A group of young people from Singapore went to Pattaya, Thailand, where they interacted with orphaned children, practised English with disabled students and took blind children to the beach.
Redemptorist Fr Simon Pereira led the group of 60 young people on a Redemptorist Overseas Mission Exposure (R.O.M.E.) trip from Dec 1-9.
The primary aim of the mission was to expose the group to the culture and lifestyle of the underprivileged in Pattaya and to spread God’s love to them.
R.O.M.E trips started a couple of years ago. Seeing how it had benefited the young people in the past, Fr Simon and his team invited young people from Maris Stella High School, CHIJ Katong Convent Secondary, Church of Divine Mercy and Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on the mission trip.
The youngest member was an 11-year-old girl while most of the young people were between the ages of 14 and 19.
The mission team visited several projects by the Father Ray Foundation, which were the Children’s Village, the Children’s Home, the School for the Blind, the School for the Disabled and the School for the Deaf.
The Children’s Village takes in children who have been abandoned, abused and orphaned up to the age of nine.
The Children’s Home takes in slightly older children and organises life-skills classes for them, apart from the classes they attend in schools.
At the Children’s Village and the Children’s Home, the team shared that though language was a barrier, many found that it made them more creative in the way they communicated with the Thais which went beyond words.
Euan, 15, Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour said: “At the Children’s Village we got to play with the little children and see what kind of life they lived.
“At the Children’s Home we got to play sports with the older children. Although they did not have families, they seemed much more peaceful and happy then we are,” he added.
The next few days saw the team visiting the School for the Disabled, School for the Deaf and School for the Blind.
At the School for the Disabled, the R.O.M.E. members practised conversational English with the disabled students from the Conversational English classes.
“I thought the students in the School of the Disabled were very good in their English and very determined, perhaps more determined than us.” said Soong Hung Ning, 13, from Maris Stella High School.
“I’ve learnt that although they are disadvantaged, their thirst for knowledge and success is much stronger than ours,” Soong added.
At the School for the Deaf, the R.O.M.E. members befriended the deaf children and learnt sign language. The deaf children made it easy and fun for the team to pick it up.
On Dec 7, the team brought blind young people to the beach for an outing.
This outing saw the Singaporean team placing the safety of the young Thais above theirs and seeing to the needs of their blind friends at the beach. They played in the water which brought smiles and cheer to the Thais.
The last place that the Singapore group visited was the Pattaya Orphanage. Here, the team interacted with the orphaned infants and toddlers.
“Though time spent with them was short, I felt a strong bond between us. Now I understand how my parents must have felt as they took care of me for the past 17 years,” said Aloysius Tan from the Church of Divine Mercy.
On the last day, the mission team met a Thai lady named Nui. She was born without limbs but she had fought hard to live a normal life.
Her story touched many of the R.O.M.E. members and made them realise that if God could take care of the least of their brothers and sisters, He could do the same for them.
By Gloria Koh