During times of war, children are the first to suffer.
Pa-didi was just a toddler when the soldiers descended on his small village. His family fled into the jungle as armed soldiers burnt their house down and scattered their rice stores.“I saw the soldiers come into our village. That is how close they were to me, I could see the guns they were carrying.”
Running terrified through the jungle, Pa-didi ended up in the village of Lay-Koh, with survivors from other attacks. At Lay-Koh they had escaped the violence, but the battle for survival was far from over. Malaria raged through the region, cobras and pythons lurked in the dark shadows of the jungle, and unclean water caused fever and dysentery.
Life as a refugee hiding in the jungle is not easy. Instead of going to school, Pa-didi helped his parents break the hard mountain soil by hand as they tried to grow crops. The family hut was too small for all the children to sleep, so as the oldest boy, Pa-didi made a sacrifice so his younger siblings could be warm. Even during the winter, when nights can be as cold as 12 degrees in the village, he would sleep outside on the bamboo floor.
Life was tough for families hiding in Lay-Koh, but God was at work. Two local pastors, Jollee and Jochai, were given a vision to help the minorities displaced by the fighting. When out hiking through the jungle, they walked through Lay-Koh.“This is the place!” Jollee remembers thinking. “We knew that this was the place we were searching for to start a new church!”
Little by little, the new church plant began to grow. “But we didn’t have money for teachers or books and materials. All we could do was have a church service, and that’s it.” Children like Pa-didi could now hear about Jesus in a church, but they were still suffering from disease and the cold. They still had no future beyond the refugee village.
The two pastors decided to partner with Compassion so they could provide practical support to the local children. They felt that God had laid the final piece of the puzzle. “Before we had Compassion,” said Jollee, “we were already trying to help the village, but we didn’t have enough resources in our small church to do everything we wanted to do. With Compassion to help, we started being able to buy textbooks, and teach the children. We were also finally able to provide medical aid and hygiene lessons.”
Thanks to the sponsorship programme, refugee children fleeing violence are being given the opportunity to continue their education in Thailand.
For Pa-didi, a bright light has come to the dark corner of the jungle where his family and friends were hiding. To beat the cold, he now has blankets and nutritious food. Thanks to his sponsor, he’s returned to school, learning more every day. Pa-didi aspires to become a teacher so he can teach the next generation in the village he’s beginning to call home.