Timeline : Good Shepherd Mission in Nong Khai  1981 - 2021

    In the words of our Mother Foundress, St Mary Euphrasia:

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart”.

As we mark 40 years of mission, our hearts are full  of memories and of overflowing gratitude

for all who have been a part of our life here in Nong Khai.

The following timeline has been put together from events recorded in the community annuls and from annual reports. The timeline relates to significant events and milestones in the development of the mission and while the outcomes and achievements very much depended on the presence of a constantly changing number of sisters and mission partners carrying out the work and  the hundreds of visitors (many of whom returned multiple times) who supported the work, we have not recorded here the arrivals and departures of each. These connections were however, the foundation upon which we built the mission and remain embedded in our memory and in the lives and hearts of those who have benefitted over the past forty years. Also, due to space, we do not show every seminar or training workshop conducted, nor do we record the on-going village visitation and provision of services, which continued daily, throughout the past 40 years. For more information regarding the nature of this work, we invite you to view the project pages.

 

1980 Early in the year, the Good Shepherd Sisters, who had been established in Bangkok since 1965, made an exploratory trip to Nong Khai (northeastern Thailand) and the 35,000 person refugee camp, there on the border with Laos. They also learned of the situation in the impoverished villages.

July: - Fr Thiele, the Redemptorist parish priest of Nong Khai, appealed to the  Good Shepherd Provincial at the time, Sr Juliana, to grant permission for Sisters to be sent from Bangkok, to expand their mission, by starting a second Thai foundation in Nong Khai.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) were then running the camps and had vowed to fund Good Shepherd projects in the area. The Bishop had offered land on which to settle. However, at the time, a lack of personnel prohibited a decision being made.

August: Again an appeal was made, stating that if Good Shepherd could not commit, the Bishop would make the same proposal to the Daughters of Charity - a congregation working in the northeast. Still Sr Juliana declined to commit.

1981 February : Further correspondence between Sr Juliana and the Bishop, revealed that the sisters of the Daughters of Charity had taken up work with lepers in Loei province and so, with a change of  circumstance for Good Shepherd and the great needs of girls and young women in Nong Khai,  they agreed to start a new foundation.

They were aware of the difficulties, with distance, language and limited personne, being the main three.

24th September : Sr Pranee Sitti, a Junior Thai Sister, journeyed to the northeast, to stay with the Daughters of

Charity congregation and learn about their work and local culture. As part of the Bishop's Social Development

Team, she saw the difficulties faced by women and young girls, first hand. 

November: Irish missionaries, Sr Margaret Brady and Sr Mary Hayden, who had previously pioneered

Good Shepherd work in Vietnam, and Sr Joan Gormley - a nurse who had worked with them, joined

Sr Pranee in Nong Khai. and together they set up house on the banks of the Mekong River. After one month, the house slipped into the river!

They had agreed to a one year 'experiment' and with Sr Joan as Community Leader, they decided to rent a house instead of putting down permanent roots on the Bishop's offered land.

They re-settled in a rented house in Soi Yod Gao ( in Nong Khai town), which was to be home for the next two years.

They worked with Catholic Relief Services  and  were befriended by the Director,  Khun Suvan Boonthae,  who was described by Sr Margaret as, “ a  true friend to all who need his services. Sr Mary became his secretary and he always claimed that he, 'taught her to write a letter'!

Khun Suvan took the sisters to mass every morning and the St Paul de Chartres sisters, who ran the local Catholic School, warmly welcomed them and gave advice.

NB: Khun Suvan remained a faithful friend and problem solver, until his untimely death in 2006.

With the CRS Mobile Health Team, they visited remote villages and identified some of the problems impacting families-:

  • lack of water

  • little employment (4-5 months of rice planting only)

  • Teenage marriage (girls 14- 17)

  • limited education

1982 The outreach work led the sisters two hours up river, to the Catholic village of Huai Suam. Sr Pranee, fresh from Bangkok, lived among the villagers on and off for the next two years, returning to Nong Khai for weekends. She was often joined by Sr Joan.

February: An eight day training programme was conducted to recruit young women to join the Leadership Training Course in Bangkok between July and December. The aim was that they would return to the village and pass on their knowledge.

March: Further training was conducted for:-

  • income generating employment

  • health and family planning

  • reconciliation and building unity in the village

The goal was to offer employment in the village and stem the flow to the cities.

Villagers therefore constructed a bamboo building for training local women and

the first skills training, income generation project began.

At the same time, in the villages closer to Nong Khai, the same problems were identified

along with malnutrition which, for many children, led to eye infections and  blindness.

After identifying the problems facing the villagers, who were a lot worse off than those in the camps, time was dedicated to:-

  • constructing wells

  • providing resources for kitchen gardens

  • health and hygiene education

  • income generation - trying to find markets for the locally woven cloth

  • Training on Buddhist principles

Youth would be seen at bus and train stations and so, to stem migration, they saw the importance of offering alternatives closer to home. So began:-

  • Leadership programmes

  • Self sufficiency training

  • Building relationships - family counselling

  • employment for men

It was decided that it was far better to train the people locally rather than send them to the GS house in Bangkok, where everything familiar was absent. The contrast between country and city was too great. It was not the glamour of city life that lured women away but the desperate need for money. It was the sisters' intention that,  once settled on their own land,  to build two small village style wooden houses that could be used for training young women.

July: Bishop George presented land on Prachak Rd for construction of a convent. It was low lying farm land and needed to be filled.

