Story and photos by Weng Cheong
Having all grown up in Thailand, my family and I make it a tradition to return to our home country and visit orphanages on each of our birthdays.
School for Life is a small nonprofit that provides a home and education for orphans in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Some of the children are HIV-positive, tsunami survivors, orphans whose parents have died from addiction, or trafficking victims. My sister taught at the school for a summer and she hasn’t stopped talking about it ever since. On my last visit home, my family and I went to School for Life and volunteered.
Here is a glimpse into a typical day at the school.
While all the kids were playing outside in the open field after lunch, a young boy was lying in one of the classrooms shivering despite the 100 degree heat.
Chess pieces are substituted for small stones because of the school’s lack of supplies.
During recess, a group of children gathered around a woven swing.
Rusted desks and chairs are scattered across many of the classrooms at the school. During class time, most children choose to sit on the floor.
That day, the children were served pizza and ice cream for lunch. Usually, the older orphans cook the meals themselves, but a volunteer decided to bring in a meal. Pizza is a luxury food in Thailand because parlors are generally only in malls and other high-end places.
Though pizza was the main focus of their lunch that day, the dessert caused just as much of a frenzy at the community table.
School for Life gets its supplies through donations. During playtime, the kids play chess. The volunteers explained that they can’t afford chess pieces, so they teach kids to use rocks instead.