Susanne Janson and Hans Forssell, together with Khun Wow, are currently the operational managers at Barnhem Muang Mai children’s home. Their first meeting, and the start of their collaboration, began when Susanne and Hans were in Thailand searching for their family in the aftermath of the Tsunami.
The family they were searching for consisted of Johan, Sara, Matilda, Eleonor, Josefin, and Lukas. They were part of a large family of parents and children who had travelled to Thailand to spend Christmas together and were in Khao Lak when the Tsunami hit.
Tragically, Susanne and Hans returned to Sweden without any of their family members. But in the midst of tragedy they saw a glimmer of hope for the future. They heard about a new children’s home, giving them an opportunity to help make a difference for homeless children in Thailand. Susanne and Hans contacted the home and in March 2005 they returned to Thailand to volunteer as helpers. This was the start of what is now known as the Happy Child Foundation, which supports the children’s home in Muang Mai. Susanne and Hans are responsible for the daily operations at the home and for keeping it in contact with the rest of the world.
Today Barnhem Muang Mai is a home for children and families with capacity to look after around 35 children. The home is a lively place thanks to all the wonderful children there. The children live at the home, fill it with fun, and give meaning to everyone who comes into contact with them. But the children need adults, to give them support and set a good example, give them love and attention, nourishing food, and teach them right from wrong. They need someone to nag at them to tidy their rooms, encourage them to do their homework and a thousand other things. This role is filled by the marvellous staff and volunteers at Barnhem Muang Mai.
The most important job we have is teaching the children to look after themselves. That’s the key condition that must be met before they leave us – making sure they are strong and independent, ready to go out into the world. The best way to look after yourself and create a better future is by getting a good education. At Barnhem Muang Mai there is a sharp focus on studies and homework. All of our children go to normal Thai schools, taken there by our driver, Pann. He drops them off and picks them up every day and acts as an extra dad to all of them.
Once they come home it’s time to do homework or revise extra for an exam. We have a classroom, but the key here is the encouragement and occasional nagging of our staff – Eak, Boy, Nid and Khru Jam. On Sundays Katherine comes to the home and holds extra lessons in English.
Life must also be about fun and games, of course. We think children learn a lot just by playing, so we have a playroom that the children have painted and decorated themselves. We also have a nice yard with a decent patch of grass where you can play volleyball and football. For the children who prefer to sit and talk, read books or just relax there are also shaded, cooler places. Barnhem Muang Mai has its own dining hall where Miaoo and Porn serve all the children, relatives, staff and volunteers fantastic and nutritional meals.
We are able to do all of this thanks to the support that Happy Child gets from people like you. Of course, like all private initiatives, we are in constant need of funds. The money is used for the following:
• Salaries to our amazing staff
• Food and drink so the children grow and become big and strong
• School uniforms and school books
• Hygiene products to keep the children clean and healthy
• Petrol for our cars so we can pick up and leave the children at school and make trips on days off.
• Hospital visits, medication and other health care.
• Electricity for the children's rooms, classroom, kitchen and dining room.
• Telephone and Internet so we can keep in touch with the outside world
• Maintenance, servicing of cars and other things that need to be taken care of
Thanks to everyone who supports us and please come and visit us if you are in Phuket
/ Susanne and Hans
Wow has been in charge of the running of the children’s home together with Susanne and Han since 2006. It cannot be put into words just how important she is for the home and for the children. First and foremost she is a mother for the children, but on top of that she manages all contacts with the authorities, schools, relatives and the children who have left the home. Together with Sussi she also manages the daily finances and thus ensures that we use donations in a responsible manner. Wow has a big heart and she shares it with all of the children. She puts the children first in everything she does.
Pann has been the home’s driver since 2006. In addition to driving the children around he also acts as a dad to them, which is very important because many of the children at the home have never met their own fathers. And if there is a problem about a leaky pipe or if the grass needs cutting then Pann is the man to turn to.
Miaoo has been providing wonderful food for the children since 2005. She has responsibility for purchasing the food and then cooking it. She is also a very important figure at the home telling the children about right and wrong and making sure that there is plenty of fun and games. And Miaoo is also the one who bakes the fantastic birthdays cakes for the children, and then sings loudest and jolliest of everyone!
Porn has worked for us since 2009. Initially she came looking for help for her own family when little Bat was still in her tummy. We were very lucky, because just then we were looking for some help in the kitchen and Miaoo decided that Porn was exactly the person she wanted, and we soon understood why. These two ladies form the dream team in the kitchen and everyone is a winner when they start cooking. On top of being a great cook, Porn is also someone who many of the new children, specially the girls, go to for a bit extra care and attention.
Khru (teacher in Thai) Jam has worked with us since 2011 and is the only teacher at the home. During the day she works at Wat Muang Mai school but she is an employee of the children’s home and we pay her salary. After school she comes home with the children. She helps them with their homework and if someone needs a little extra tuition, Khru Jam will give it. She is important in so many ways, partly for being the person she is, and the children love and respect her. She lets us know how each child performs at school, if they make friends, if they are naughty, and everything else that it is easy for a parent to miss. She gives so much support to the children, and so much of her time. Sometimes when the school is closed our children get extra tuition and after a long holiday they can get warmed up for school with some extra homework.
Eak has worked with us since 2007. He is employed as one of three counsellors and acts as an extra dad for the children. In addition to helping them with homework, treating cuts and bruises, Eak makes sure that the children tidy their rooms, gives them praise when they perform well, tells them off when they are naughty and plays with them in their games. He also is a big support for our volunteers – and not because he has to as part of his job, but because he likes to do it.
Nid joined us in 2013 as a counsellor, replacing Weo who had to leave us. We thought that Weo was irreplaceable, but then this wonderful woman walked into our lives and entered our hearts. Rather than calling her an extra mum for the kids, we should call her the most important big sister in the world. She is a big sister who cares about all her smaller brothers and sisters, helping them with homework, cheering them up when they are down, tending to their cuts and bruises, playing with the youngest, listening to their teenage problems and secrets, inventing new games and generally making tedious chores much more fun. She also has the liveliest face you will ever see. As one volunteer said, you don’t need to speak Thai to understand Nid, you can see what she means just by looking at her face!
Boy began working for us in 2013, a few weeks after Nid, once Nid had convinced him that he wouldn’t have to change nappies if he joined us. Boy and Nid are a couple and although this might have been a problem it’s actually exactly the opposite. If Nid is the world’s best big sister then Boy is the world’s best big brother, showing the same commitment and love to his younger siblings that Nid does. If Nid entered with a lot of noise then Boy is a bit calmer but he still went straight into our hearts.
Yam is the man who keeps watch over the children and the home when everyone is asleep. He is not always the children’s favourite, but that is good because he is the one who makes sure they don’t sneak out or get into danger outside the home. Yam is from the village and so he knows his way around and he knows our neighbours, which is a big asset.
Maa came to us looking for help with her two grandchildren in 2005. Her grandchildren have since left the home but Maa remained. She is not an employee, but we want to tell you about her because she is a very important person in the children’s lives, and indeed the rest of us, because she is our Grandma. She gives the children and us some extra love, security and warmth that only a grandma can give. If the children feel a bit sad or weak they go to Grandma, if you need an extra hug you go to Grandma. She is normally the first adult new arrivals meet at the home, and she fills them with love and energy so that they can take their next step into life at the home.