The Superior General  of Good Shepherd, Sr Bernadette Fox, gave funds to build. It comprised a one storey  convent building and the envisioned, two village houses.

July: Provincial Chapter - Sr Louise Horgan  - from Bangkok - elected new Provincial (replacing Sr Julianna)

The refugee camp officially closed and many in CRS, left Nong Khai. Those remaining continued to help in the village programmes. - further well construction and irrigation

                         - buffalo banks

                         - co-ops

                         - nutrition programmes in three villages

It was a time of learning, of getting to know the people - most of whom had never met sisters

(not to mention Irish ones!) and familiarising themselves with the culture.

From the outset, in trying to help the women sell their weaving, the sisters faced -  a 'lack of

sales' personnel; lack of markets and lack of capital'. It was cry  that was heard on more than

one occasion from then unto the present time!

1983 March : Sr Mercy Ho,  came to visit for a month, reuniting with her community from the years spent in Vietnam together. (Sr Mercy would later join the Nong Khai Community permanently.)

Various Good Shepherd postulants, novices and junior sisters began coming for short mission exposure experiences.  The first were Anurak and Uraiwan.

May: Convent nearing completion.

October – Blessing of foundation stone for convent on Prachak Rd with a large gathering of priests, sisters, benefactors and friends.

Weaving was encouraged in the first 10 villages they worked in the Bang Fang area and with the

help of Khun Suvan and his wife Thong, they began to produce and market handicrafts

under the label 'Village Weaver Handicrafts'. Under Khun Thong's instruction, 21 women were

trained to convert village cloth into saleable items. 

Attended the monthly Hilltribe Sale in  the International School, Bangkok and sold to Patches

Shop in Bangkok, owned by the Redemptorists.

Child Care Centres  were established in two villages. This number soon grew to six and early

education was provided for hundreds of children per year until the early 90’s, when the

Government began pre-schools in the area. A simultaneous lunch programme restored the children to good health and taught  good nutritional practices to the mothers.

Sr Lena joined the community.

To address the needs of farming communities further, an agricultural project was begun in 1983. The Village Vocational Training  Centre (VVTC), as it became known in 1984, had its roots in a former Diocesan project assisting the refugees and local Thai communities on land in the  refugee camp. In 1983, the Maryknolls were assigned to the project and land was acquired by the Diocese 8 kms from the town. Fr Bill O'Leary and Fr Al Bosarin ran the programme. Training was provided on the two sites until 1987 when everything was moved to the current land in 'Na Jan'.

1981

1983

1982

Bishop and Pranee.jpg

1980

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1984

 

1984 The work of the previous year was continued.

Fr O'Leary official chaplain to Good Shepherd Sisters in Nong Khai - celebrated mass in convent chapel daily.

 

1985 

March : Seminar for primary school leavers.

From 1985 -2019, the Village Vocational Training Centre, provided training in animal husbandry and horticulture,to 6,012 farmers from  57 villages in 20 subject areas,  with further  project implementation and follow-up micro-credit support, provided by the VVTC to 4258 families.

1986

Fr Laurence Patin became Parish Priest of Nong Khai.

January: Sr Pranee made final vows in Bangkok.

March: Sisters Jiemjit and Suphatra joined the community, replacing Sr Lena.

May: The Maryknolls left the 'farm' (VVTC). Sr Mercy returned for another visit.

June: New Day Care Centre opened in village of Nong Bua.

September: Golden Jubilee celebration of Sr Margaret.

Annual Sports Day for Day Care Centres.

October: Board of Directors formed for Village Vocational Training Centre. Fr Jim Noonan took over as Director.

November: First telephone was installed. Prior to this, calls had to be made from the post office exchange.

1987

January: 18 girls travelled to Bangkok to pursue education.

February: Mary's Friends Norway sponsored Day Care Centre in Nong Daeng - donated 4 wheel drive pick-up and have remained committed to furthering children's educational opportunities to the present day.

May: 91 children from Day Care Centres, entered Government Schools.

Vocations three day Seminar conducted.

1988

March: Lady Pamela Egremont, Rosemary Taylor and Ilse Ewald visited to build kindergarten in village.

April: Sr Pranee replaced Fr Jim Noonan as Director of VVTC.

July: Trade opens with Laos and Thais can cross into Laos for weekend markets.

September: Good Shepherd handed over  a newly built sala in the village of Non Daeng to the Education Department.

Srs Joan and Pranee attended DI-SWAD bi-annual meeting of representatives from all development projects in Diocese.

Tradecrafts Oxfam visited, showing interest in crochet work. 

Friends For All Children  - a small orphanage - officially  opened in Nong Khai, with representatives from Bangkok attending. Australian, Margot Harrison worked in the home for seven years and was a dear friend.

Vocation recruitment was on-going and gatherings were held every school holiday period of young girls interested in the mission and charism of Good Shepherd. In between, the sisters would visit different geographical areas, speaking in churches and visiting homes. This has continued to the present day.

October: First group of twenty girls began four month live in training to learn sewing, handicrafts

and housekeeping. It was the beginning of what would become - the Regina Women's Self-Help

Centre.

November: Visit from Australian Ambassador, who wished to support the water projects . Access

to water, especially during the six dry months of the year, continued to be a major concern.

December: First Family Life Seminar for Buddhist couples held in the VVTC.

