Oh the whirlwind continues. Last weekend, we three GSVs joined twenty-some kids for the annual event that John and I have lovingly termed 'Christmas Camp'. For a little over 24 hours, the kids (ranging age 7 to 17) come together and learn a few Christmas routines for the biggest Christmas party of them all: the party that invites all of the families involved in the Outreach team. Not everyone can make it, and still over 200 people attend.
Koo Gate (one of the social workers here who is also the Director of the Outreach team) asked me to assist with the younger kids. There ended up being two groups, a younger group that will perform 'I'm the Happiest Christmas Tree' with me and Gate. The older kids will perform Rockin' around the Christmas Tree. (Links give you an idea of our performance, but the not the best quality of songs. Youtube for better versions of the songs themselves).
What this meant was that we never got a break! Once one group of kids rested, the other group practiced, so Gate and I danced the better part of Saturday and a few hours on Sunday morning too. Meanwhile, Lauren and John joined the teenagers in their fast-paced, funky version of Jingle Bells. At first, they were just there for moral support, but then halfway through the day, Sr. Pranee stopped in, saw them dancing, and promptly added them to the performance!
Picking up our sore legs, we headed to work for the week, and promptly forgot we had our first Christmas party to attend. We headed over to the farm for a morning with Sr. Sutisa and her Sponsorship team. Hundreds of children and their families were in attendance for a day of encouraging speeches, lunch including ice cream for dessert, performances - and of course, gifts in the form of 'lucky dip'.
The Children's Sponsorship team assists over five hundred children with their schooling from primary to university. While schooling for the younger years is paid for by the government, there are fees associated with uniforms, transportation, etc., and this is what the sponsorship assists with.
A few days of 'normal' work included many breaks for preparation for more Christmas performances. I helped Lauren as she taught a group of Hands of Hope producers the choreography to A Holly Jolly Christmas. Every day, I biked back to the Garden to catch the patients after their daily afternoon exercises, so we could rehearse the two songs they will sing as well. In the mid-afternoon sun, I biked back to Hands of Hope to fit a few more hours of work or Christmas prep in. I hope all this exercise helps offset all we have been eating this week!
Hands of Hope also had an outing this week. We went back to the lake from last year, where we rented a couple of rafts to be all together, eat food, and swim. This year was much cooler, but many of us still braved it to enjoy the water. A few people overcame some of their fears from last year. It was so much fun, and it's a somber reminder for us privileged folks that not everyone gets to grow up swimming.
In the midst of it all, we are in three different 'Secret Santa' pools (or secret 'Buddy's' as they call it in this community), so we secretly slip gifts in designated boxes regularly, and all try our hand at writing in Thai as best as we can.
And our week isn't over yet! But I have yet to experience the rest. The next few days will include more practices with the children for the big party on Saturday, a thorough cleaning of the volunteer house, some Christmas shopping, and perhaps a little baking too.
Hope y'all back home are finding the balance as best you can. Despite the busyness, my heart is (usually) full of Christmas cheer and excitement. Much love.
P.S. We announced it on social media recently, but we thankfully met our fundraising goal for GSV. Thank you so much for supporting in all sorts of ways the past year and a half.