On September the 19th a man named Graeme walked in off the street and requested to speak with someone about our Buggies For Good programme. Graeme, Melissa and I sat down and had a chat – I assumed that he wanted to donate a buggy that was no longer needed. This usually what happens when people pop in mentioning Buggies for Good – and we love it! However Graeme was different he happened to walk in almost by accident as his daughter just lived around the corner but Graeme and no buggy to donate instead he sat down and told us a story….
Last year Graeme took a holiday to Thailand and ended up visiting a couple of hilltop villages in the North along the border of Burma. What he found there kept him in Thailand for 3 months – much longer than his intended holiday. Graeme decided to wanted to help the people that lived here so he become a volunteer of the Creating Balance Foundation of Thailand – a program designed to create hope for families living in some of the worst conditions in the hill tribes of Northern Thailand.
The hilltop villages are a dangerous area of Thailand. Poverty and drug abuse are rife as that is the main trafficking area for yabba, or meth-amphetamine. Children are often abandoned by their parents as the pull of the drug gets too strong. The children are left to be cared for by the grandparents or in many cases no one at all. There is no medical care in these villages and the roads are almost impassable during the 3 months of monsoon season. The area can become so hazardous that the NZ government warns against travelling in the area during monsoon season. Graeme sat with us for an hour or so explaining the day to day the lives of the people that lived here and how all of the children living here help one another. Many of them are disabled, physically and mentally. He told us the story of Naha, a young girl who was left to her own devices in a rotting shack, unable to walk or talk. The Creating Balance Foundation made a wheelchair for Naha allowing her to move outside the confines of her shack for the first time in over 5 years. This was also the first time she had ever sat on a chair. Graeme showed us photos of her sitting in her new chair – the joy on her face was so palpable that we immediately became invested in her story. Instead of being confined to the same three walls, Naha was now able to move around the village and reconnect with the people who helped raise her.
The next story hit us even harder. Mel and I heard about Kanjana, a 6 year old who has been paralysed down one side by a parasite he caught at the age of three. The Foundation found him when visiting another orphan they were keeping an eye on. In Graeme’s words – “While visiting Somphon, we were told that there were still two severely disabled children in the village that needed help. Both of whom were orphans staying with their grandmother. While Somphon was playing the guitar, the grandmother in question came to visit us with her grandson, Kanjana. Kanjana is 6 years old and had been born a normal child. However in his 3rd year he became seriously ill and lost his ability to talk. He is now largely paralysed and unable to speak. Due to his paralysis he can only eat liquid food. He gets two packets of milk a day. Which is a luxury food item his grandmother can scarcely afford. What shocked me most was the way this grandmother carried Kanjana everywhere on here back wrapped in shawl, the boy was clearly to heavy and big for a woman of her size to be carrying.”
Graeme began thinking of ways to help this woman out. He knew how exhausting it was getting around during monsoon season when your ankles are deep in mud – but try navigating this terrain with a 6 yr old permanently strapped to your back! He decided she needed a buggy that could handle mountainous terrain and without knowing our brand name or even our existence he went in search of one! Thankfully we do exist and Graeme managed to find us and tell us about the people that he has come to care for so much. As he continued to discuss all the children he had met with Mel,I began looking into whether we had anything in our Buggies for Good inventory. When I returned Graeme was telling us about the amazing guitar prowess of one of the boys. When he finished his story he turned to us and asked if he could be cheeky and take a Mountain Buggy back to Thailand with him on his flight the next morning. Unfortunately I had to say that we don’t have anything like that here – but if he could find his way to our warehouse he’d find a refurbished Urban Jungle waiting for him! Graeme was so surprised he was speechless and left the building with tears strolling down his face – which in turn made Mel and I sob! All in all it was an emotional day at the office but we were delighted that Graeme found us and Buggies for Good could help.
Graeme emailed us a few days ago from Thailand letting us know that he had arrived safely and that his faith in humanity had been restored – again.
Written by Ingrid Reeves