1989

January: New craft venture - handpainting bags for sale in the USA with artist and teacher, Terry

Sarro. The lack of opportunity for young girls leaving school and living in poverty, drove us to look for new ventures. (Sadly, it never took off.)

Parties were held for all children in the Day Care Centres.

February: Sixth Day Care Centre (first Catholic) opened  in Ban Tin. Rosemary Taylor attended opening with Connie Boll who sponsored this project for 68 children. Connie was to introduce us to the OAK Foundation (Switzerland), which has supported the projects from 2010 to the present time.

Representatives from CEBEMO in Holland visited VVTC and held  a very fruitful meeting.

April: Sr Mary, accompanied by Rosemary Taylor, visited Vietnam - her first time back since leaving in 1975. The visit was restricted.

May: Family Life Programme for six villages. All most interested.

September: Seminar for 61 workers in sewing group on self -knowledge and development.

November: Sr Suphatra's final vow ceremony in Ayuthaya.

December: Blessing of extension to village homes for training in convent grounds, by Bishop George and Cardinal Meechai, making a workroom for 60.

1990  

February: Sr Joan's term of office ended and she was replaced by Sr Mary, as  local Community Leader.

VVTC agricultural training programmes continue.

April: Sr Mary and Sr Anne Furlong (formerly working together in Vietnam), visited Vietnam to see about the return of the Good Shepherd Sisters.

New group of teachers trained to work in Day Care Centres - attending training by the sisters every weekend. These were to replace former trained teachers who went on to pursue higher studies.

June: Visit by Sr Gemma Cadena - the Mother General of the GS Congregation -  a warm and understanding woman.

July: Seminar for all teachers and workers in six Day Care centres -  a time of positive reflection, evaluation and planning.

October: Five day Vocations seminar.

1991

January: Sr Supapawn joined the community.

Provincial Chapter in Hong Kong attended by Srs Mary, Pranee and Joan. Sr Joan was appointed the new Provincial, replacing Sr Louise, which meant she had to leave Nong Khai (in April), to take up her new position. This saddened  everyone greatly.

February: Sr Mary travelled to Taiwan to meet Mrs Kok and open her handicrafts sales venue, expanding the international sales. 

March: New Day Care Centre opened (second Catholic) in village of Don Wai.

June: Announcement - Due to Sr Gemma's poor health, a new Mother General of the Congregation was announced - Sr Liliane Tauvette.

June/July: Insufficient rain to plant this year's rice crop - severe economic hardship for farmers. The result - mass migration to cities.

Sewing programme for girls leaving school after a primary education, had 160 enrolled under Sr Supapawn's instruction.

October: Sr Jiemjit's Final Vows ceremony held in Bangkok.

1992 

Construction of the Thai - Laos Bridge began and the Nong Khai Royal Hotel and Nong Khai Grand, were opened - providing jobs for locals.

May: Political unrest in Bangkok led to a Coup. His Majesty the King, appealed to all sides to settle.

Sr Pranee reassigned to Bangkok community, Sr Jiemjit to Nong Khai.

July 22nd: Official opening of the Village Vocational Training Centre

as Good Shepherd project. Bishop George and the Governor of Nong Khai

in attendance with report given by Sr Pranee.

Aug: Good rains this year with the promise of a good rice crop and harvest.

October: The issues in Bangkok had been resolved with a democratically

elected government installed. The nation rejoiced.

December: Sr Lakana Suksuchit joined the community.

1993

Two former Vietnamese sisters accepted back into Vietnam by the government, to work with street children.

March: Fr Michael Shea to replace Fr Prasit as parish priest. Though Fr Shea moved on, he has remained a friend of Good Shepherd to the present day and heads Sarnelli House  for children, in the neighbouring village of Don Wai.

April: Srs Mary and Joan visited Vietnam for the opening of  the mission in Sadec. It had been 18 years since Good Shepherd had left the country.

Construction began on the Huai Sai Girls Training Centre, which would provide girls in the villages with training and employment. The centre was to be on Diocesan land under the direction of the VVTC in Na Jan. Families becoming aware of the risks in sending young girls to the cities for 'employment', welcomed this opportunity.

May: Evaluation of ministries by Province Council, with an exchange of efforts, interventions, failures, trials, errors and successes, between the Bangkok, Nong Khai and Pattaya communities.

June: Huai Sai centre nearing completion. MISEOR (Netherlands) donated a truck with which to transport girls to the centre.

Two sisters arrived from Burma for a mission experience. It was the start of Nong Khai accepting sisters from Burma, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia over the next 26 years to serve in the projects, with placements from 2 months to three years.

December: As work increased in the Day Care centres, the Village Vocational Training Centre and the girls project in Huai Sai, run by Sr Lakana, Sr Yanee was welcomed to the community.

Christmas parties took place in each of the centres, as they did throughout the life of the mission - in gratitude for the year that had passed. These would often start early December and finish prior to New Year, where a short break was had in each project for staff and participants.

1994

January: Opening of Huai Sai Girl's Training Centre. The wonderful ceremony was presided over by Bishop

George, with government officials in attendance. It was a good opportunity to make known the work of Good

Shepherd. Problem now - to find enough work for the large number of girls needing it!

April: Following the annual Vocations Seminar, six girls spent the remainder of their school holidays in the

training house to learn more about the charism and work of Good Shepherd.

July: Good Shepherd in Australia began The Trading Circle - a fair trading project in Australia and New Zealand,

with the intention of selling handcrafted goods from Good Shepherd global projects. They were to remain one

of the largest customers until the closure of their last shop in Sydney in October 2020. They had run outlets in

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Wellington and Auckland over the years, with additional smaller venues holding sales.

