For the last seven years, our team has built relationships with children and youth who sell flowers, gum or shine shoes in Bangkok’s notorious red light districts. Word Made Flesh Thailand has responded primarily through education. The education program meets the children’s physical and emotional needs by creating a safe learning environment and opportunities to grow into their full potential through extra curricular activities such as soccer, ballet, jujitsu and swimming.
During the early years of focusing only on relationship-building and learning more about issues relating to migration, the WMF team knew that in order to meet the child’s needs fully, they would need to meet the parents needs as well. We learned that most of the fathers of the children selling were staying home, drinking and gambling and not working, but thankfully not all. Some were actually good fathers who loved their children but had never been to school themselves. They felt they couldn’t provide for their family other than sending children out to beg for money.
In 2013, our friend Kim let us know that her father Bob Meeker would be visiting Bangkok. He had 30+ years of experience teaching wood workshop and thought he could be of use to Kim’s network of friends as she was connected to several non-profit organizations in Thailand. The WMF team thought this was a great opportunity for the fathers we knew. Bob prepared a two-day lesson focusing on basic carpentry skills and tool maintenance. Chris Coon, another Bangkok friend had carpentry experience and agreed to help.
Tim, WMF Thailand’s co-founder, contacted a few dads who were looking for opportunities to make extra income. The day of the workshop arrived and everyone was excited. All the prep was finished, and on the morning of the workshop, everything was ready except — we had no students! The fathers contacted Tim the morning of and all had excuses for why they couldn’t come.
It was now 9:00am. Our education program was starting and two dads had just arrived, dropping their kids off. One of the fathers sells balloons near a mall on the outskirts of Bangkok. The other father wasn’t working and was living off the stipend he received for sending his children to WMF’s education program. Tim asked if they would join, and they gladly agreed. Bob and Chris are incredible teachers and did an amazing job! When the workshop ended the next day, not only did they complete 2 beautifully crafted tables, they had created something much more. That workshop was the beginning of confidence, which lead to an interruption in one of the dad’s self-worth. Low confidence was replaced by pride. I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The dad came up to me and said, “Wow, I can do something!” This small moment sparked hope. Hope was possible by a father taking a risk – a risk to possibly fail. But hope takes risks.
Chris committed to teaching and working side by side one of the dads for nearly 2 years. He created a work area at WMF and donated some tools. Piap, the father who took a risk, learned a new craft and has sold many furniture pieces over the years. The space itself has become a training center for others interested in learning a skill; one man from a nearby community has started his own small business after receiving training through Restore.