The Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in Nongkhai, in the northeast of Thailand, in 1981. Having worked in Bangkok since 1965 with the women who had migrated to the city from the rural areas, they understood the pressures on rural families in trying to satisfy their most basic needs. The people were disadvantaged in so many ways. Lacking an education or training of any sort, employment opportunities were limited.
Working at first in the border camps in Nongkhai, the sisters had a good understanding of the local people and after the closure of the camps, began implementing development projects. To this day, these have been a source of empowerment, improving the quality of life for all involved.
At the heart of the projects, is a commitment to foster the dignity of the individual and a sense of belonging to communities where people experience respect, acceptance, love and hope. Through the 5 major project areas, the Good Shepherd Sisters and their compassionate and committed mission partners, have a presence in 179 villages, across 4 provinces.
Click here - Good Shepherd Nongkhai, Thailand - www.goodshepherdnongkhai.com
The Outreach Programme began in 2000, primarily in response to the growing number of HIV and AIDS infections. It was the pre-antiretroviral medicines era and death was a constant companion. The sisters and staff provided home nursing care and soon after, a community centre to provide social support. With project participants from a 60 village radius, they worked in liaison with the provincial hospitals. Access to anti-retroviral drugs, made available in 2003 through formal health care servers in the hospitals, made longevity possible but pivotal to our programme, is the commitment to making it a life worth living.
The programme is based on strong relationships built on trust, a holistic approach and hope.
The medicine available for the treatment of HIV/AIDS goes a long way to prolong life, yet alone it is useless. More is needed and that ‘more’ is summed up in a quote from a visitor to our centre:
In the northeastern villages of Thailand there are many deterrents to education for children, for a family’s basic needs come before the purchase of uniforms and books. The Sisters have built up a sponsorship programme, which currently helps over 600 students, assisting families with the expenses of putting a child through school. While sponsors are helping send a child to school, they are in fact, helping the entire family.
The Sponsorship Staff reaches out to youth outside the programme through workshops conducted in schools.
Regular visits are conducted to the child’s family, school and village community and communication is maintained with the sponsors of individual children or with benefactors/organisations providing funds for seminars or collective sponsorship.
The farming life in the northeast of the country, is fraught with difficulties. Lack of rain for 6 months of the year, subdivision of land over past generations and the recent trend to plant eucalyptus and rubber trees in rice fields, has impacted on the farmers’ ability to live off the land all year round.
The Village Vocational Training Centre, (VVTC), established in 1986 and under the direction of the Good Shepherd Sisters, is committed to the economic, social and sustainable development of vulnerable families, through improved and diversified agricultural practices. Opportunities are provided for skills training and implementation of income-generating activities within the rural population. Staff work closely with farmers, village leaders, the agricultural department of Nongkhai and past members of the training programmes who act as mentors for new participants. The approach is not to impose ideas but, in dialogue with the farmers, to provide programmes that best meet the needs of the rural population, enabling farming families to help themselves.
Begun in 1986 the centre is an example of how the sisters first responded to the needs of the population's changing times. Two centres provide training and employment to women, learning handwork and sewing in the provincial town of Nong Khai and in the village of Huai Sai. Under the label of ‘Isan Weaving ‘, hand woven material is produced on simple looms, keeping alive the traditional designs. The women have opportunities to provide for their families and to further their own education. Others, who are caring for young children, are offered work to do in their homes. Sales of the finished items are made locally and overseas. Producers depend on sales for the crafts to provide for their families. The women involved in the project are trained to take responsibility for management in all areas related to craft production, decision–making, accountancy , invoicing, quality control, packing, salaries and supervision.
Click here for Hands of Hope website - http://www.handsofhopenongkhai.com
The Hands of Hope project begun in 2005, provides villagers living with or affected by HIV/AIDS with creative and dignified employment. The producers currently handcraft designs of cards, decorations, mobiles, and gift items, using ‘saa’ paper as the main medium–sustainably made in Thailand from the mulberry tree. They receive a fair wage for their work, health care and transportation assistance, as well as membership of a community of friendship and support.
The tranquil, natural environment of the Friendship Centre overlooking a large fishpond, with neighbouring bamboo forest and rice fields, provides a calming place to work.
Hands of Hope fosters creativity, with participants encouraged to design their own products.
The planting and harvesting of rice to feed the patients in the Garden of Friendship Care Facility, is also an annual activity.