September: Sr Lakana attended a meeting with The Trading Circle to see outlined the basis for co-operation. They had a passion for empowering the women in regard to economic justice.

1995

March: A significant visit from Sr Anne Manning and Sr Helen Swiggs from The Trading Circle who were determined to sell the products being made by the girls and women.

1996

January:Sr Mercy Ho joined the community permanently after the last of those she cared for in Macau and Hong Kong, passed away. 

March: New provincial named - Sr Euphrasia Meskomeklin who had been the first Thai sister welcomed into the Congregation.

After a council meeting held in Nong Khai, Sr Pranee was appointed Community Leader, taking over the responsibility from Sr Mary, whose term had finished. This would happen in September, after Sr Pranee returned from a renewal course in Ireland.

1997

January: Srs Joan, Pranee and Lakana, invited to Holland to discuss with the Good Shepherd sisters there, a future collaboration for the Regina Centre .

May: Following discussions in January, the outcome was for four Dutch volunteers with expertise in design and marketing, beginning a placement with the Regina Centre.

October: Isan Weaving shop opened on the highway, 6kms outside the town. In 1999, it closed due to roadworks, as the highway was expanded and re-opened after being re-furbished in 2000. It closed finally in 2016.

1998

Relieving the economic hardship of families by providing opportunities by which people can help themselves, continued to be the priority. To this end,  the Village Vocational Training Centre to train farmers in additional agricultural activities including the Cow Bank, had been established and sewing skills were being taught to girls and women in Nong Khai town and the village of Huai Sai.

The Bishop had drawn up a contract giving legal tenure to Good Shepherd, to use the Na Jan site (home of the VVTC) until the sisters terminated the contract themselves.

It was a large site and so, other possibilities for use were looked into.

In consultation with Khun Suvan and benefitting from his expertise, it was decided to open a weaving centre, where production could be supervised and uniformity regulated. (Previously, it was common to see the thread supplied to villagers, being used as kite strings!)

At the same time, the situation of teenage boys who were not continuing their education, was causing concern as drug use was on the rise. Thus a project was envisioned, aimed at this group and carrying on a tradition of the northeast - making pottery. They would receive training and employment like the girls attending the sewing centres. Isan Weaving and Isan Pottery were thus begun.

Continuing throughout the year were the agricultural projects and training provided on the VVTC site.

Training has always been a priority, providing education and skills and while income-generating activities were taught in this way, there was an emphasis on developing the whole person.

To this end, seminars were conducted for:

  • women's rights

  • family welfare

  • justice and equality for the girl child

  • healthcare

Attendees always exceeded capacity and with the Huai Sai site isolated and the bad roads

making access difficult for invited guest speakers, it was decided to develop the Na Jan site for

this purpose. It was in the perfect spot just 8 kms from the centre of Nong Khai town.

Bookings of using the facilities started coming in from NGOs, government departments, schools, community groups and businesses. To this day there have been 120,827 overnight users, with bookings from 1 - 21 nights, depending on the seminar/workshop being conducted.

Additionally, since it's beginnings, the VVTC has trained 10,270 farmers in activities to supplement their income and implement the activity in their home.

May-June: Construction of the buildings for Isan Weaving and Pottery.

October/November: Economic downturn nationally. Laid off workers returned to villages, adding to the family burden.

A poor rice harvest added further hardship.

The response was to welcome more girls into the projects. Thankfully, sales were good with demand actually exceeding supply.

Fashion Show  - held in the Rembrant Hotel Bangkok, arranged by Dutch designer Ruth and working with international women's groups. Resulted in sales and orders.

Back in Nong Khai - all attended annual cultural show on the banks of the Mekong to celebrate the end of Buddhist Lent. (NB: This spectacular sound and light show has been held every year, involving hundred of local dancers and actors. Covid in 2020 was the first time it was cancelled.)

December 14th: Opening of Isan Weaving and Isan Pottery.

1999 

May: Srs Pranee and Siriporn attended  a Trade Show in Milan, Italy at the invitation of Thai Craft. Carried over 100 kgs of pottery and anyone knowing the size of Sr Pranee, it was no mean feat!! Pure dedication to the mission.

Discussions with the Australian New Zealand Women's Group about the possibility of selling  craft in the Patches Shop in Bangkok.

June: Sr Anurak joined the community.

December: Antonia Symonds, a volunteer from Australia arrived. In December 2019, Antonia marked 20 years of commitment to Good Shepherd Nong Khai and continues to serve to the present day.

2000

Welcomed in the New Millenium with a lantern festival on the Thai Laos Bridge.

January: Sr Suphatra joined the community

March: HIV/AIDS prevalent in the villages with many deaths.

1985

1984 - 87

1988 - 1992 

1993- 1996

1997- 1999

khun suvan.jpg
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VVTC opening.jpg
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 2000 - 2002

Volunteers, Marie Noel and Soizic  - social workers from France, joined Sr Anurak, for a two year placement, to work in the area of Outreach to this target group. 

May/June:  It was a constant challenge to provide work to the hundreds of women requiring assistance, though sales were good. However, the impact of AIDS and the suffering of those both infected and affected, overshadowed any successes.

2001

January: First official community holiday in 20 years! Srs Mary, Pranee, Lakana, Joan and Jiemjit (from Pattaya) and Antonia, ventured to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the golden Triangle, by van. Despite a severe case of food poisoning affecting all but one, it was an enjoyable excursion. 

