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Monday, 30 May 2022 19:18

SVDs in Thailand reach out to poor, sick in local community

Thailand home renovations with Br Damien 450More than 20 years ago, the SVD established its presence in Thailand by creating the Mother of Perpetual Help Centre to assist people with HIV-AIDS. Today, the Centre is still providing its much-needed care, along with a range of outreach services to help poor families and school students, while also educating the local community about HIV spread and prevention.

On top of that, SVD confreres are serving the poor and marginalised in rural parish ministry, supporting Vietnamese migrants in Bangkok in a series of ministries described by the Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD, on a recent visitation as “truly missionary and truly inspiring”.

One of the outreach projects of the Mother of Perpetual Help Centre is helping local families to improve their homes – especially important if one of the family members is ill with AIDS or another condition.

Director of the Mother of Perpetual Help Centre, Br Damien Lunders SVD, says that over the last two years the Centre has received grants via the SVD in Germany to help both poor and HIV-affected families to improve their living conditions.

“So many are literally living in shacks made of used corrugated iron sheets as walls and dirt floors. It’s a very unhealthy living situation,” he says.

Thailand AIDS education small group discussion 450“These grants have made it possible to help the worst situations, at least by providing a cement floor, cement block walls and fixing leaking roofs and in many cases providing a new roof.

“About 20 families have participated in the project so far and where possible, the father of the house is doing the labour, along with help from others. A new project now underway will help another 20 families.”

Another part of the ministry provided by the Centre is the Villa Marie Hospice, with 10 beds to care for sick adults with HIV AIDS.

“Here, we care for the most sick, while an overflow of those cases who are in better health are now being housed at Mother Mary House,” Br Damien says.

“Many of those being cared for at Villa Marie and Mother Mary House with no home to return to will be under our care for the rest of their lives. Indeed, half of the staff for the Centre are former patients from the hospice.

Thailand home renovations3 450“While giving them employment, they are invaluable for giving care to the other patients as they themselves are HIV-positive and understand well the disease. With antiviral medications being given through the local government hospitals, men and women can live a normal and prolonged life.”

Meanwhile, back out in the community, the SVD has for nine years been supporting the needy children of HIV-affected and poor families with monthly scholarships, thanks to donations from families in France.

“Currently 40 children of varying ages are receiving support with 22 Euros monthly to help with transportation to and from school,” Br Damien says.

“The participants will gather together quarterly to write their thank-you letters which are translated in Bangkok and forwarded to their sponsor in France. Holy Childhood in Rome have given support as well each year, enabling needy children to receive school clothing and school supplies.”

And, for almost 20 years now, AIDS education has been one of the priorities of Mother of Perpetual Help Centre, with up to 20 schools in one of the six districts participating in the training each year with the hope of bringing about knowledge of AIDS and a decrease in its spread.

“Over the years, teachers have been involved in the training as well, and more recently parents and caretakers have been involved, so as to give parents an understanding of AIDS as well,” Br Damien says.

“Our AIDS education program as had starts and stops this past year because of COVID, so our 2020 project has not yet been completed, but we hope to resume and complete the project soon.”


TOP RIGHT: Br Damien Lunders SVD (right) with a family who are part of an SVD project to help provide better basic housing for poor families or families affected by HIV in Nong Bua Lamphu, in the North-East of Thailand.

MIDDLE LEFT: School students engaged in group discussion as part of the SVD's HIV-AIDS education program.

BOTTOM RIGHT: One of the students in the SVD education sponsorship program with her family, living in very poor conditions. Their home is being improved to provide a roof and cement floor, followed by simple cement block walls, windows and a door.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

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