Sarnelli House (Thailand) consists of seven houses spread over three villages in the Northern Thai province of Nong Khai. Sarnelli House is now home to 158 children, 63 of whom are living with HIV. Other programs of Sarnelli include tertiary scholarships, farming and outreach programs for HIV AIDS infected children and families.
Caring for children of all ages at Sarnelli House is a 24 hour effort and requires patience, a sense of humor, love and generous donations. The running costs of such a project are significant given the need to provide education, healthcare, food, clothing, electricity, teaching and support staff, repairs and maintenance and so on. To meet the operational costs Sarnelli House rely on donors including AMS partner Mairst Mission Centre each year. In accepting this generosity, the children are mindful of contributing back to Sarnelli House. They have chores and regular work to do and they are happy to help, hopefully this instills in them a sense of working for what they need and not expecting someone else will provide for them.
The teenage girls at Our Lady of Refuge Home for Girls at Vienghuk have many activities they like to do. Led by a skilled seamstress, the girls often make jewelry, bags, bracelets and key rings. The products go out to visitors and donors who sell them at fairs and fetes and at schools and churches, and the girls are extremely proud of the work they do and that they can contribute to Sarnelli House. In 2016 the girls were lucky to be introduced to a renowned Thai jewellery designer who came to visit and teach skills in working with natural, locally sourced materials. On the farm the girls can often be seen planting rice. The teenage boys also help contribute to Sarnelli House by helping prepare the fields, manage the rice seedlings and maintain the paddies while waiting for the harvest. When harvest time comes around it is all hands in the fields again to harvest the rice by hand, bundle it up, dry it, put it through the thresher to separate the grains and store it ready for milling. This work gives the children an understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate. The teenagers actually enjoy being out in the fields despite some initial grumbling, the comraderie and sense of fun they bring to these days is a real joy for all.
If the students are not in the classroom or on the farm then they might be found at the bakery in Don Wai which provides them with the skills in baking, cake decorating and cooking. The kids love to help measure out ingredients, decorate cakes and eat the fruits of their labour.
People with HIV AIDS in Thailand are marginalised by their communities and not given equitable access to education. Most cannot afford the anti-retroviral (ARV) medication which can keep AIDS at bay. The combination of education and provision of ARV medication means that these children and adults have the ability to gain an education, primary, secondary and tertiary, and then lead into a job. Without Sarnelli House they would have no way of becoming self-sufficient and be able to afford ARV’s, and would likely succumb to the disease.