February: Though a list of all visitors is not provided in this timeline - there was a constant and welcome procession of people from all around the world. One night during February, demonstrated the inter-nationality of the visits, with ten nations represented around the table to share an evening meal.

March:  Karen Ringwald, a volunteer who stayed 14 months working with Isan Weaving and the Regina Centre, was joined by her designer friend, Paul who taught design to the women and prepared them for a Fashion Show, later in the year.

April: Easter celebrated a week earlier than the rest of Christendom, due to the correct date clashing with the the Songkran Water Festival.

Sr Anurak re-assigned to Bangkok for new assignment. Sr Pranee to take over supervision of Outreach with AIDS infections and deaths continuing to rise. Networking with Government Public Health. Common for eleven and twelve year olds being the main carer for infected parents.

Weekly support group started in the VVTC for people living with HIV/AIDS.(PLWHA).

June: Sr Margaret's 90th birthday.

Sr Saisuda assigned to Nong Khai to work in the Don Wai Sewing Centre.

September: Fashion Show in Bangkok. Big event for Regina Centre women who attended to dance

and model some of the designs. Additional 'models' from international women's groups in Bangkok.

Sr Joyce Meyer from the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters (USA) visited for the opening of the Friendship

Centre - two storey building consisting of four rooms - to be used by PLWHA, as their base for weekly

gatherings. (The Hilton Fund for Sisters continued to support the  Outreach Programme until 2018.)

The production of small clay animals to be affixed to pencils, provided PLWHA, a source of income

as they modelled these at home and when they came together. (fired in the Pottery project.) First

major order for 35,000 elephants from Kindermissionswerk, Germany. (Kindermissionswerk supported the

Children's Health and Nutrition projects and continues to do so until the present day.)

Parish Priest: Fr Meechai.

October: Vocations Semninar conducted as usual during school holidays but this time, without sisters in attendance. The sisters had been called to Bangkok for funeral of Sr Bernard. Real 'partnership for mission', as the committed staff, conducted the activities and gave input to 81 young girls.

Seminar for youth (124 participants) Drug abuse and HIV. Such seminars were given regularly over many years on a range of social topics, as part of the Sponsorship and Outreach Programmes.

November: Annual Ploenchit Fair conducted by the British Charities For the Needy (BCTFN), was attended as it was every year. BCTFN has provided support to different project areas annually, from the proceeds of these fairs.

2002

January: Cow breeding project been running 15 years. Distribution of cows to farmers twice per

year following training and policy writing.

Four week live-in training experience at VVTC for 22 young men.

February: Outreach picnic in Tabor park - the first such event for many. Free play and organised

games for adults and children with no discrimination. 

French volunteers returned home.

March: Excursion to seaside for 120 women from sewing centres. First glimpse of sea for most.

April: Holiday programme for 300 students providing extra tuition and nutritious meal. Venue - schools in villages - empty due to the term break.

In the Huai Sai sewing centre, 48 new women admitted to programme with 30 learning skills in the newly opened Don Wai Centre.

In the VVTC, 100 workers, including those from the weaving and pottery, along with staff, enjoyed a seaside holiday in Rayong. Most of this group too,  had never seen the sea before.

Karen Ringwald returned to England after 14 months.

Re-appointment of Sr Pranee for third three year term as Community Leader.

May 18th: Death of Sr Margaret Mary Brady. Mass in Nong Khai and burial in Pattaya. Sr Margaret had been deeply appreciated by all in projects and was beautifully honoured, with a bus load of mourners organised, to accompany her to Pattaya.

2003

January: 10 day sale in Thanita Plaza in Bangkok followed by sale in home of Italian Ambassador.

Sr Louise and 30 staff from Bangkok, visited Nong Khai for exposure to the work of Good Shepherd.

Fortnightly gathering of Outreach families at Friendship Centre continue.

Canadian Physiotherapist, John Ward, gave training seminar to each centre and

implemented exercise programme for all the workers, based on their particular activities.

November: Ploenchit Fair in Bangkok, marked by torrential rain.

Extensions made to the Regina Women's Self Help Centre with construction of new building,

financed by BCTFN.

2004

February: Novitiate started in Nong Khai in village house on convent grounds, with the return of Sr Anurak as Directress of Novices.

April: Five week training programme in VVTC for 20 youth leaders.

Holiday programme in Mak Hung village for sponsored children -emphasis on English.

Seminar for 130 girls and their parents/guardians.

Visited by representative from the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT). Applied for and was granted membership for Isan Weaving and Pottery.

May: Second sale in home of the Italian Ambassador Stefano Janfolla and his wife, Marcia,in Bangkok.

Extensions to the Friendship Centre - new community building with two family rooms for emergency stays + outside sala - large covered space for gatherings. Financed by the Margaret Moses Memorial Fund, through Rosemary Taylor.

July: AIDS International Conference, Bangkok.

2005

February: Hands of Hope project for PLWHA, begun in the newly constructed Friendship Centre extensions - income-generating project producing cards and paper decorations, which continues to this day. Managed by Antonia.

May: Combined celebration in Bangkok, Fatima Church to mark:

  • Diamond Jubilee - Sr Mary

  • Golden Jubilee - Srs Louise and Joan

  • Silver Jubilee- Sr Pranee

  • Final professions of sisters Sutisa and Saisuda

August: Sr Pranee left for year Sabbatical in USA after serving as community leader for nine years. Replaced by Sr Lakana as community leader.

