Final Sarnelli House Report

Parent Category: Charity Projects Category: Sarnelli House


Spoofers Visit to Sarnelli House, Nong Khai : 9 March 2013

Over recent weeks, the Spoofers' Charity Fund has been engaged in funding a project at the Sarnelli House orphanages in north-eastern Thailand, near Nong Khai. 

This project has been for the provision of 100 newly-built desks and chairs for the children, plus the refurbishment of around 20 existing desks and the renovation of some classrooms, including the provision of new wall-fans and lighting and the re-positioning of some TV wall-cabinets.

The total budgeted costs, agreed beforehand as with all our Projects, was just under 190,000 baht.  It is pleasing to report that owing to the careful financial management of Fr Puwanai of the Catholic Redemptorist Fathers, who run Sarnelli House, the project actually came in under budget, for a final total cost of 184,665 baht.

Payment was made in five 'stage payments', which have now been completed as the final few desks are being delivered this week.   The opportunity arose for Spoofers to visit Sarnelli House last weekend and on Saturday morning 9th March, Co-Chairman Tony 'Slowpoke' Rodriguez, together with Simon 'Douchie' Davies, Nick 'Red Wino' Pelly and Roger 'Jammy' Willbourn were collected from the Mut Mee Guesthouse on the banks of the Mighty Mekong River by Fr Puwanai and driven to the Sarnelli House location, close to a village some 20 kilometres outside Nong Khai.  Also joining us were Slowpoke's wife, Naoko, and his young twins, Anthony and Hannah who were all up together for a family holiday weekend in Nong Khai and Vientiane.

We first went to a local school, run by an order of Nuns, which educates some 1,200 children from the locality across all ages / grades.  About 10% of the children at that school live at the Sarnelli House orphanages and a number of the Sarnelli House children were involved in the day's 'Graduation' ceremony, which we witnessed.  It was a colourful and vibrant throng of children, parents and staff.  We were then taken to see the original Sarnelli House, built on land purchased some 14 years ago by the American Redemptorist priest Fr Michael Shea, who is still running the project aged 75 !   There are actually around six or seven Houses now, all within a six kilometre radius of the original House, and each one serving a specific purpose;  e.g. for very young pre-school children, for children up to the age of 11 with HIV, those of similar age without HIV / AIDS, teenage boys, teenage girls, infected and non-infected.   Many of the children have been orphaned as their parents have died of AIDS, others have been abused and rescued, others have simply been abandoned;  many have also been handed on to them by state agencies who cannot cope.  Sarnelli House provides them with the love, care, affection, schooling and safe home environment that they have previously been denied and it was inspiring to see how the children have responded to this environment by being polite, self-confident, happy, integrated and positive in their new Homes.

From viewing this first House, we were taken to a newly built Activity Hall, funded entirely by American donations and completed only last October at a cost of some USD 200,000.  It was a hugely impressive Hall, with a large stage, modern sound system, integrated kitchens and support facility areas.  Children of all ages from the various Houses were enjoying a Saturday party, dancing and singing and in particular celebrating that morning's 'Graduation' by some of their number.  Around midday an excellent lunch was served in the Hall and we were honoured guests with the staff and children.  We also met here an Australian nurse, Kate, who has special training in caring for HIV children;  she has been working at Sarnelli House for five years now, runs their Clinic and also manages outreach programmes with the surrounding villages, in order to try to prevent further HIV infections.  Given the extraordinary amount of work she has been doing there (completely unpaid), it is a fair bet that she is well on the way to sainthood ..........   Kate was most informative about the work of Fr Michael, Fr Puwanai and their other colleagues in the Sarnelli House project.  She was also able to provide us with detailed information on the costs and efficacy of the medical programmes which they run, in order to control the HIV in the infected children.

After lunch, we were taken to see their Farm, on which they are aiming to produce up to 80% of their food (rice, chicken, pork, vegetables etc) and also to the other Houses for the different age-groups of boys and girls.  In every one, except for the toddlers' house, we were shown the study rooms equipped with the new desks and chairs which the Spoofers had purchased, together with the new wall fans and good, effective new ceiling lighting.   In each House, Fr Puwanai had erected a blue plaque to record the fact that the Bangkok Gentlemen Spoofers had funded the provision of these new desks and equipment !

Finally, at around 2:00 pm, we were driven back to our Guest House in town  --  all very much impressed by what we had seen and somewhat humbled by the obvious dedication and unceasing hard work by Fr Michael and his staff that had achieved so much for so many children - relying entirely on charitable donations to fund the building and continuing operation of the Houses.  They never know for certain from one year to the next where the money will come from .......... but so far it has continued to arrive by some miracle or another and they have never turned away any child who has been brought to them for shelter and care.

As with ALL the Spoofers' projects undertaken for the benefit of disadvantaged children in Thailand, this is very much one that we can consider extremely worthwhile and hugely appreciated by the recipients.   Our money has been well spent.

In principle, it would be good to be able to help Sarnelli House with another Project in due course, as and when requested.