Volunteers at Hope Home

It’s that time of year again, the time of coming and going in Chiang Mai! Many new people coming in and many people leaving this beautiful city. In order to protect the children and to encourage healthy attachment we are quite particular about the types of short-term visits we approve at our home. Our utmost priority is to make sure the children feel safe, accepted, loved, and secure in a family environment. Sometimes that means we can’t accept visitors or volunteers, but we do love the opportunity to accept high quality, passionate, and skilled individuals who are willing to dedicate a substantial amount of their time to invest and empower our children.

This time of year we find ourselves quite often having to say “goodbye” to people we have come to cherish and enjoy. Sometimes it’s just for a little bit as with two of the families who serve as continual friends and support to our family who have gone off to their respective countries for the summer months. Sometimes though, it’s a little longer of a goodbye.

We were extra excited recently to have Grandad and Grandmum Cook from England along with their friend Hillarie to come and visit for a few weeks. As the Grandad and Grandmum of Hope Home we enjoy all of their skype calls, gifts, and love from afar; but most of all we love the special time we get to spend together in person!

Over the past six months we have been so blessed to have long time friends of Hope Home, Mike and Ellen (and their family), coming and sharing their expertise with us. Ellen as an Educational Psychologist helped brainstorm, advise, and enact new therapies and approaches for many of our children! Mike, an accountant, bravely took on the task of helping us to streamline and clarify our accounting. He is leaving behind an easy to use and quick system which will save so much time each month! We also got to join in on their family events which was oh so very special for our kids, it was a real treat for them to be invited to a birthday party for a friend! We were very sorry to say “goodbye for now” but are so glad we will continue to stay connected.

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This week we will also say goodbye to our now good friend Marguerite. As an experienced nurse and expert administrator too, she utilized a sabbatical period to come and share her time, experience, and care with us. She has served an irreplaceable role in helping provide that 1-on-1 specialized care for our more medically fragile children, cooking incredible meals which everyone ate quite quickly, organizing and sanitizing the medical room, teaching some fun cooking activities, and so much more. We are so grateful that she sacrificed time with her family to join ours for a few months and wish her many blessings and joy as she goes back to her family and work back in the UK.

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Right now, we are also enjoying two volunteers/interns from our connections with CCT. Ryan and Kenna are both university students in the U.S. majoring in pre-medicine and nursing respectively. Both have great experience in physical training/therapy and bring creative ideas to our physical therapy and education programmes. Thankfully, their time is not yet over so we still get to enjoy their energy and insight for the next month!

There are of course so many more volunteers we love spending time with, many of whom we don’t have to say goodbye to for quite awhile! We are so grateful for our volunteers, the way they add into our kids lives by sharing their expertise and experience, and the way they invest in each of us. Thank you to all those mentioned and not yet mentioned for sharing your experience, time, and self with us! We have a high priority on providing the highest possible quality care for our children, and we are very helpful for those near and far who help us achieve that goal a little better each and every day!

Family Dinners

We are passionate about ensuring that our home is as close to a “normal” family home environment for each of our kids. Our hope is that with a quality, loving, and close atmosphere each and every one of our kids will be able to reach their full potential. Even more importantly we want them to know without a doubt they are loved and accepted completely just as they are!

With seven kids and a growing respite program, it’s not always an easy task to maintain normalcy and encourage family bonds. Sometimes it means taking time to make it happen. One way we are working to do so, however, is the institution of family dinners.

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We want to make sure that once a week, we are all sitting and eating together. Kids, staff, respite families, all are welcome on family dinner night. We enjoy a lovely meal prepared with extra love and effort by Mae Aom. But most importantly we enjoy eachother. We share food, we share laughs, we share stories. Our hope and prayer is that this continues to be a time of connection and encouragement for each member of our big extended family!

It’s a Lizard, It’s a Butterfly….WAIT…It’s a Dinosaur

This month we are exploring the wonderful world of rocks and caves! As a part of this adventure we decided to travel over to a new park just down the road…full of various creatures both alive and cemented! The kids had a blast crawling on, in, and around flowers, bugs, and butterflies bigger than even they could imagine! All were quite intimidated at first but thankfully Little Guy took the first plunge and everyone else followed! For a moment we thought we lost Yindee, but she had just turned into a very beautiful butterfly!

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Then there was a real village of live animals: sheep, pigs, and donkeys too! Dontrii saw his bestest friends the sheep once again. It is amazing to watch our little guy enjoy the sheep everywhere we go. There is something about the sounds and smells of sheep that gets a smile and a giggle every time!

Tadpole has taken to making pig noises of late so he was pretty excited to meet some real life pigs! However, he was quite sure to not get too close as the whole “alive” concept seemed to be a bit intimidating.

Then was the real surprise….a whole village of dinosaurs! HUMONGOUS robotic dinosaurs full of sound and motion! Once again, overwhelming at first but all the children adjusted quite quickly and were fascinated by the sights and sounds of these monstrous prehistoric creatures! Dontrii especially enjoyed the sounds of the velociraptor and Brave was ready to take on any and every one of these dinosaurs! Garfield enjoyed mimicing the sounds at every turn and Kaew kept admiring just how BIG they all were!

The kids were also able to enjoy a wonderful dinosaur ride, which did occasionally turn into bumper-dinosaurs but was nonetheless by far the highlight of the day for Kame, Smile, and LeLe.

It was a wonderful trip, and much more than just a learning experience! We absolutely loved spending time with many of our friends and family in community. Sharing meals, experiences, and simply playing together can truly bring us all together! We hope and pray this time will remain an exciting memory as well as an encouragement to all the families and the staff at Hope Home as well.