September: Thida  - co-ordinator of the VVTC and Isan Pottery, traveled to Holland to promote the pottery with one of the potters, at the invitation of the GS sisters there. They also highlighted Thai culture with a magnificent dance.

November: Grant writing Conference in Pattaya, attended by Antonia.

 

2006

March: A sala and extension to the dining room at the VVTC,  were constructed for use by seminar

participants, sponsored by Siroptimist Yamanashi, Japan.

April: Political unrest growing throughout the country with divisions emphasised by 'red' and 'yellow'

shirts.

May: Thai assembly held in GS Nong Khai with 26 GS sisters present.

June: First 'baby of hope' - Porntida - born virus free to HIV+ parents.

Close friend and local advisor of the sisters - Khun Suvan Boonthae - died  after short period of illness.

Funeral held on 23rd. He was honoured by the King, with an urn of sacred soil presented by officials.

August: Sr Pranee returned to Nong Khai. Sr Saisuda to Bangkok and Sr Suwanee to take over responsibility

for Sponsorship.

September: Military coup and PM Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted.

Micro-Economic Justice Development Commission formed by the GS congregation. Sr Pranee to be responsible for the countries of Thailand, Indonesia and Burma. Inaugural meeting held in Rome. GS Nong Khai had been promoting economic justice projects for years, recognising the importance of financial sustainability and felt that their efforts to alleviate poverty, were being promoted at the highest level within the congregation.

October/November: Good rice harvest this year - the people happy.

December 4th: Small sala opened next to the Isan Weaving Centre, to honour Khun Suvan on the occasion of his birthday.

2007

Council approved purchase of land for the purpose of constructing a community restorative centre, under the Outreach Programme.

Throughout the year, Weekend Learning Programme for 90 children infected with HIV and those affected due to their parents being infected. Extra tuition was provided by Thai teachers and English speaking volunteers, as children rotated through age defined classes throughout the day.

2008

January: Micro-Finance Seminar held in VVTC with participants from Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.

March: Friends for All Foundation formed for GS Nong Khai. In 2017,  the name changed to Good Shepherd Sisters Nong Khai Foundation.

Micro-credit initiatives in villages on-going.

May: Good Shepherd Thailand Chapter.

June: A week long seminar was held in Kuala Lumpa, entitled  "Partnership - a Prophetic Option". This was to affirm the congregation's direction  in 2003 that the laity was a 'gift for the congregation'. Antonia attended, with participants (sisters and laity), from across Asia Pacific. She returned full of zeal for the concept -  'Partnership for Mission'.

July: The Friends for All Law Office opened on the convent grounds, with recently graduated lawyer, Sr Suwanee, providing advice and services to the villagers unable to afford legal advice.

August: Sr Michelle Lopez, elected new Provincial for East Asia.

December: Sr Lakana finished term as local leader and was replaced once again by Sr Pranee.

December 6th - Opening of Garden of Friendship - first residential project for GS  Nong Khai, providing nursing and social care for clients from the Outreach Programme. On 6 rai of land(2.4 acres),a  central building  with  three patient beds and  staff accommodation, along with four family cottages, was opened by Bishop George, with local and international guests present. Funding for this project came from a variety of sources - a testimony to the friendship of many. The main building was dedicated to Dr Ilse Opperman - a friend and regular visitor who had dedicated her life in the care of others. Dr Opperman had died earlier in the year.

Christmas festivities over a three week period - held every year in each project.

2009

March: International seminar organised with 19 participants from GS and other NGOs from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.Held at the VVTC, it looked at self-sustaining agricultural activities to assist farmers and communities. It was very practically orientated with training given in three methods of mushroom cultivation and the making of bio-fertilizers. Field trips were also arranged. It was a dream come true for Mr Jean Obaton, a French friend and benefactor (ACASEA),who had always encouraged the VVTC staff to share their knowledge, practices and experience, more broadly.

April: The global recession and closure of factories, meant the return of unemployed workers to the provinces.

Following a fall and internal bleeding, Sr Mercy Ho, passed away on April 21st, after two weeks in hospital.

She was surrounded by carers and those she loved the whole time. Her funeral was held on the Feast of our

Mother Foundress, Sr Mary Euphrasia. Sr Mercy, although never active in the projects, welcomed all to the

convent and encouraged those out in the field. Asked once, how she remembered all in her life with whom she

had crossed paths, she replied,"Because I pray for them every day."

May: Weerasak, in charge of training in animal husbandry at the VVTC and particularly the cow project in

Huai Sai, was invited to Holland by the Cappuchin Fathers, who had been supporting the project. Accompanied

by one of the farmers, it was a wonderful experience for them both as they compared farming methods and although these differed, they found commonality in the dedication of farmers to working the land.

This year, the recession was impacting orders, as regular customers found difficulty selling.

July: General Chapter of GS held in Angers, France. This occurs every six years.

The Regina Centre opened a street restaurant on the grounds of the convent, facing out to Prachak Rd. It was an attempt to generate work and income locally, to try and counter the reduction of orders.

2010

March: New endeavour by potters with bio-fertiliser production. They also were trying to establish a local enterprise to generate income when orders were not forthcoming.

May: International Catholic  Conference on HIV/AIDS held in Camillian Centre Bangkok. Sr Pranee and Antonia attending. Upon closure, five participants from China, East Timor and Japan, returned to learn practical applications by spending time in the Outreach Programme.

