Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

Fields of Green

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There’s something beautiful and mysterious about seasonal rhythms of cultivating, sowing, fertilizing, waiting, believing and reaping.  But like a piece of art, a description of its beauty and mystery can’t do justice to entering into the rhythms yourself.

Though laboring over a crop in extreme temperatures may not be particularly enjoyable to most (as I’ve often been reminded by our resident teens and a few adults), the process as a whole is irreplaceable.

Rice harvest is fast approaching; November will mark our second year harvesting a crop.  Last year we harvested with seven teens; this year there’ll be closer to a dozen putting their hands to the sickle, not counting us “big kids” that can’t seem to finagle our way out of the hard labor ourselves.  Having spent the last year eating the fruits of their labor (literally… the rice we harvested ourselves fed our household of 20 for about eight months), the girls have been diligently monitoring this year’s rice crop and praying for its increase.

Rice 2013

We also tackled a slightly more intense project earlier this year by planting a couple acres of sugarcane.  It was a far more laborious process than the rice, and a great deal of blood, sweat and tears went into the ground prep, planting, fertilizing, irrigating and weeding processes.  But now as the sugarcane stalks tower far over our heads, the girls are proud and amazed that their labor could turn into something this great.  We’ll cut the first round early in 2014 and the proceeds will go toward a scholarship savings program for our teen girls.  More photos here.

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I confess there have been times I’ve doubted this strategy.  None of us are experts in rice or sugarcane, and I’m pretty sure we’ve provided some comedic relief to our neighbors (who pity us and pitch in to help).  But the process of diving in together has been priceless.    Though the girls complain a good deal through the process, I’ve heard more than one add with a thoughtful tilt of the head… “but it’s fun as long as we get to work together.  And I like seeing it grow.”

Together we grow.

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In a Year

It’s both crazy and amazing to look back over the last 12 months.  From my previous blog post where I asked questions like… “can we really be adequate interim foster parents of two Thai teens?” …to now, the journey seems almost surreal.

A few highlights from then to now:

  1. I became “aunt” to two, and then six, Thai teen girls.  In January 2012 Jub and I agreed to temporarily take in two teenagers in a tough spot.  Three more precious girls joined us in March and, after learning their stories, made that “temporary” decision seem a little less temporary (…see #2).  The sixth came to join us in October.
  2. In May, our small team officially relocated from Bangkok to a small village in Khon Kaen province in the Northeast (Isaan) region with a vision for community development.  The five teen girls voluntarily joined us, courageously entering a rural leadership development program for at-risk teens that didn’t yet exist.
  3. Our gracious village neighbors offered up their storehouses and gardens with rice, mangoes, papayas, veggies and herbs helping to feed our full house.  We even snuck some sugarcane out of the neighbors fields.  Now we have gardens going, and a friendly (and sympathetic) woman at the market that provides us with cheap produce.
  4. Between 60-80 kids and teens filled the house during after-school tutoring programs last term, so the village leaders got together and built us an outdoor classroom.
  5. Jub’s mom allowed us to take over one of her rice plots, so together we planted, weeded and harvested (all by hand), yielding enough rice to feed the house for the better part of the year.
  6. Investments in a ping pong table, a checkers board, an extra practice guitar and a growing library unwittingly solidified our status as the community hangout for kids of all ages.
  7. Three local schools offered open invitations to visit and teach; we’ve become known as “permanent guest” teachers as we hang out and teach English, character/values and drugs/migration awareness courses.  Our first long-term volunteer, Michenzie Motl, is now here and has taken a full-time teaching position at the secondary school.
  8. We were blessed with the support and partnership of Step Ahead Integrated Community Development to launch our first official economic development project in the village.  Starting with weaving sticky rice baskets, we’ll work our way up to producing woven purses and leather bags marketed under the Itsera brand.
  9. The walls in our current house are bursting with life — currently housing the teenagers, several staff, and equipment for economic development, while also doubling as community center.  We’ve begun circling a new piece of ground in the village as a build site for a new teen/community center to relieve some of the “traffic congestion” and are believing that God will bring it to be this year.
  10. And lastly…. we finally settled on a new name for our crazy and growing family here in Khon Kaen:  Breakthrough.    More to come on that front soon.

 

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I wish I was able to share the stories within each of these stories.  Like our headstrong 16-year-old teen girl that ran away for a month, came back and has since completely transformed into a bright, humble leader of the house.  Or our other 16-year-old that discovered that her friend from Buriram is now working at a bar in Bangkok and wants to help her by inviting her here with us.  Or our work-study student that couldn’t seem to escape the influence of his meth circles in Bangkok but is flourishing in a rural context, including beginning to mentor other at-risk young men.

But…. I’ll leave you with these highlights and updates from the past 12 months, and a commitment to blog more often over the next 12!