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Easter at Hope Home

April has been a very busy month with kids now off school for their summer break, and the weather has heated up appropriately! This last week has been extra special with Songkran and Holy Week falling on the same week this year.

Throughout the course of April we have been studying the Easter Story and participating in various Easter themed activities.

Then came the BIG DAY! We awoke early and decorated 90 Easter eggs for our community egg hunt that morning. It took quite awhile for the concept to really sink in as the children thought they were surely supposed to crack and eat all 90 eggs right then! Once they caught on though they had a heap of fun colouring and sticking in a variety of unique designs.

We then whisked the children away to the activity room for a viewing of an Easter film while some adults hid the eggs in a variety of interesting places!

The community Easter Egg hunt is another favourite of ours as we join together to listen to the Easter story, hunt for eggs, and enjoy some fellowship together with our neighbours! The story was well received by all and the hunt went far more quickly than the set up! Once again, quite a lot of fun this year as our kids really got the concept of picking up the eggs and seemed to really enjoy looking for them!

Eggs. Eggs. Eggs. We did decorate 90 eggs which meant quite a few would be consumed by us! It was a lovely brunch of boiled egg with sticky rice and spice! Again, a wonderful time to spend with family and friends from our community!

A fun surprise this year was the balloon man! One of our neighbours and friends came for the hunt and brought along an incredible skill for shaping balloons! The kids loved watching and then of course wearing his creations!

Lastly, we were able to make it to church with a few of the kids as well and it was a good time of reflecting on the meaning of this wonderful day! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Songkran at Hope Home

Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated every year from April 13-15. The celebration marks the traditional Thai New Year typically includes both formal and informal celebrations. It is a time in which we show respect to elders and elders in turn give blessings to the younger participants. The modern celebration also includes a city-wide water fight which is a welcome relief in the intense heat of hot season.

Our kids did a great job showing respect to some of the “Mees” at Hope Home this year, and we were so encouraged to see their ability to understand and participate in this rich cultural tradition. The ceremony involves children pouring water on the hands of their elder and the elder in turn providing a blessing for the child. Strands of Jasmine are also given to the elder as a symbol of respect. We pray that each and every one of our children and caregivers would be blessed!

Then of course we got together with others in our community for a Songkran celebration full of WATER PLAY! This was the first year that most of our kids could squirt with their squirt guns! They had heaps of fun squirting each other and even more fun squirting the adults! We are so grateful for everyone from our community that came out to celebrate Songkran with us!

Of course the great thing about a three day festival is all the extra days of water play! Any moment can turn into a water fight! Since all of our kids are really enjoying the water play this year we have had lots of fun having water fight after water fight! Dontrii and Garfield especially love being squirted, and Tadpole and Kame love squirting so it works out as a great combination! Of course there is also a whole lot of really good food, which is by far Little Guy’s favorite part!

Family Camp at the Beach!

This past month we had the incredible opportunity to join in with the CAM ministry and team for a family camp at THE BEACH! The 13 hour drive started off early one Friday morning and the kids did great, we were so very impressed with their patience with the journey and their enthusiasm for passing cars. We searched out cars of every color yellow, orange, purple, blue, red, gray, and of course Kame had to have us find a PINK car! Thankfully a semi-truck did pass by us in full pink!

The drive was exciting enough for all of us but then we saw the beach and that was a real treat. The kids were very excited and slightly terrified by the sand, the waves, and water! For most of them it was their very first chance to see the ocean and it was a priceless moment for each of us!

We were also able to join in on some singing, dancing, games, and family education. Staff and kids did a great job reflecting on the effect of alcohol in their lives and communities and then brainstorming our hopes for our family’s future.

Then of course it was time to PLAY in the ocean. What a special time to play together as a family!

The trip also included a trip to the Tiger Zoo which has much more than just tigers….Crocodiles, Elephants, Sheep, Pigs, and more! It was great as our kids mixed with the other families and were able to spend a lot of time with others from our community enjoying some exciting sites! Many of us are still trying to figure out how that pig did maths!

There was of course some down time, food time, and lots of fun together with other families from our community! We are VERY THANKFUL to have been included in this family camp and are so grateful that we were welcomed so well by not only the camp leadership but all the other families as well!

Down on the Farm (Part 2)

As a part of our month long learning adventure “Down on the Farm” we took a trip to a real life farm located right here in Chiang Mai. Dutch Farm was a unique experience for our children as they got to interact up close and personal with miniature horses and sheep! We also got to see chickens, ducks, and geese. Tadpole of course found it to be great fun to chase the geese.

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LeLe very quickly made friends with the miniature horses and was especially fond of this white one. The two made quite a pair and LeLe probably would have stayed right there in the horse stables all day were he able!

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Everyone got a chance to pet and even ride (if desired) the miniature horses, and while reactions ranged from terrified to obsessed in the end everyone was comfortable enough to enjoy a moment with these very special animals.

A stop by the chickens was very fun with lots of “cluck cluck” sounds coming from both sides of the fence!

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After that it was time to go see the sheep, and much to our surprise we have quite a few shepherd boys and girls in our little family! All the kids had fun, with a side of trepidation, watching staff feed the sheep and of course making lots of sheep sounds ourselves. The bigger sheep were quite intimidating for some of the kids but thankfully there were some adorable baby sheep who seemed a bit more approachable.

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In the end everyone had a great time, got to learn all about a few farm animals, and experience farm life in a small way. The adventures will continue, just wait to see where we’re headed to next!