Political unrest and escalating violence, led to the occupation of the central business district for a two month period. Similar occupation of airports impacted tourism.

August: The need for increased accommodation in the Garden of Friendship, prompted fund raising and the construction of an additional building with four two bed and one four bed patient rooms, as well as a building with four units for families or individuals needing long term housing. Fr Shea officiated at what was a joyous occasion.

Sr Theresa Heng from the Singapore/Malaysia province, joined the community for what turned out to be a three year placement. She worked primarily in the Regina Centre.

November: Second "Partnership for Mission" seminar held in Singapore, attended by Sr Pranee and Antonia, who had been asked by the provincial to be 'link person' for the East Asia Province.

2011

January: Partnership for Mission gathering in Burma. Antonia and Sr Pranee to give echo of meeting in Singapore.

February : Arrival of Katrine Grove and Susan Pedersen from Volunteer Aid, Denmark. Volunteers divided their time between the Outreach Programme and Hands of Hope. 

Sr Pranee and Antonia gave Partnership for Mission workshops to sisters and lay partners in Vietnam.

March: Opening of Volunteer House in the Garden of Friendship compound by Bishop Leuchai.  A four bedroom accommodation block with shared living spaces, provided a facility enabling the welcoming of international volunteers for 6-12 month placements.

The Danish Volunteers were joined by Denise O'Shea from Australia.Denise taught English to staff in each project area until September.

April: A collaboration between the Good Shepherd Mission Development Office in Rome and GS Thailand's income-generating projects, saw the Networking Our Way Out of Poverty project proposed by the MDO. Initial meeting held in Bangkok.

Engaging an Italian designer, the idea was to bring together all the GS craft centres from Bangkok, Nong Khai and Chaing Rai, provide design workshops and strengthen supply chain management, marketing and capacity. As part of the project, a collection of new products  by Italian designers, would be developed in each centre, called the Dignity Design Collection.

May: Sr Virginia and Sr Sutisa joined the community. Sr Virginia to work in the Garden of Friendship.

June: Volunteers Eva and Liv from Volunteer Aid, Denmark, replaced Katrine and Susan.

SERVE volunteers from Ireland came for three week placement in the Regina Centre. They would continue to come for the next few years, staying in Nong Khai town.

July: MDO representatives from Rome, met with selected participants from the GS sites in Nong Khai.

October: Sr Supapawn replaced Sr Suwanee in the Child Sponsorship Programme.

Celebration of 30 Years of Good Shepherd in Nong Khai, held with mass and lunch in the Regina Centre. Bishop Leuchai and invited guests took part. A memorable occasion and a day of gratitude.

November: Charlotte from Denmark volunteered her time to produce a catalogue for the Dignity

Design Collection.

Annual Ploenchit Fair in Bangkok attended by reps from the Regina Centre, Isan Pottery and Hands of Hope.

December: Usual 'Christmas/thanksgiving celebrations held in each project area, followed by a short break

over New Year.

2012

Jan: New volunteers from Denmark - Ruth and Elsebeth  from Volunteer Aid, changed places with Eva

and Liv for a six month stay in the Garden of Friendship. 

February: Antonia and Thida attended Economic Justice Meeting in Rome, attended by Good Shepherd buyers/sellers of the products from around the world. Biggest snow storm in Rome for 30 years!

June: The Dignity Design Collection was launched in the Siam Paragon centre in Bangkok.

July: Danish volunteers, Kia and Katrine took over from Ruth and Elsebeth.

September: First Good Shepherd Volunteer (GSV) from New York, arrived. Lara would stay until the following July and worked primarily in Hands of Hope. The Good Shepherds in NY had a programme placing domestic and international volunteers. Lara had previously served in Malaysia.

Opening of Sr Mary's Assisted Living Cottage in the Garden of Friendship. Ceremony was attended

by donors, Robin and Vivian Miller, friends, sisters, Fr Ole, Hands of Hope and the community - staff

and residents - from the Garden of Friendship. As the day chosen was Sr Mary's birthday, it was a double

celebration.

2008-2011

2012-2016

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2003-2007

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2013

January: Jess from GSV arrived to join Lara from January to June. Jess also had served previously in an international placement in South America.

May: Sr Sutisa replaced Sr Supapawn, who was transferred, as Director of Sponsorship Programme.

July: Review meeting of GS Economic Projects from across Asia Pacific, in Minburi, Bangkok. Report given on 'Networking Our way out of Poverty' project and launch of combined catalogue 'Handmade', of GS craft Thailand. Representatives from the MDO office in Rome + GS sisters selling in Australia, were present.

Patricha, from Volunteer Aid Denmark, served just two months in the Outreach Programme, having to return home early due to ill health.

August: GSV sent two more volunteers - Abby and Abbie - for a year placement.

2014

January: GSV  Volunteer  from New York - Stephanie Howes to work in Sponsorship.

Co-op store opened in Friendship Centre, making household items available at wholesale prices. Hand of Hope producers shareholders. 

August: Tam and Bridgid (GSVs), started their one year volunteer placement, along with Gert and Annette from Volunteer Aid, Denmark. They were our first married couple volunteering.

December: 44.55% of organisational income, generated by self-help projects.

2015

February: Hands of Hope celebrates 10 Years.

Visit from Sr Brigid Lawlor -   Good Shepherd Congregational Leader.

