Seniors Shelagh Li and Allie Flaa taught and lived with New Sky Home Thai orphans for two fun weeks, reconnecting with children they’d met two years ago.
“It was good to keep our promise, to return to the Thai school where we’d taught before. It meant a lot to the kids. But our first day was a bit intimidating. I was afraid the kids had forgotten us; then we’d have to begin relationships again,” Shelagh said.
Allie explained their main challenge: “We were totally immersed in Thai language! Some people also spoke Chinese, but little English. Thinking in Thai was a huge focus, but it helped to have Shelagh around; she speaks better Thai.”
Their days began early at 6:30 a.m., when New Sky Home staff brought breakfast. “We taught English every day to Thai public school children, grades K1 to 6. In the evenings, we debriefed, prepped lessons for the next day, read books, played guitar, made lunches, sometimes made dinner for the kids, and washed our clothes by hand, until lights went out at 9 p.m.,” Allie said.
Each day the teens taught, building on basic English vocabulary the Thai students knew, using many different learning activities, like flashcards, writing, games, and coloring pages. After reading A Color of My Own to classes, they helped make 3D chameleons. “It was awesome seeing the kids design creative colors and patterns,” Shelagh said.
After school back at the orphanage, Shelagh and Allie led more crafts and activities. Fridays were movie nights; Saturdays everyone sang; Sunday evenings they played games. But they feel this mission opportunity isn’t for everyone; and orphanage staff are careful about who works with their children.
“I knew I’d see a poorer part of Thailand, but was surprised their buildings were much nicer than expected. Our guest house had water heaters, mattresses on beds, wardrobes, blankets, and a nice kitchen,” Allie said. “The children were friendlier, happier, and more full of hope than we expected. We bonded easily, and they thought everything we taught was brilliant!”
Shelagh said she’d definitely like to visit again. “It’s a great opportunity to learn how to serve the less fortunate. They have a joy that only the Lord can give. Sometimes, with lots of possessions, we can lose track of the Lord’s joy, because we’re so caught up in the material things we own. And I loved seeing the kids grow and develop into opinionated little people. We also liked teaching orphan girls crafts and foods that they could make, to earn a living someday.”
Both seniors feel it was a great experience. They saw missionaries helping in villages on the Burma border and heard amazing stories of God working there, where Shelagh’s family serves with Hong Kong-based China Evangelical Missions (CEM). Her parents teach at the Bible Seminary; other staff run New Sky Home, opened in 2006 for 50 children, ages 3 to 18, after housing orphans in a student center since 1995.
“It was much harder to leave this year; we may never return after graduation. But as we blessed and encouraged the children, everything made them smile! And serving there also blessed us,” Shelagh said.