Village Outreach Programme
Visitation is at the heart of our programme.
A multi disciplinary Team visits clients in over 180 villages over six provinces, providing a variety of services:
Referrals, accompaniment and transportation to hospital
Home care nursing and training of family members to provide care to loved ones
House repairs + construction of bathrooms
Food for the isolated and elderly
Hospital visitation and care packages
Advocacy and access to social welfare assistance and legal documentation
Babies from birth to three years.
Assessing the home situations of our target group remains key to providing the best assistance and to ensure positive results. Breastfeeding is not always an option (as explained below) and so providing milk powder to impoverished villagers is very important.
Three categories of families are included in our milk distribution programme:
1.Grandparents caring for infants when the mother has gone to seek employment elsewhere. The grandparents are often elderly, suffering from various ailments or disability and thus, if unable to work, they do not have income to provide care to their grandchildren.
2. Sole providers - usually mothers – who, after separation from the baby’s father,must provide alone for their children. Unable to work due to caring for her child, the woman has no means of income and the family will thus suffer.
3. Mothers unable to breastfeed their child due to illness (HIV/thalasemia).
Not only does our programme provide milk powder during home visits, but knowledge, and practical advice will be given to the carers. The mother or guardian, is also invited to participate in workshops during the year, where hospital staff will provide instruction as to the developmental stages of children.
Special needs children
Should medical intervention be deemed necessary for chronic illness or physical disability among children, we endeavour to seek the most appropriate treatment from specialists.
Most children receiving regular and sufficient nutrition during their formative years, will develop according to developmental ‘norms’ and as a result, will exit our milk programme at the age of two.
However, for those who are still experiencing health problems or slow development, it is recommended that they continue to receive supplementary nutritional assistance and close monitoring of their development for an extended period.
Our Team serves an important role in addressing the underlying problems of a child’s below par development and will arrange for the children to have a proper assessment. Often we find a child’s well-being may be impacted due to poor living conditions, lack of guardian’s knowledge and distance from hospitals. When families suffer economic hardship, a trip to a hospital is often well beyond their means. Our programme staff will make home visits, accompany the family to hospital and provide follow-up home care.
The Friendship Centre opened in 2001 as a place of gathering for families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It was a time when anti-retroviral drugs were not yet available and deaths were frequent. Ostracised by family and community, the Friendship Centre welcomed people unconditionally and there, they found acceptance, support and a will to live.
For the first few years, it was used regularly on weekends for Family Days.
Transportation was provided from the villages and a day of activity was offered - tuition for the children, games, songs, dancing, art and craft and a nourishing meal.
In 2004, the facilities expanded, with the construction of a large sala (covered open area) and a new building with meeting area and rooms for emergency housing. 2003 had seen the early introduction of ARV medication and while it wasn't yet accessible to all, the promise of a longer life, gave increased hope to the community.
While the Family Days continued each month, a fortnightly Learning Programme was offered to 80 children (HIV infected and affected), where classes were provided in Thai and English language and mathematics.This programme continued until 2012 when schools started providing weekend activities to which the children were required to attend.
In 2005, the Hands of Hope project began, offering employment to adults living with HIV/AIDS. Now receiving ARVs, they were stronger and able to work, yet were still discriminated against in the wider community. Hands of Hope grew, with between 30 - 35 daily producers and is now in its 16th year. During term breaks, the participants' children were able to attend, earning money for their educational needs by producing their own range of products.
The enforced 'stay at home' brought about by Covid-19, brought about changes. Now, with a reduced number of producers, the project operates two days a week - unless extra orders are received. The producers turn their hands to additional income- generating activities on 'days off'.
Seminars and workshops are provided throughout the year for the adults on a range of topics, to which professional speakers from the hospitals or or other NGOs have been invited. Those in the programme are educated about their entitlements and informed how to access what is rightfully theirs.
Children's Camps have been offered twice a year since the centre was opened, to children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS and twice annually to a smaller number of infected children called the 'Jasmine Group', on topics related to their health and well-being. The goal of the workshops and camps, has always been to build a sense of self esteem, inspiring confidence within both the children and adults.
Family Day Celebrations While monthly family days are no longer necessary, with improvements to the general health and self worth of the community, we have maintained three significant celebrations during the year.
Songkran (Thai New Year) in April; Mother’s Day in August; and Christmas/New Year. A few hundred adults and children gather for these occasions which are a time of blessing for all involved, strengthening our sense of community and maintaining supportive friendships among our target groups.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, celebrations from 2020 to 2023 were cancelled in the Friendship Centre, with smaller gatherings only in the Garden of Friendship.
Garden of Friendship
As part of the Village Outreach Programme, the Garden of Friendship was opened in December 2008.
The aim of this first residential project, was to provide permanent housing to families and individuals in need of accommodation and to offer 24 hour nursing care to a limited number of patients without alternative support. The emphasis has always been on community living, healing and well being.
