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Home & Life

11 May 2012 18,984 views No Comment

Positioned directly on the road that leads from Thai Muang to Takua Pa, Home & Life orphanage is really noticeable to passing traffic. I’ve seen it a few times in passing but, being on public transport, not been able to stop. Actually, their location and excellent roadside signage (‘Home & Life 100 metres’, ‘Home & Life 50 metres’) is the first indication of some in-house commercial skills. That and the fact that the orphanage has a coffee shop & bakery, an excellent example of right product, right place etc.


This time I got the bus to Thai Muang, alighting at the ‘transport’ service, ahem. The elderly friendly dudes who spoke no English and the tall charming :) girl who spoke no Thai spent some time pointing and smiling together but not really making progress. Was a giggle though, munching cookies and trying to act out ‘orphanage’. Eventually I was packed into a truck and taken exactly where I needed, and thank you thank you to all involved, but it was (I realised halfway there) courtesy of the local policeman, gun and all. I think the words ‘Thai police, best in the world’ came out of my mouth as I tried to ensure we stayed on good terms. Anyway, my point.. rural Thailand is a superb place to be faced with a logistical challenge and to find yourself magically assisted by unexpected parties.


After shoo-ing the policeman away I was beautifully greeted by the children of Home & Life. One by one they came up, said sawadeeha with a small namaste bow, then my name is.. reaching for a handshake. I was utterly charmed. There’s around twenty children here, ages seem to range from seven to fifteen although it’s hard to be precise. Over the next few hours I spent little slices of time with children doing gardening, some playing with puppies, some mucking around making things in the yard (I don’t know what, it was boy stuff), and some working & hanging in the coffee shop. Home & Life was established by a couple, Rose & Root, and they now have a lot of other family members working and living here since the number of children has increased. Bay is the person I spent most time speaking with. He was brilliantly friendly and informative, clearly loved by the children, and I was sorry to have to say I wouldn’t be staying overnight to his kind invitations.

Similar to Baan San Fan, this home was set up in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami. Rose and Root left their town in north Thailand because they wanted to come and work & help in this then devastated area. Many of the children are not ‘proper’ orphans, perhaps still having one living parent, but they cannot be cared for properly by their families and so the orphanage with its consistent food, clothing and education, is a better option for them. I was pleased to see that a number of children are here as family units – brothers & sisters, some cousins even. I mean, of course it’s sad to see that they can’t be with their parents, but there’s a blessing in them being with their siblings isn’t there.?

Most of the children have English nicknames in addition to their Thai names – that’s pretty common throughout the country I think. Some of them were lovely and Bay had his own names for some – two brothers he calls Meatball and Sausage, that was pretty funny. There were some sad ones too, a little girl called Beer by her family. I mean once you take the smile of your face (which I had to) that’s not nice is it. They still call her that but only because the children understand it innocently.


Bay showed me around. They don’t have much land, things are pretty crowded, but I guess that’s because they’re close-ish to town. There are a few communal buildings, there seemed to be several kitchens even, and then a couple of children’s and adults buildings and some for volunteers. I got the impression that there was a set of buildings from when they were first established and then a second set which are used now, the first being, well, a bit redundant since the upgrade. Running beside the land is a river, which I’m told gets bigger at different times of year. Some of the children told me they like to swim in it, and for sure it’s a nice feature, although looked a bit dirty to me. Their veggie garden is small (I was comparing to Baan San Fan) and Bay told me they’ve had to change what they grow at what time of year because the soil isn’t very good. They’ve started a different type of vegetable growing technique now – hydroponic gardening, which means growing things without soil, clearly I Google-d this – the baby pak choy start life in tiny sponge squares, and eventually end up in big trays in a covered net house. Bay said the soil is better for chillies now so that’s what they’re starting to plant and grow. I was impressed by their adaptability and resourcefulness.


But what I was impressed by most was their commercial skills. The coffee shop is awesome, it’s a cute, welcoming building, they have a really good selection of cakes & bakery bits, and the coffee is delicious. You’d want to come here for a cuppa whether you’re interested to help a good cause or not. I asked a few questions about this – who does the baking, how do your prices compare to town, why did you open a coffee shop. Word perfect answers to these and more: one of the main intentions of the coffee shop is to give the children skills and experience, they do the baking and they work in the shop – and I will tell you their service was amazing. The prices are better than town and one of the reasons they’ve nailed this.. Bomm, the guy who takes the lead managing the coffee shop, used to work in Starbucks in Bangkok. Now that’s hilarious, and brilliant. Good on ’em.


The other thing Home & Life seem to understand well is how to drain dollar from anyone that visits (c’mon, it’s for a good cause and they’ve got to take what they can right). The gifts that they stock are great: t’shirts, aprons, fishermen pants, mobile cases, notebooks, cards, other stuff that you actually want to buy. I was really impressed by what they had available and dug deep for Baht to spend.

I didn’t have so long here, just a few hours all in, but I got a good sense of the place from hanging out with the children and with Bay, and by sitting in the all-crucial cafe. For about one hour of magic I was kicking around with Sun, a little’un who adored my camera – both taking photos and being photographed – and who was too funny for words playing on the swings, mucking around with puppies and flashing his cute smile & swinging his intensely muddy feet & ankles. I’ll definitely come back, there are too many good reasons not to, and perhaps next time I’ll stay, plant some veg, bake or swim…


around the home & garden

growing pak choi

making friends

adventures with Lucy’s camera

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