Saturday, January 16, 2010

To Dream Again

The Home of New Beginnings doesn’t look like much from the outside-in. The street gate creeks open, the cement in the courtyard is cracked, the picnic table seems to be slowly succumbing to cobwebs. Outside the door there are 50 some-odd pairs of shoes (women will be women no matter where they come from!) and a cranky turtle snaps at you from his terrarium home as you step in. But for a place focused on the inside-out, there is nothing more appropriate than an unassuming three story equivalent to an American row house.

Bonita Thompson wondered what she was going to dig her heels into when she and her husband Roy moved to Thailand some five years ago to alleviate travel stresses for his job. There are other organizations working with the bar girls in Bangkok – other organizations doing wonderful work – but Bonita’s dreams are deep, not wide. And 30 girls out of the bars later, the Home of New Beginnings is a place for capacity building. A place for hope. A place for safety.

A place for women to dream again.

Counseling is a virtually unknown idea to Thailand so for a group of Thai women who have not been given enough formal education, been beaten and left by their alcoholic husbands, told they must support their family (their entire family – grandparents, kids, parents, cousins), then certainly mistreated and perhaps raped by customers… Bonita has her work cut out for her.

HNB girls go out to Nana Place and Soi Cowboy and befriend the girls there – offering them English lessons (which they can get, free of charge, regardless of their intention to leave the bars). The hope is this exposure to the house will make them feel welcome, comfortable, and expose them to the fact that there are other ways to live. Other opportunities.

Home of New Beginnings offers a free place to live, food, and a support system of all the women who live there. HNB gives the girls in the house a weekly stipend so they have something to live on and perhaps even send back to their families who are depending on those baht. The girls educational needs are assessed and then met (two girls are in University and most others are working towards Grade 12). They are taught sewing and other craft skills (they sell shirts, bags, little cute hair barrettes, journals, greeting cards, table runners out of the house for some extra income). Capacity building.

Still, there are empty beds. A pay cut and more difficult work (studying is more difficult than sex, perhaps) doesn’t sound overly attractive to most of the 2,000 girls in Soi Cowboy and 3,000 girls in Nana who must provide for their families back home. To this, Bonita shrugs her shoulders and admits the home’s emotional capacity is probably less than the amount of open beds they have.

The Home of New Beginnings needs are:

-Money. The monthly overhead is about 8500 USD. There is only 2200 USD pledged per month. Each month comes with $6300 worth of anxiety. Each. Month.

-Bar fines. Home of New Beginnings throws a huge Christmas Party for any girl from any bar who wants to have a night of food, friends, music, presents. But they have to pay the bar fine to get that girl out of the bar for the night. They also want to be able to pay the bar fines for girls who don’t feel well on any given day. Most girls work 28 days of every month and are not able to take the night off if they don’t feel good without paying their own fine. How much? About 800 Baht or 24 USD.

-Interns. Good ones. Self-sufficient, previously traveled, extremely relational and confident interns willing to give a six month commitment.

-A new refrigerator. And a fixed or new AC unit for the classroom.

-Teams to come paint beautifully girly colored rooms!

On a happy note, the house mama named Ann is coming to visit (of all places) Pleasanton, California in a few months and all she wants to do is go to breakfast at Country Waffles and have a huge serving of whipped cream on her waffles. We can do that for you, Ann - we'll order all the whipped cream you can stomach :)

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