The purpose of the Care Facility has always been to provide the necessary support to those in our care – social, medical, physical, nutritional, emotional and spiritual - until such a time, with their physical strength restored, they can return to independent living with their families or village communities.Palliative care is also given,where dying patients are cared for with dignity and spend their last days supported by a loving community.
A volunteer house was built in 2011, enabling us to welcome international volunteers committed to work alongside our Thai staff in providing the much needed care.
For an increasing number of patients referred to us, when it is time to move on, there is nowhere to go. Without a home or family support, those who continue to require a measure of assistance with daily tasks, cannot live independently. In 2012 therefore,
‘Sr Mary’s Assisted Living Cottage’ was built, providing three additional beds.
In 2016, we expanded once more with the construction of the 18 bed Life Centre. The residents here are those who are able to help themselves to some extent and join in with a daily activity programme. As they get ready to move back to independent living,
they are prepared by our nurse and social workers, in order to transition successfully. Families are consulted and the new living situation is assessed.
In 2018, a three patient room TB Unit opened, providing isolated care for those with tuberculosis.
Original central building
At the time of opening, in the Garden’s central building we had a three bed care room.That building served us well and miracles were witnessed, as the sick were restored to health, the lame walked and those without hope, gained independence and fulfilling lives.
Four family homes shared the compound.
In August 2010, the facilities were expanded in response to
a growing need for residential care among our target group. Four individual patient rooms were added – enabling us to take in those infected with TB and the three bed care room was relocated to the new wing. At the same time,
four new family units were opened.
Sr Mary's Cottage
Our Outreach project targets three geographical areas (from three provinces). Nongkhai, Beung Kan and Udon Thani.
Village sizes in the northeast vary from 60 families in smaller villages to 400 families in larger ones. Our Team works closely with provincial and district hospitals, as well as clinics and social welfare departments in each of the three provinces. We also receive referrals from as far away as Phuket or Chiang Mai, through social welfare personnel or through other NGOs, due to the unique nature of what our holistic project offers.
There are currently over 180 villages visited by our Team, with a current 582 registered adult clients,the majority of whom, are those living with HIV/AIDS.
Our patients fall into the following main categories:
1.Those newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS who are adjusting to ARV therapy and need monitoring and encouraging during the first month. With their physical strength restored, they can return to independent living with their families or village communities.
2. Those living with HIV/AIDS who are suffering from opportunistic infections ie. TB, Cryptococcal Infection, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), diarrhea or extreme weakness and fever that's not related to any infection. Also, those who are suffering from AIDS wasting syndrome from not having taken medications regularly and not maintaining a nutritious diet.
The goal for these patients is also to return home when their condition is stabilized.
3. Those suffering from cancer or are stroke victims, with no-one to care for them outside.
4. Those who are homeless and are referred to us through social welfare departments. After initial medical care is given and it is time to move on, there is nowhere to go. Thus they need to be provided with longer term accommodation and a social support network.
5. Those who continue to require a measure of assistance with daily tasks due to problems with impaired cognitive development (often resulting from TB infection or cryptoccal infection of the brain). Thus they cannot live independently and if they do not have supportive family members or those in a position to offer the care they require, they need our on-going support.
6.Those requiring Palliative care. When healing is not possible – often due to seeking help too late - or with underlying conditions that jeopardize restorative care - dying patients feel the support and love of their new found ‘family’.
Additionally, we provide accommodation to:
a) Relatives who come from far away to help care for their family member and while with us, learn the correct procedures for supporting and assisting their loved one.
b)Patients from distant villages who are attending hospital appointments and thus need somewhere to stay while accessing their treatment.
Within our facility, the spirit of generosity is demonstrated by our Staff, who are selfless in providing the care to patients and residents. Following their example, the more able bodied patients, as well as participating in a structured daily activity programme, assist generously with the care of others.
We work collaboratively with government departments and other NGOs, to ensure programme participants are able to access the services available to them.
The 14 rai of land in the Garden of Friendship, is used for growing rice, planting vegetables, herbs and fruit trees and for raising chickens and fish. The produce is used to offset the costs of buying food from outside and the excess is sold. The men who live in the family homes work the land and are assisted by patients and residents, whose health has improved and who have acquired more mobility. The families in residence cultivate their own gardens next to their homes.
Daily well-being programme
The holistic programme within the Garden of Friendship, is provided by our Staff and volunteers.
Group and individual counselling – licensed social workers
Art Therapy – Outreach Director
Games for motor co-ordination/mental agility/social interaction – Project Manager from Hands of Hope
Gardening – experienced gardeners employed in the centre
Exercise – Nursing staff
Cooking – centre cooks /volunteers
Patient assessment/admissions and treatment plans – Nursing staff and social workers
Transportation to hospital – Field workers/drivers
Cultural celebrations – Outreach Team as co-ordinated effort
Hands of Hope – Project Manager/ Hands of Hope Committee