The Human Development Foundation (HDF) began on a morning in 1973 with a daily walk in the slum neighborhoods. Father Joseph (Joe) Maier, an American priest, and Sister Maria greeting all their neighbors. Father Joe was the Parish Priest for the Catholics who butchered the pigs. The parishioners lived and worked in the slaughterhouse of Klong Toey, Bangkok’s largest slum. Sister Maria came daily from her Convent and began teaching Catechism to the Catholic children.
In 1973 ‘Slaughter House kids’ didn’t go to school, and the few who did failed and dropped out. The few schools available reluctantly took them in. Teachers singled them out as what not to be. Telling anyone “I’m from the Slaughter House” marked you like an ugly tattoo: branded you forever. You couldn’t go to school, you couldn’t get a real job. Butchering pigs, washing entrails, frying down pork fat into lard… these were the choices available.
Father Joe and Sister Maria turned a slum shack into a one-baht-per-day preschool for every child in the Slaughter House, children of all religions. No child was turned away. That’s how the Human Development Foundation started.
Today, in addition to more than 23 kindergartens in slum areas, HDF operates orphanages, homes for street kids and assists children and adults living with HIV/AIDS. The headquarter of the HDF Mercy Centre is located in the slums of Klong Toey.
Alumni of the first Slaughter House kindergarten are teachers, executive secretaries, nurses, taxi drivers, and butchers. Many are now married and their own children are attending proper schools.
The parents/guardians only pay a very small fee each school day. This fee is waived for the poorest children. The very poorest children also receive school supplies at no cost. One out of five children comes to school hungry. All the kindergartens provide a lunch that for most of these children is their most nutritious meal of the day. In addition the children are given fruit and protein snacks in the morning and after naptime.
Kindergartens are not mandatory in Thailand. Many kindergartens in Bangkok are private and way out of reach for slum residents. Education is the base for every child/person to grow into a better life. The earlier children get education, the better the chances the children can pick up what they have been taught, and simply increases a success full study. Knowledge is power!
While cycling through slum areas in Bangkok we see how life is passing by for an estimated 1,5 million of ‘Bangkok residents’. It makes us realize what a good life we actually have.
But the kindness of these people and the warm welcome they give us every day is amazing.
Since we cycle every day through one of the slums, we wanted to do something back to the community and its people. So in 2005 we set our goals and decided to support the Yennagart kindergarten, part of the HDF.
This kindergarten is located in a slum area in Yannawa, one of Bangkok’s non-touristy districts. With our ‘Colors of Bangkok’ bicycle tour we pass this school and when not closed we stop to say ‘hello’ to the children in this school.
There is a HDF donation box at our Bangkok Biking office/lounge, so after the bicycle excursion you can always make a donation to the Mercy Centre if you want. Even a small donation makes a difference in the lives of the slum children!
If you want to read our full story about our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), please click the following link: Recreational Bangkok Biking & CSR.
There are future poets, scholars, and leaders among the children on the streets; the children you see begging, collecting garbage, and sleeping under foot bridges.
They just need a safe place to live and the chance to go to school.
-Father Joseph Maier-
Book your place on our popular Colors of Bangkok bicycle excursion and visit the Yennagart kindergarten!