As a family and as an organization we were extremely excited when the GoAbroad Foundation granted us a grant for the creation of a sensory room in our home. A sensory room had always been a dream project, another means of helping our children to achieve independence in their lives. Yet as in all things, the idea and the practical implementation are not the same. We have thoroughly enjoyed creating the sensory room and beginning to explore how to implement it with each of our kids.
The room designated for the sensory room was small and of challenging dimensions to begin with, but the first part of the process was to create the canvas from which we would build a new therapeutic environment. Even choosing the colors for the room was quite the process. We needed a light color in order to get the best effect of the lighting features that would be added and also for the sensory projector, but in our research we also discovered many ideas that utilized a dark environment. Ultimately we opted for a very light blue with one dark contrasting wall for prominent sensory features.
From there, Po Boonmee worked on shelving and flooring for the new room. He also searched for a way to safely hang a hammock swing in the room. We needed the room to physically accessible to all of our children but also to be safe, secure, and contribute to the sensory experience. While he measured and brainstormed that problem we developed activities and centers that would be placed within the room. The kids even had fun participating in some of the activities!
Once all that was completed we were able to place everything inside the room and begin implementing it slowly. Because each child is different and their sensory needs are not only unique to them but can also be hard to predict or interpret, we began a purposeful process of individual exploration in the room. We are able to present kids with different activities or settings in the environment, but more than that we try to follow their lead and find out what they seek out in the room. Our sensory room is not yet complete, neither in its construction or in its implementation, but we are on the journey of listening and learning what works best for each of our kids and how we can use this room in the context of daily life to meet their sensory needs and empower them to their full potential.
Easter is always a wonderful time of year. Here in Thailand come April it is starting to get hot, kids are off school for the summer holidays, and we spend some time remembering and celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ together. This year the kids studied the story using our felt set with much fun counting 1…2…3…HE’S ALIVE! We also had a resurrection scavenger hunt using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)! It was very fun to see our older kids tell the story of Easter using an AAC device and directing the younger kids on where to find the next egg!
We also had great big fun decorating Easter eggs this year. Thanks to a color dye set from abroad and a whole lot of stickers on plastic eggs, the kids had fun for hours decorating eggs for the community Easter Egg Hunt!
Then on the BIG DAY itself, we heard a reading of the Easter story from our neighbor friends and reflected on the meaning of this important day. The kids of course then enjoyed running and finding eggs hidden in funny places around the playground. (We maybe even got them all this year as rotten eggs have not yet been found and with this weather they would certainly not be overlooked!) We greatly enjoyed spending time together with friends as a wider foster care community, finding lots of surprises, eating even more, but most of all celebrating the One who brings us all together, our Perfect Father.
Guest Blog Post by Katie of the World Race “Wildflowers” Team
I absolutely love to laugh. I think it is a beautiful sound that transcends all cultures and people groups. Laughter is universal and I see our ability to laugh and experience joy as a gift from the Lord. That being said, I have had some big laughs this month. I’ve also witnessed some big laughs by the kids here at Hope Home. Being able to see what brings them joy and getting to share that with them is the biggest treat to me. Here are some of photos of those moments:
Guest Post by the World Race “Wildflowers” Team. We would like to add that we are so very grateful for all their help and willingness to do the jobs that are not always glamorous but help us immensely!
With all of the day-to-day responsibilities of being caregivers to children with moderate to severe special needs, it’s hard to for the staff to find time for the administrative duties of running this place. That’s where volunteers come in. My team of six came into this month with the sole goal of supporting the staff in anything they needed, there was no job too big or too small for us. Which was great, because we’ve been charged with an incredibly diverse array of tasks to tackle during our time here that utilize the pool of skills the six of us share.
I share these tasks because they really emphasize the vision this place has for its kids and itself. This isn’t just a place where kids can come to live. It’s not just a place that provides meals, showers, and beds. Hope Home truly serves the needs of these children and continues to seek more ways they can teach, connect, and develop them in a healthy and loving environment.
One of our biggest ongoing projects this month was sorting through the extensive amount of photos that are taken of the kids over time. Judy and Becca desire to send these kids to their forever homes with as much information about their lives here as possible. And they take a LOT of pictures. Each child has a computer file with their name and any photos that were taken of them during their time here. We’ve been sorting through the hundreds of photos on the computer for the past two weeks and see the heart this place has for these kids. Those photos are going to help answer questions that the kids may have in the future about where they came from and their pasts. It’s such a beautiful desire for these kids that unfortunately gets put on the back burner when more immediate needs take over staff’s attention.
We’ve also been helping to create things that will help the kids learn in a way that works best for them. For example, reading brail might Dontrii’s best option for literacy, but before he does that his sense of touch needs to be developed. They supplied us with some fabrics and a hot glue gun and we created a couple boards that vary in texture so he can touch them during his physio hour and be understanding the differences between the things he is touching.
How cool is that?! So cool. Dontrii is just one of 7 of the kids here, and each child’s learning strategies are so diverse. Each of them require things like the sensory board that will help them develop their skills and facilitate learning. This specific attention to each child speaks volumes about Hope Home and how committed they are to finding creative solutions to the obstacles these kids face.
Written by Katie, a volunteer from the World Race “Wildflowers” team.
