Resilience, Strength and Courage
I’ve been here in beautiful Thailand for a few days break with my love, taking some much needed down time away from our busy schedules and dropping in on some of our extended family at Baan Than Namchai (BTN), one of the beautiful orphanages we support over here through a charity called Hands Across The Water.
Thailand is always such a contemplative place for me; it enriches my heart and feeds my soul on every single visit. It’s here where years ago, I set free some of my own personal demons and it’s here where I regained my perspective a little bit more at a really challenging time in my life and finally felt like I could breathe again – proper soul expanding breaths and not the shallow kind that often accompany stress, anxiety and exhaustion.
When I sit and look out at the peaceful, soothing azure water of the Andaman sea, it’s hard to imagine raging water over ten metres high tearing through here 11 years ago on Boxing Day 2014 when the Tsunami struck, devastating this serene land, its beautiful people, their industrious communities and the many overseas visitors who today, like us were perhaps sitting here gratefully enjoying all that Thailand has to offer.
Today we visited a couple of the Tsunami Memorial sites, one of which is the eighty foot aluminium alloy Police Patrol Boat 813 that now stands inland on dry earth as a monument, at least a kilometre from any coastline or drop of ocean, approximately 2 kms eastward from where it was originally anchored offshore when the first wave hit. We also went and viewed the Memorial Wall that has been architecturally designed and constructed like a huge wave at the entrance to the beach at Ban Nam Kem. The wall honourably and sadly displays the names and photos of some of the people who lost their lives in the area from all walks of life, ages, countries and cultures. Over 50% of the surrounding local community here lost their lives on that day in December 2004 and the days following.
As we travelled around the area today, there are still many other stark reminders of that tragedy: the Tsunami Refuge Centres that have been erected – huge, tall buildings with rooftop platforms that serve as emergency escape safety zones if another Tsunami ever rips through here again, the skeletal remains of some resorts that have never been repaired, hotels, shops and homes that have not been touched either and simply left in disrepair.
But amongst all this there is also the signs of this amazing community getting on with things – new developments that have sprung up on old sites, tourist accommodation that has been reconstructed and undergone a complete face-lift as the years have passed and they risen again like a Phoenix, locals going about their everyday lives and a steady stream of happy faced tourists lazing on the beaches, spending money in the shops and helping to rebuild this once broken community.
Spending some time at BTN with the kids who have now been given a second chance at life and are thriving despite having lost their families and everything they knew is also always an inspirational and intensely positive experience. It’s wonderful to see the little ones’ happy faces, always so excited to see us again and to celebrate the older kids’ achievements, with many of these beautiful, courageous young adults now at university and some off doing work experience and looking forward to exciting careers and rewarding lives of their own. The impact that our presence and support and that of everyone else involved in helping to shape these young people’s futures is not something that I do not take away my own lessons from. It’s an important reminder and example that giving a little, time, love and resources can make a huge difference to other people’s lives.
I cannot begin to imagine the horror, heartbreak, fear, sadness, uncertainty and loneliness that these children would have felt in their short lives, and yet they soldier on through their lives and are grateful for the opportunities they are given, the chance to go to school, the roof over their heads, food in their bellies, the warm arms to comfort them that once were strangers and now are their extended family… fundamental privileges that most of us take for granted in our everyday lives.
The resilience, bravery, strength and inner beauty of all of these children, young and old and their surrounding communities who have been affected by those 2004 events here in this pure, often harsh, brutal but unwaveringly beautiful country are such an incredible inspiration to me.
My trips here always offer up a healthy dose of perspective, appreciation and love of life for me and are something that carry me through my own daily living and personal challenges and encourage me everyday to approach the things I do with courage, strength and gratitude and with the drive to be the best version of myself I can be.
Thailand – you had me at hello.