Trip to Thai­land an eye opener

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By KA­T­RINA LINTONBON

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.

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