The joy of serving others and helping the disadvantaged—this is what we were able to offer a group of enthusiastic young people.
Eleven girls from the Li Po Chun United World College in Hong Kong, ages 17 to 21, came to our Central Thailand Mission (CTM) center for hands-on experience in working with orphans. Jun and Christina are from Hong Kong; Natasha and Shehana from Botswana; Ruth from Nigeria; Maria from Norway; and Mizi, Fan Shang, Chen Chen, and Chenying from China.
Their visit was part of the college's Project Week, where students can choose to be part of a service project in any part of the world. These girls chose our ongoing work at a home for abandoned babies in Rangsit, Thailand. During their stay, the girls helped care for children of various ages at the home, including the group of pre-adoptees that I (Kristia) work with. With the girls' help, we were able to give the kids more personal attention and input than usual.
The girls treated about 50 kids, ages four to seven, to a show where the girls explained a little about their home countries, sang songs in their native languages, and played games with the kids. We also organized a day out, courtesy of Dream World, an amusement park in the area. Each girl took responsibility for one child, caring for his or her every need. They found out quickly that with love it was possible to communicate and care for their Thai charges, despite the language barrier. With the fun and excitement of train, car, and boat rides, feeding pet animals, and even a visit to Snow Town (where one experiences the delights of snow, sleds, and the refreshing cold), the day went by quickly.
By the end of their stay, the volunteer girls had developed strong bonds with the children. It was difficult for them to say goodbye.
Besides helping at the children's home, the girls also went with us for an afternoon at an industrial rehabilitation center, where they took on a different kind of challenge. This time they were interacting and conversing one on one with the physically handicapped. The classroom was quite a scene, as we re-arranged wheelchairs and chairs in order to situate the volunteers comfortably with their charges. No sooner had things settled than everyone was "chatting" in some way, using hand gestures, sketching, writing, and so forth, to have conversation. The girls learned that forgetting themselves and being interested in others is a key to success in such social work, as well as in life in general.
We were also able to share with the girls the faith that motivates and enables us to do this work, without the financial security of a salary. I told the girls how I had been a journalist before, but chose a life of serving God and others because it gave greater meaning to life. We were able to lead them all to receive Jesus, the greatest Caregiver of all, who is able to give them the power to give themselves in service to others.
After their experiences at the orphanage, here is what some of the students wrote:
This is an unforgettable experience for me. I learned a lot from Kristia and Peter [CTM staff members]. Their spirit of love has had a great influence in my life. I feel this service trip has been a very vivid lesson, shaping attitudes in my life. I might not be able to contribute as much to help others as Kristia or Peter, but I'll try to help those in need in the future.
—Fan S., China
What do I think about service? I am more impressed by the way Kristia, Peter, and Michael [another CTM staff member] live their lives. I agree with Michael that community service makes one a better person. The experience has helped me explore and understand my inner self, and to realize the compassion and passion everyone has deep inside but might not have a chance to know otherwise. About the kids, I am amazed to think that someday that boy I played with might be somewhere in Europe or the USA, leading a new life that he couldn't have had if no love had been shown him. I believe life is comprised of different miracles. Doing community service, to a certain extent, is helping others make their dreams come true.
—Jun, Hong Kong
During the short time when I played with those kids, I felt like I could help others and bring them happiness. Actually, we didn't need to do much—just smile and hug. These simple things made them so happy, and then we were happy too. I felt I was needed by others and I was helping them. I think this can make the world a better place.
—Chen C., China
Through community service you learn to see the world from a different perspective and you learn about other people's lives in a way you wouldn't have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Besides, you learn how little effort is needed to make someone happy by just being there for them.
Originally Published in 2003.