“A fantastic celebration” is how Fr Frank Bird describes the event marking 10 years of the Marist mission in Ranong, Thailand.
The two days of festivities on 6-7 February, centred around a big tent where current students, participants in the HIV Aids health project and their families joined together with past and present volunteers and staff to eat, dance and socialise.
For many of the student’s parents and participants in the HIV Aids programme it was the first time they gathered in such a scale.
Andrew, a volunteer from New Zealand beamed with delight as he had his photo taken with some of his former students, many of whom have become teachers, health workers and are now serving their Burmese Migrant Community.
Joy, smiles and dignity
Fr Gil Casio, leader of the HIV Aids Health Project enjoyed welcoming and sitting among many of their patients.
“We normally visit patients and their families their homes but the 10 year celebration gave everyone an opportunity to celebrate with their wider community.
“There were tears of joy and lots of smiles”, he said.
For Frank Bird, leader of the school programme, the highlight was seeing a very poor community dressed immaculately in traditional Burmese clothing performing traditional and contemporary dances and song in front of their parents.
“I’ll never forget the joy and pride.
“Education brings confidence. Confidence produces beautiful smiles. And the smiles revealed a sense of dignity and pride,” he said.
A highlight of the weekend was the Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Prathan.
The work of the Marist mission has obviously left its mark on him.
“I am looking forward to returning to celebrate 20 years of the Marists in Ranong!”, the Bishop said in the course of his homily.
During Mass special prayers and thanks were offered for all the friends and funders; without whom the work could not have begun nor continue.
The mission started in 2006 when the Marist District of Asia acted in response to the needs of the Burmese refugees and migrant workers in Thailand who live in difficult conditions.
The mission has been staffed by Filipino and New Zealand Marists, and numerous lay volunteers from around the world.
It has been generously funded by the likes of the New Zealand Marist province, the Marist District of Ireland, the Marist Mission Office in Australia, the Society of Mary’s general mission fund, Caritas, Misean Cara and many individual sponsors and charitable organisations.
Visit: Marist mission in Ranong