A child with Down’s syndrome allegedly abandoned by his Australian parents and left in the care of his surrogate mother in Thailand. That’s Gammy’s story, and it has been making international headlines, and raising tens of thousands of pounds, this week. Yet, tragically abandoned babies and hopeless futures for children with special needs are not unusual in Thailand.
Judy Cook, a BMS worker in Chiang Mai, lives and works with little boys and girls who were born with severe disabilities. Children like NamChok.
NamChok has Down’s syndrome and was abandoned outside the government orphanage in Chiang Mai when he was just a baby. He was left with no papers, no history and no way to trace his mum and dad. He didn’t even have a name. Eventually, NamChok (which means lucky boy) was brought to Hope Home, a home for children with disabilities which was co-founded by Judy. Since then he has flourished.
Now four years old, NamChok still doesn’t have much speech – but he is happy and he is loved. Every morning he goes to school, and he is getting so much better at concentrating in his classes. Today, he also has official papers and an identity number so that he can enter into the adoption process thanks to Judy and Hope Home. In the next year, NamChok will hopefully be adopted into a family of his own!
But NamChok, as his name suggests, is one of the lucky ones. There are many disabled children in Thailand whose stories have gone differently. Often, to avoid bringing shame on their families, disabled children are hidden away and not allowed out in public. Belief in karma is prevalent in Thailand, a majority Buddhist country, and children with disabilities are frequently stigmatised because many people believe the reason babies are born with special needs is because they or their family have done something bad. When disability is seen as a punishment, helping children can seem less important.
And those parents who do try to get medical help for their children are given no hope. In the UK, support, medical care and encouragement are readily available for parents. But Judy says that in Thailand parents of children with special needs are often told their children are brain damaged and there’s nothing they can do. “Families come away feeling very discouraged,” says Judy. “They don’t know that they can do anything to help their child.”
But life doesn’t have to be hopeless for these wonderful children, made in the image of God – and that’s what Judy and her team at Hope Home are proving every day. In their work with children like NamChok, they are shining the love of Jesus into the lives of children who seem to have been written off by their society.
“The biggest thing we can offer families is hope.” says Judy. “You want to be looking for what the children can achieve rather than what they can’t do.” Some of the children at Hope Home have very severe disabilities but, even when no progress seems to be being made, there is still hope and an opportunity to give the best life possible. Through Hope Home’s kindness and care, “the children know that they are loved and accepted,” says Judy.
And witnessing the smiling faces of Hope Home’s children, you can’t help but see how precious, happy and loved they are.
As well as looking after seven children with disabilities full-time, Hope Home provides respite care for families with disabled children. They currently have two mums and daughters living with them, and another boy who comes in for respite care regularly.
Help us continue to show God’s love to children like NamChok: give today.
To find out more about Hope Home watch this video:
Birthday Scheme - Thank You from BMS World Mission on Vimeo.