A three-hour drive to LAX, two flights over eighteen hours to Bangkok, and a twelve-hour trek upcountry via bus.
The journey of nearly 9,000 miles had taken me, at last, to the Suthasinee Noiin Orphanage, an institution for which I had only seen pictures and a place that had been the inspiration for a personal journey spanning 17 long months of preparation.
From the second we arrived, we were greeted warmly and with open arms. The children reached out to grab us by the hand and walk us proudly around the place they called home. Looking up I saw buildings festooned with gutters to catch rain and funnel it to centralized water tanks – a credit to the industriousness with which the orphanage was run. Their garden was modest, with signs of promise. And the nursery cared intently for the youngest arrivals, though two to a crib.
At the end of our tour, we were sat down and the children put on a performance of dance routines, which – we had been told – they had been excitedly preparing for in the days leading up.
After each age group had a chance to perform, all of the children came up to us, presented flowers, and tied white string around our wrists as a blessing.
Kuhn Suthasinee, the orphanage’s founder, expressed her sincere thanks for the support our charity had brought to bare that year. She confessed that we had caught them on the heels of a very challenging few months but that our visit, she said, gave them all something to look forward to. She expressed regret that donations from other groups had slowed considerably over the past few years, but added that, in light of this, our support was as vitally important as ever to the survival of the children.
Following her speech, I approached Kuhn Suthasinee and presented The Hope Collage. I explained how the book contained photos of people from all across the world who cared about the children, and those people were holding signs of hope just for them. If ever the children were feeling sad, she could sit down and point out all the people who cared about them, even though they were separated by distance and culture. She welled with gratitude, touched by the gesture, leaving me with the words, “This is something that I will always prize greatly.”
We took a few photos presenting the check – a record 1,203,000 Baht (over $40,000 USD) – and before I knew it, I was leaving on a shuttle to catch my flight.
. . .
I imagine at some point I’ll be asked ‘what this all meant’ to me.
To be sure, it was not clear at the time. It was akin to standing one inch away from a Monet. You get caught up in the motion and color, and have a sense that you are looking at something beautiful, but you have no idea what it means.
However, as you step away, the picture comes into greater clarity. And one moment stood out for me in particular…
At one point a child came up to me and proudly presented a color copy of a Reader’s Digest article naming Suthasinee the 2011 Asian of the year. It was surreal. How could a place both be so acknowledged for its worthiness and be in such need? More importantly…
Who else would support this place if they only knew it existed?
And so, with this guiding question, I move onto the second leg of this journey. I realize I cannot do it alone, and I am looking for dedicated and creative people to help me continue the worthy pursuit of supporting this orphanage. No matter where you are in the world, no matter what your age or experience level, if there is a place in your heart that yearns to make a real and meaningful difference in the lives others – the lives of children here and a woman who is doing something truly remarkable, then I want to hear from you.
I believe we all have a destiny to live into greater, more meaningful stories. And your path, your story, has led you here. If you are moved by this idea, then maybe, just maybe, destiny is tapping you on the shoulder, inviting you to create a better story.
If so, reach out to me and let’s talk. We can do something incredible together.