Por Nor Tha Church in Thailand has been serving their community in partnership with Compassion for the last 14 years, but now they are ready to step out on their own!
15 Sep, 2023
“The day we opened the centre, we registered 50 children,” says Autumnporn, who became their first Compassion centre director. “The first day we started the program activities, we only had two staff members.”
What started with humble beginnings has now grown into a 14-year partnership that has served many vulnerable children and families in this neighbourhood of Thailand. Por Nor Tha Church began in 1985 in a small, remote village. The people are farmers, and most never had an opportunity for education. No one could read or write except the local pastor who could share stories from the Bible.
“We wanted Compassion to come to our village to help us develop our children’s lives,” says Autumnporn. “We wanted our children to receive a foundation in child development and apply it in their lives.” They reached out to Compassion Thailand and, in 2009, partnered together, bringing holistic child development to children in the village and surrounding neighbourhoods.
When asked what has changed since then, Autumnporn says, “Before the Compassion partnership, we never knew about child protection. But when Compassion came, the staff trained us about child protection and self-value. They [the children] had their health check-ups and we learned that these are very important for a child’s development too.”
Tirapon, the current centre director, says the same, “In the past, the children didn’t have any confidence.
“But over the years, through activities at the centre, they have gained more confidence and now have self-esteem. They are not afraid to express their opinions, they have grown in leadership skills and are eager to pray.”
Because children receive holistic development, they are given spiritual, relational, physical and cognitive support. Tirapon says this support has enhanced the children's understanding of self-esteem.
“We can see the difference between the children who are registered with the program and the children who are not,” she says. “The area of self-value is where they don’t have any teaching in school, but our children learn about their self-value from the activities at the centre.”
The impact of this support has also extended to the children’s families and their community as a whole. “In the past, most parents didn’t see the importance of education, as they expected their children to become farmers like them,” says Tirapon. “It was a challenge for the centre to raise awareness of education and help parents understand how it impacts their children’s future. Over the years, parents have begun to see how education can change their children’s lives and create a better future for them.”
14-year-old Kittiya, 17-year-old Natcha and 18-year-old Sriprai were all registered at the child development centre when they were just three years old.
Kittiya says, during this time, letters from her sponsor were a great encouragement to her. “I received my sponsor’s letter regularly and it’s so special,” she says. “They always encouraged me. They asked what I want to be when I grow up. And these words always kept me persevering to reach my dream.”
Sriprai loves working with children and dreams of becoming a primary school teacher one day. She is well on her way to achieving her goal and is now in her final year of high school, planning to continue her education in university. She too found comfort and strength through letters she received from her sponsor.
“My sponsor always says in every letter that he prays for me and my family,” says Sriprai. “Knowing that someone was always praying for me, made me feel that someone cared.”
The girls say that the spiritual guidance they received at the centre has helped them to learn more about God and themselves.
“At the centre, I learnt that I need to get out of my comfort zone. I learnt that I want to be a leader, and the centre provided me the opportunity to practice leadership,” says Sriprai.
Natcha has always been shy and afraid to speak in front of people, but through her years at the centre, she has noticed a change in herself. “For me, learning from the Bible has made me feel like I have strength and confidence. I could understand more about myself,” she says.
But the most precious learning Natcha has received from the centre is her understanding about God.
“I learnt that God will never leave me alone. Whenever I have a problem and I pray, God always answers my prayer. He is the God who is always right beside us.”
The children aren’t the only ones who have noticed a change, their parents are also thankful for the impact of the Compassion program on their children and families.
“Kittiya loves to go to church,” says her father, Prasong. “We see our daughter as an example– she inspires us to go to the church with her more often. When we see her sing at the church, we feel so proud of her.”
Spiritual guidance, practical help and support provided from the centre staff have significantly eased the burden on the families. Jasaw, the mother of Sripai, says, “My children got to receive education—that’s better than our generation received. And the centre helped relieve the burden for our children’s extra costs for the [school] dormitory.”
“They were a big support in my children’s education. They taught life skills that we as parents may not have time to teach, because we had to work,” says Nipapon, Natcha’s mother.
“The centre staff always followed up with our children. They took care of our children and in a way, they are also parents to them.”
According to Prasong, the impact has been felt by the whole community, “Compassion worked alongside our church. They helped develop many things for our church and community. And through the years, we’ve seen how the community became more unified.”
After 14 years of partnering with Compassion Thailand to love, care and support the children and families in their community, for Por Nor Tha Church, it is a new beginning. Now the church is ready to continue to apply what they have learned through the years of partnership with Compassion. Mature in their staff, program knowledge and resources, they are ready to step out on their own and continue to serve their children’s ministries and the wider community.
For Compassion, this is the aim of every partnership with local churches around the world. The local church is there before Compassion and will be there long after, meeting the needs of their community.
The desire is to resource, support and champion the local church to be the answer to their community in a way that can eventually be independent of the Compassion relationship. It’s a partnership of equipment and empowerment.
Even though Por Nar Tha Church is ready to take this next step, for local pastor Nipon, the impact of the partnership will continue.
“We will continue to teach our children to walk in a godly way,” says Pastor Nipon.
Words by Sidhara Udalagama, with field reporting by Piyamary Shinoda.
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