Trip to Thailand an eye opener
There were a number of reasons Broadway Funeral Homes co- owner Glenda Milligan decided to make a trip to Thailand.
What she didn’t realise at the time, was that this was going to be a trip that would change her life forever.
Glenda first met Mark Curragh, a former Matamata man, when he came back home to Matamata for his father’s funeral five years ago. During that time Mark spoke of his involvement with a project in Thailand called the Children of the Forest.
As a proud Rotarian, Glenda’s ear automatically pricked up when Mark mentioned they still had polio in Thailand.
Two years ago Glenda’s best friend Barbara and her husband Keith wanted to retire early and head overseas for some voluntary work. Glenda put them in touch with Mark during one of his visits home.
‘‘Barbara and Keith have now been in Thailand for about 15 months,’’ Glenda said.
Mark’s mum Jan also wanted to make the trip to Thailand and so the two went in March.
Children of the Forest was first established as an official British charity in March 2005 by Daniel Hopson.
It is located in northwest Thailand in the border town of Sangkhaburi in the Kanchanaburi province which is about a five to sixhour drive from Bangkok.
In 2004 Daniel was working as a volunteer teacher at an orphanage in Kanchanaburi. At that time he became involved with the plight of the ethnic Karen and Mon children in and around Sangkhlaburi.
Realising that educating the children was the only way to break the cycle of poverty, Daniel decided to start a sponsorship programme where an individual sponsor would support a child’s education.
With the support of family and friends Daniel established a children’s home to provide neglected, abused, orphaned or exploited children and mothers with protection, education, access to vocational opportunities and medical care.
The decision was also made to start a free school so children from local villages could receive basic education. Mark became project manager in December 2005.
The trip is one both women will never forget.
Glenda and Jan both agree that it opened their eyes to how other people around the world are living.
Glenda and Jan said Mark, Daniel and everyone else at the Children of the Forest needed to be commended for what they were doing, which was making a difference.
‘‘These women and children would have very different lives if it wasn’t for the intervention of these marvellous people, it’s hard to encapsulate what these men have done to change these lives,’’ Jan said. ‘‘This really is a great example of the circle of life in play.’’
FASCINATED: Youngsters from Children of the Forest play with a lizard.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Mark and Jan Curragh.
LIFE CHANGING: Glenda Milligan and Jan Curragh on the border between Thailand and Burma.