Our team has been serving at Hope Home over the past two weeks and would love to share what we’ve experienced with this community. Each day is a unique adventure that at first felt a bit chaotic. I was overwhelmed with the needs of the children and the fact that the staff shares the responsibilities of parents, teachers, care-givers, handy-men, pastors, siblings and friends. “How could it all get done?” I wondered. I soon learned.
We arrived at the beginning of the month and didn’t know what to expect about what our time would look like here. When we arrived at Hope Home and I immediately felt a peace that I couldn’t explain. The first thing we saw were the jungle-gyms, sandboxes, bikes and all sorts of toys out and ready to be played with. The clotheslines were full of linens and children’s clothes, and I got a glimpse of the kitchen area before we walked inside the main door. I have been working with kids for over ten years and I know that creating and sustaining a peaceful yet playful environment is not an easy feat. From the moment we got here we have seen no less than extraordinary and sacrificial service by the staff for these children. Each day is structured and interactions with the kids are intentional and specific. While each child here has a very unique story and different challenges, I see how the Lord is taking great care of each of them. Garfield is able to use his feet to type on a tablet in order to communicate his thoughts. Yindee has a Princess Elsa toy fashioned so that it can be controlled by her head movements. Tadpole and LeLe make great use of the animal mural that doubles as a life-size vertical puzzle. Kame is an excellent student in the afternoon classes whose eyes opened wide as they showed her a picture of the human brain during a science lesson.
The challenges Hope Home faces each day are complicated and vast but are met with creative furtiveness and pure love. One of our tasks this month is to read or sing to the kids during their individual physio therapy in the morning. I have greatly enjoyed it and was just so overwhelmed with the staff’s prioritizing making that somewhat difficult time more enjoyable for each kid, and making sure that each book or song was tailored to that child’s interests (Superheroes for Garfield, princesses for Yindee, the Beatles for Dontrii).
We have about another week of service left here at Hope Home before leave Thailand. While our time here is relatively short, I am walking away from this experience with a grander and wider understanding of what it truly looks like to love your neighbor as yourself. Thank you Hope Home for all that you do for these children and the Lord!
Recently, we at Hope Home were blessed to receive a team of secondary students and their teachers from KIS International School in Bangkok through the Traidhos Visiting Schools Program. The students organized an incredible three days of service and interaction with our home and our children. The students more than quadrupled our number for their time with us and brought not only their strength and skills but also their integrity and presence.
Students from KIS served our home by completing a number of needed home maintenance tasks such a painting the exterior wall to our home and creating storage space for all the shoes and bicycles that come with a large household such as ours! The students, however, did not stop at the minimum but exceeded our expectations by designing and implementing a beautiful mural and executing a total revamp of the garden area. Now not only is our garden accessible and colorful, but it also has plants in it!
While all of the projects were such a blessing to our home as we do not have the time to meet all of our home’s repair and beautification needs, the students also engaged with our children and family extremely well. Students had prepared music, arts, and sports activities for each day and rallied our kids together to have a great time learning and enjoying together. Students from KIS were also able to help our students go on multiple walks and bike rides around the village, a special treat to “adventure with the big kids!”
The beautiful mural, new furniture, and fresh coat of paint made a huge impact on our home. However, it is the heart and the relationships formed between students, teachers, and our children which has left the greatest impact. We are incredibly thankful for the support of KIS and the time you spent with us giving of yourselves to each of our kids!
In November we showed you the beginning of the incredible renovation work Tony & Joy did for Hope Home. The amazing ocean bathrooms are a delight to the children and have launched imaginative play both during and after shower times, shouts of “thalee, thalee” and “plaaa” (translation: ocean, ocean and fish) are heard quite frequently in our house and the kids have really taken to swimming in the ocean just about anywhere, anytime.
Some of their other projects included revamping their prior work for the new house, particularly the JUMBO Noah’s Ark puzzle! We were also able to get vinyl made from photographs of the children’s old bedroom which were then placed in frames for their current bedroom!
Most of their time this trip was spent not as Tony and Joy but as Mr. Tile and Mrs. Grout! If it didn’t move, it was tiled! The main room not only got the gaps filled in between the walls and the roof but also tiled and painted the walls. We are so grateful for this now very easy to clean room! Plus it looks incredible too! Another great improvement our tile experts were able to do was to level and ramp the flooring between the addition and the main room so that it is now totally accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, and the occasional mischievous bicycle.
The kitchen and washing up area also got a complete tile makeover! In the kitchen they did an incredible job transforming our cement cooking surfaces, walls, and tables into surfaces that are not only beautiful but sanitary too! In addition, they streamlined our washing up area for dishes as well as the laundry area! Of course a full tile job was the first task for Mr. Tile and Mrs. Grout, a task much more easily said than done! This particular area required the removal of a tree stump as well as leveling and ramping of surfaces!
Fear not! Our tiling superheroes were still able to do a few more artistic projects as well. Superhero Way is a BIG hit with all kids of all ages but especially the big kids. We really enjoy the superhero inspiration during physiotherapy and school times!
Our living room was also adorned with a verse very close to our hearts and mission. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love always hopes…Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
We are so very incredibly grateful for the blessing of Mr. Tile & Mrs. Grout….but even more so the blessing of Tony and Joy who not only adorned our house but also our lives with their grace and presence! We enjoyed every second and cannot say thank you enough. We cannot wait for their next visit!