We went to Thailand last week for a port call, our first of only a couple of this deployment. I am glad we got to go to Thailand since I had never been and it is a lot cheaper than the other ports we pull into.
One thing that we do in almost every port is community service (COMSERV) projects. Usually it’s very hard to get a spot for them because with as many people as we have - and as many good citizens as we have in the military - they usually fill up before you can even get through the line.
This time, however, there was a COMSERV for the Chief’s Mess. We usually don’t get one for just us but in this case, no one was signing up for one of them so we took it as a group. We went to the Camillian Social Center in Rayong for children and adults living with HIV/AIDS. Most of the children were born HIV positive, many of them abandoned there because the center is known for taking very good care of the children. It was a very nice facility, very open and clean, and the kids were obviously well taken care of and well mannered. Nice to us, nice to the adults that worked at the facility, and nice to each other.
We thought we were going there to play with the kids for the day but when we got there we were sat down to watch a 83-slide PowerPoint presentation (that is not an exaggeration!) about their mission there that took for-e–v—-e——r, and then they ushered us to an area where they gave us lunch. Before the presentation started though, they gave us a couple of minutes with the kids.
One thing that everyone who knows me well knows, I love glitter. Glitter = happiness. You can have glitter on a bad day and your bad day all of a sudden isn’t so bad anymore. And on a place like a ship which is very grey and, well, blah, I of course had to BMOG (bring my own glitter). Last deployment I had a box of about 15 different containers of glitter that I got from my mom for Christmas a couple of years ago. It came in handy a couple of times last time, and this time I knew I needed some more so the day before deployment, I went to the craft store and bought a big collection of glitter. I got probably 20 more containers, which brought it to 1 metric shit ton of glitter. Because you never really know when you’ll need a metric shit ton of glitter. Well, actually, I do know when. You need it when you’re going to be hanging out with sick kids in an orphanage.
So I showed up to the bus with a box of glitter, which of course with a group of Chiefs you know is going to mean endless teasing. But that’s OK, I’m secure in my glitterinity. Yeah, that just happened.
When we were walking back from the slideshow, I had my box with me and this little girl saw me and her eyes lit up. “Glitter?” she said in Thai. I nodded excitedly and led her over to the side where I pulled out a stack of paper and a bottle of Elmer’s glue. After that, kid after kid came up and wanted to play with the glitter. Unfortunately, with only 10 minutes, by the time the glitter was out it was time to start cleaning up and head to lunch.
Lunch was fantastic - the food in Thailand is amazingly good. We had rice with vegetables and some sort of hot wing, with cucumbers and two sauces, one sweet and one spicy.
When lunch was winding down and I was sitting talking to my friend, I felt a tiny hand whack me in the back. I turned around and there was this sweet little boy with his eyes hopeful, asking me without needing words if I would let him have some more glitter.
So I pulled out my paper and glue and opened up the box, and it was like a magnet - before I knew it there were 15 more kids, all patting me, wanting to play with it. It was absolutely delightful to watch them draw and sprinkle glitter on their glue. The kids loved writing “Love” in English and in Thai. The kids were so well behaved, the older ones helping the younger ones, they were all very quiet but very obviously happy.
One of the Chiefs on the trip pulled out a guitar and sang for the kids, giving a nice soundtrack to an already wonderful day. This was the best thing I’ve done in the time I’ve been on here; I only wish we would have had more time to interact with the children, as well as the adults that were there.
The glue started running out so I diverted a few kids with my iPad. I have an app called Soundrop, which is a really, really neat little app where a ball drops and you draw lines for it to bounce off; each line makes a different sound so you can make really neat music with it. The kids loved that almost as much as the glitter. There was gum and glitter and slimy little fingerprints all over it by the time they were done - it was so much fun.
It was hard to leave at the end of the visit, I really would have loved to stay and play with the kids and meet some of the adults that were there.
I usually don’t solicit for anything on here, but if you are looking to make a charitable donation to a worthwhile foundation, please consider helping out the Camillian Social Center. There is such a high rate of HIV/AIDS in Thailand and these little ones are born with it and then abandoned by their families to be cared for by the kindness of this foundation. They have a hard time with non-monetary donations because the government intercepts those packages and by the time they make it to the kids, most everything worthwhile is already taken out of it at the hands of customs. It’s really frustrating for them there and they ask that if donations are sent that it’s in a non-descript package. I’m planning on sending some more craft supplies when I get home that ship flat and can look like documents being mailed.
I know I’ve already said it, but I can’t say it enough - that place is doing a really great job providing a safe, healthy, loving environment to those kids and I really hope to be able to help them again someday.