Viengping is a very special place for very special children. Established in 1986 as a baby care unit attached to the Chiangmai Boy's Home, it is under the auspices of the Department of Public Welfare. In 1988 the home was extended to care for all orphaned children in the northern region before being streamlined in 1997 to cater for babies and children up to the age of six years and for girls from the age of 7 to 18 years. The home also caters for those children who are HIV positive from birth and for those children orphaned as a result of the deaths of AIDS infected parents. Viengping was the first such orphanage in the country to take in HIV children and as a result, accepted children from across the country. Other homes have followed their lead and Viengping now cares only for infected children from the 17 northern provinces.
The Objectives of the home are simple: to provide the loving care that a child needs and would normally receive from its parents. The home takes in children that have been orphaned or found abandoned and it cares for children from broken homes or families who are no longer able to support them. It provides the care these children need, be it medical or maternal and it prepares them for a future. The children are happy, well cared for and healthy but there is no substitute for the real family.
One of the long-term objectives of the home is to find either suitable foster homes or even better, adopted homes for the children. Over the years, a large number of lucky children have found loving homes and a number have been adopted by foreign families. In July this year, Viengping was delighted to see the return of some of those children with their new parents during the nationally organised "Native Land Visit". This is the third such visit since the program began in 1992 and is designed to enable those children who were adopted by foreign families to be able to return to Thailand and experience the sights and sounds of their native country. The children and their new parents were treated to cultural shows and a Khantoke dinner as well as visiting local sights of interest. They were also granted an audience with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, which was a highlight of the tour. The visit provides valuable feedback for the Department of Public Welfare that will help in further development of their work with foreign organizations. It is also of immeasurable value to the children, providing them with a sense of belonging, a national identity and the knowledge that their country does care about them and remember them.
Viengping does its best on the funding it receives from the government but it is never enough and it relies on donations to provide those little extras that can make a child smile. Donations are not just cash or checks. These of course are welcome, but bureaucracy takes its toll and such donations can take months to finally reach the children. Viengping needs material help both in the form of consumables and visitors. Consumables include clothing, especially winter woollies as the cooler months approach, food and fruit to supplement the normal diet and toys or games. Visitors are also welcome. The children love it and the staff will be only too pleased to introduce you. And of course there is the family day out. It could just be possible to fill that spare seat with a child less fortunate than your own and in doing so provide him or her with a lifetime memory.
Next time you're on the Chotana - Mae Rim road, look for the sign and when you see it, spare a thought for those within and if you can spare the time, pay a visit.
You will never regret it and the children will never forget it.
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