with the local village kids playing simple games and catching up on all the news in the little village. Despite the apparent poverty of the village Bang Lek’s grandmother always sends her back to Sarnelli House with some locally cooked delicacy wrapped in banana leaves.  Bang Lek’s grandmother is grateful for Fr Shea and Sarnelli House for taking care of her granddaughter and giving her opportunities in her life she could not.