Not long before last Christmas I was driving home from a visit to Grandma’s when the twins started reciting a long list of things they wanted from Santa.
A bit disturbed at the length of the letters, I politely pointed out to them that they couldn’t have everything on their lists. Predictably, they asked why and I explained to them that there are poor kids in the world who only get one or even sometimes no presents.
There was a heavy silence from the backseat before a small voice piped up with “Daddy, why doesn’t Santa like poor people?”
Sometimes I think we forget that these little people who are apparently growing up so quickly have very little in the way of context and comparison.
At this stage I’d already committed to volunteering to work in an orphanage in Thailand and this cemented the idea that my five-year-old twins needed to come with me.
So earlier this year we jetted out for Thailand where we spent just under two weeks working in an orphanage originally set up for orphans of the tsunami of 2004.
I wanted to help and make a difference, and showing the girls that ‘poor kids’ aren’t just an abstract expression was a bonus.
But I hadn’t counted on the intensity of the visit upon me. I certainly expected it to be difficult but it was far more harrowing than anticipated.
Hearing stories of how the children ended up there was nothing short of devastating. I’ll spare you detailed recaps because they will bring tears: both to you and me. We truly live a sheltered life in a very lucky country.
We built temporary shelters (30 seasons of being a Survivor fan finally bear fruit), we planted gardens, we created a paved road, we scrubbed floors, we cooked for the entire orphanage one night (spaghetti bol), we took them out to restaurants (a huge treat), we bought them a giant washing machine because they were hand washing for over 200 children.
And we took turns looking after each other’s kids when it just became too much. I cried a lot and I wasn’t alone.
The orphanage is strict on their children attending school but when they weren’t there they played with our kids with zest. It’s sad to see children so hungry for hugs.
Not that they weren’t happy – in fact they were largely extremely positive – but the visit and playing obviously meant the world to them.
I went over hoping to make a difference. I came back feeling I hadn’t done enough. And wanting to adopt 200 kids.
Which is why I’ve signed up for a ride across Thailand next year to raise money for the orphanage. It’s through an amazing organisation called Hands Across The Water, which ensures 100% of monies donated goes straight to the orphanages. No admin or marketing fees.
No funny one liners or final lines this month. Just a plea to help me make a difference. You can donate at http://tinyurl.com/AnthonyRidesForKids or go to the http://handsacrossthewater.org.au/get-involved/sponsor-a-rider-or-trekker/ and search for me.
Because a smile on a child’s face is truly priceless.