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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Memorable Week But We Are Not Done Yet !!

By Marco Gorin - At about 08:30 in the morning of Friday 28th January 2011 Steve and I, along with Steve's father, Frank Skilbeck and eight members of the Galileo Thailand team departed on two vans for the 8-hour journey to Yasothon in the North East of Thailand. Our mission: To represent all the kind souls and organizations whom supported us so generously in raising awareness and funds in support of the HIV+ orphans at the Suthasinee Noi-in Foundation through Charity Trek 2010.

The journey upcountry was quite uneventful apart from some very spicy and delicious Isaan food for lunch along the way. However, the following day was not to be so!

We reached the grounds of the foundation at 09:00 on Saturday morning and were greeted by a multitude of children whom affectionately referred to us as Mums and Dads accordingly. Memories in my head echoed with views of the visit conducted in December 2009 after Charity Trek 2009 in the Annapurna region, with our dear friend Nick James whose ashes were scattered by Steve at the top of Kala Patthar at the highest point of Charity Trek 2010 in the Khumbu Valley at the feet of Mount Everest and other Himalayan giants. The children then launched into a fantastic display of hospitality by entertaining us with a series of singing, dancing and magic tricks performances. We just sat and watched engulfed in a tremendous roller coaster of emotions ranging from absolute joy and elation of being finally there delivering all the good we work so hard for, to absolute sadness in just only beginning to grasp some of the realities these children face on a daily basis; some looking pretty energetic and healthy, others, I am afraid, showing the clear signs of AIDS progressing unrelented in their small bodies.

I can speak for my own emotions but could clearly tell from the eyes of others around me that such feelings reached an ever heightened state at the time when all of the kids surrounded us to thank us personally by tying little white strings around our wrists as a traditional gesture of thanks and good luck. All of them, one by one, from the smaller to the toller with such grace and genuine gratitude. A moment we will never forget. What struck us was the fact that a number of them, in spite of their young age, hardly ever smile. A reminder of the hardship they must have suffered before landing on the friendly shores of the Suthasinee Noi-in Foundation which, like an island for a drowning man at sea, offers them safety, security and, above all, a loving home!

Care of Galileo Thailand we delivered individual presents to all of them along with food and clothing items. When they thought the bounty was over we surprised them again with a lucky draw game where every one was a winner. They absolutely loved it!!

On this visit we delivered a total of THB750,436 (USD24,251) but that is not all as we are working on an additional donation transfer of about THB 100,000 (USD3,232) to the dedicated charity account in Thailand and from there to the foundation sometime in the next month or so. Something to look forward to particularly given the fact that the money we presented on this visit is barely enough to keep the place going for a month with retro viral drugs being the highest cost item apart from food, clothing, education, maintenance, transport etc. etc. etc. etc. . It does put everything in a very different perspective.

Sadly Khun Suthasinee Noi herself, or Mae Tiew as the children call her affectionately, was unable to join us due to intensive treatment in her on-going battle against intestinal cancer. We did spend sometime talking with her deputies, learning more about their plans and challenges and also reviewing progress made since the last visit. Eventually we left for the return journey to Bangkok after a very affectionate send off by the entire group of children and staff at the foundation.
As there will be a second wind in terms of being able to make much needed funds available to the children of the foundation it is not too late for those who have yet to donate and wish to do so! The online donation gateway on the official site is still active and allows an easy way to make donations by credit card on-line and with a choice of multiple currencies.
More updates will follow.

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