August: John (a nurse) and Susan (massage therapist) - also married - joined us from GSV.

They would stay until January  2017.

November: Construction begins on the Life Centre in Garden of Friendship. The centre is to

provide 18 more beds to mobile patients, staying  short to long term.

Street rally saying 'No" to violence against women and children and trafficking -held in Nong

Khai town with 4,378 people taking part. Organised by Child and Youth Development Programme.

December: Again, 44% of organisational income generated through self-help projects.

2016

January: Handcrafting Justice (HCJ)- in New York, announced they would be closing. They had been a major buyer of the Nong Khai crafts for the past two decades. The news saddened and worried everyone. 

Closure of Don Wai Sewing Centre and handover to Fr Shea for his work with children in Sarnelli House. The land belongs to the Redemptorists.

June: The newly constructed Life Centre in the Garden of Friendship, was opened. A large gathering of dignitaries from the Government, the Japanese Embassy, Bangkok - (the major donor) -  priests, NGOs, sisters from various communities, friends and project participants.  The centre was dedicated to Lady Pamela Egremont, friend and benefactor from the early years in Nong Khai.

Bishop Leuchai, the Deputy Ambassador and Sr Mary, cut the ribbon.

August: Lauren and Melissa from GSV joined the community.

December: Renovations to Sponsorship Office completed.

Isan Weaving Centre closed.

Fall in self-generated income to 33% - less craft orders and reduction in activity in VVTC.

2017

January: Sponsorship Programme changes name to Child and Youth Development Programme

to reflect better the multi-faceted nature of the services provided.

New website for Hands of Hope launched.

February: Lotte - a nurse, from Volunteer Aid, Denmark arrived for a three month placement.

May: Sr Suphatra transferred and Sr Pranee replaced her as Community Leader.

June: Sr Virginia took over as Director of the Regina Centre.

Daily production of pottery ceased. Former workers, now employed in bio-fertiliser, vegetables and mushroom production.

July: International workshop in Laos - conducted by three Hands of Hope producers, teaching card making skills to HIV+ teenagers. 

30th Death of Sr Mary HaydenNong Khai mission pioneer, who led an extraordinary life of faith and service as a missionary in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Macau and Thailand. Her death was felt deeply by all project participants who loved her dearly.

August: Josh, arrived through GSV and remained - working in Hands of Hope - until the following October. 

2018

January:Wholesale website for Hands of Hope launched.

February: The Child and Youth Development Programme, took over management of the street restaurant from the Regina Centre - 'Pakinee Garden Restaurant'.

July: New TB Unit in the Garden of Friendship, opened thanks to the generosity of  the Leeb family (Austia)

Katrine- the first resident in the Volunteer House in 2011 - returned to work in the Outreach Progamme for two years.

August: Elsie arrived from GSV to replace Josh and extended her stay to November 2019. Elsie spent her time in Hands of Hope and used her skills to produce a video of the Outreach Programme before she left.

New five year Strategic plan formulated for GS Nong Khai.

November: Street rally against domestic violence with 4,185 participants.

MOT Thailand 2019 Foundation established - to train youth leaders.

December: Sewing Centre in village of Huai Sai, closed.

2019

January: Sr Jintana joined community

March - December - Range of training workshops given by Child and Youth Development Programme with over 1,000 students reached.

September - 19-9-1919 - Celebration in Hands of Hope, of 100 years since Sr Mary's birth.

November: Street rally  - anti trafficking and domestic violence - with 3,000 people marching.

Duck Raising  began in Garden of Friendship - sponsored by Irish Aid (Bangkok Irish Embassy).

Covered organic vegetable garden begun in convent compound under the direction of the Child and Youth Development Programme

2020

March: VVTC ceases to operate as such. Re-purposed as the Sufficiency Learning Centre, under Sr Sutuisa's

direction.

April - June: Three month 'stay at home' nationwide.Schools closed March - July.

Major food distribution to families in villages by Outreach and Child and Youth Programmes.

May: Katrine returned to Denmark and the decision was made not to accept international volunteers

until at least the end of the year. With the worsening of Covid infections in 2021 in Thailand, no new date has

been decided upon.

May- June VVTC facilities used to house Laotians unable to return to their country. (It felt like coming full circle!)

June: MOT Foundation Thailand - Sr Sutisa named President.

July: Regina Women's Self-Help Centre , closed after 32 years.

2021

January: Restaurant put in hands of the women to manage.

Eight covered garden plots constructed in Garden of Friendship, to increase yields of

vegetables for consumption by residents, to distribute to impoverished villagers and to sell - providing

income for Outreach work.

February: Fish raising project begun by Hands of Hope to supplement income.

March: Sr Jintana took over the Child and Youth Development Programme, replacing Sr Sutisa.

October: Food and hygiene packs distribution to impoverished families in villages, impacted by Covid.

Going forward – 2021 and beyond

Following the directives issued by the Good Shepherd Congregational, more emphasis is currently being given in Good  Shepherd sites across the world, to the areas of Child Protection and Gender Based Violence- safeguarding and uplifting the ‘girl child’.

Both Sr Sutisa and Sr Jintana, working with village communities –  and in collaboration with Government bodies and NGOs  - are educating in these areas.

With the scaling down or closure of craft based income-generating projects in the past few years, the two main programme areas are Child and Youth Development and Village Outreach and within both, a ‘rights based approach’ to development will be used, as Good Shepherd Nong Khai, moves forward.

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2017-2021

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