The reality of the Sri Udom Orphanage is really quite bittersweet. Entering my third-week volunteering here, something I have come to see is that nothing is sugarcoated. Volunteers are not told that this is the best place for these children to live, or that they are perfectly healthy and safe. The true reality is that for many of these children they are living in conditions where they share a bed with two to three other children. A small twin bed. They could be sharing this bed with someone who has lice, contagious diseases, or even malaria. Every single one of the 270 children must use the same ten bathrooms, five for the boys and five for the girls. These bathrooms do not have running water. These bathrooms do not have toilet paper.
The reality for many of these children is that they wake up in the morning to shower in a bath with ten, maybe twenty of kids their age. A “bath” simply consists of a bucket and a pool of water that they can fill the bucket it. Even things as simple as brushing their teeth is made difficult, due not only to the cost of toothbrushes and toothpaste but because the orphanage lacks proper drinking water and facilities to allow the children be hygienic. This may sound ludicrous to some, but what we must remember is that an orphanage is not a business. Hell it is not even a non-profit. An orphanage in Thailand makes no money. Zero. Nada. Nilch. This is what is bitter about seeing the lives of these children.
BUT. But there is hope, and I am proud to say that in the eyes of myself and many peers the orphanage helps the children, much more than it hinders them. Established by the temple where it is founded, The Sri Udom Orphanage was established to allow children of the Northern Thailand hill tribes to descend into the country and escape what could be a life of slavery, or worse. Because the Kingdom of Thailand is currently in a Military Coup, and constantly being monitired, I cannot speak about much specifically. However, what I can say is that life for many of these children of a specific sex could be horrific if it were not for this orphanage.
For many years, female children have been sold by their parents for large sums of Baht, often exceeding 50,000 Baht ($1,400). These children would be taken to Bangkok and other largely populated areas and forced into various types of slavery, including prostitution. Once I arrive in a different country I am going to create a post that goes in depth into this, however I would highly recommend reading Disposable People by Kevin Bales. This book was reccomended to me from one of my Professors at Bentley U, and it has honestly been one of the most intruiging, disgusting, and aggrivating books I have ever read. After reading the section on Thailand while being in the same country left me feeling absolutely sick.
However, where I see hope is within the Sri Udom Orphanage. This orphanage has given these children a chance in a Thai society that is obsessed with sex. It allows them to come to Thailand, and grow up in safety. It gives young girls the ability to get an education, and young men the chance to leave the orphanage and enter the workforce. I have seen hope in the eyes of these children and while it is a small step in the right direction, the orphanage has saved thousands of lives over its 10+ year life.