A Young Man in a Pigpen

The sight of a young man living in a pigpen forever changed the heart and life direction of Tassanee.

Today's blog is from Niw and Jamie Rattanapamonsook, who serve youth in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (The picture above is of their son standing by a typical pigpen in their region)

About 30 years ago, Tassanee visited the Mien tribe in a rural village of northern Thailand. She saw a young man encaged in a filthy pigpen, lying there napping. The stench of human waste was overwhelming. An older couple, after looking to see that the young man was asleep, quietly approached the muddy pit, dropped in a plate of food and quickly scrambled away. From a distance they shouted to the young man, “Go ahead and eat! Your food is there!" Confused and appalled, Tassanee questioned the other villagers about the situation and learned that the young man was HIV- positive and the couple providing him with food was his parents. They were so terrified that they might contract the virus that they never got close to him if he was awake.

As Tassanee visited other rural villages she found it to be common that anyone who had HIV was not treated like a human being but like an animal. They were outcasts. God planted in Tassanee a passion for helping people with HIV. Even in the city, she saw that the children of those who were HIV-positive were as good as orphaned. Their parents no longer took responsibility for their children and so their children, alone and helpless, were easy targets for human traffickers. The children were drugged and forced to sell flowers on the side of the road. If they didn't meet their quota for the day they would be beaten.

The more Tassanee learned, the more heartbroken she felt. It fed her passion and inspired her to open three youth homes specifically for youth who have been affected by HIV, whether they are the children of HIV-positive parents or HIV-positive themselves. At any given time, Tassanee's homes house 60 kids with a total of 6 staff among the three homes. Only six staff to do the shopping, prepare meals, clean, help with homework, do laundry, discipline and guide, and get kids ready for school! The task sounds overwhelming! It is easy to understand why Tassanee's homes and so many others like hers are eager for help — for a day off (our respite care program), for someone to help the kids with their education (our educational camps), for someone to inspire them spiritually (our youth conferences), give them guidance (our mentorship), and for someone else to care about their futures (you and us)!

It is a privilege to join with so many youth leaders, like Tassanee, who desire the best for their youth by getting them, sometimes literally, out of the pit.

Niw with Tassanee

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