Don’t be fooled by the great hotels and restaurants in Bangkok or the new shopping centres or advances in the mass transit system. Bangkok still has its slums and its poverty. Bangkok is a great place to visit but we appeal to you to give some thought to ‘responsible tourism’ and make a contribution to one of the great charitable organisations operating in Thailand such as the Human Development Foundation.
The Human Development Foundation was set up in 1973 by Father ‘Joe’ and Sister Maria. Father Joseph Maier’s parish covered the poor slum areas of Klong Toey. Amongst his congregation were workers at the local slaughter houses. The children of the workers had little or no education. Moved by their plight, with the help of Sister Maria and whatever donations of money and time he could get, Father Joe set up the first ‘Mercy Centre’ offering schooling for 1 Baht (0.03 USD) per day for children of all backgrounds and religions. The fee has always been waived for the very poorest children, and a hot nutritious daily meal for all children has been provided from the outset.
By 2012 the network of Mercy Centres has grown to 22, providing education to 2,500 disadvantaged children at any given time. A massive 40,000 children have been taught to read and write in Mercy Centres. The schools follow the Thai National Curriculum and offer opportunities for both Buddhist and Catholic worship. The Human Development Foundation hasn’t just stopped there, they also run 6 orphanages, and social programmes for drug rehabilitation, housing, sports, handicapped children and a woman’s savings and loans programme.
You can donate through the website (www.mercycentre.org) or pay a visit. Father Joe can be contacted through the website.
Father Joseph Maier
Originally from Wisconsin, USA, Father Joe has been in Thailand and Laos since 1967. His tireless work has not gone unnoticed by the Thai people. In 2004 Father Joe received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Her Majesty Queen of Thailand. In 2009 Father Joe’s role has become more formalised with his appointment as Child Protection Ambassador to Thailand by the Thai Government.
Father Joe’s work to help the needy, irrespective of their religion, in Thailand has most recently taken him to the Andaman sea where he is currently involved in a project to help the Moken (sometimes known as ‘Sea Gypsies’) whose traditional way of life has been eroded by the actions of the Burmese authorities.
Sister Maria Chantavaradom
Born in Macau, and then raised in Thailand, Sister Maria has been the Mother Superior of the religious order she helped to establish in Bangkok for almost 50 years. She has worked with Father Joe from the outset and rightly shares the credit for the achievements of the Human Development Foundation.