In 1981, the Good Shepherd Sisters came to Nongkhai, a small city in northeast Thailand along the Mekong River. It was clear to the Sisters that the local people, disadvantaged in so many ways, had no choices available to them. Lacking an education or training of any sort, employment opportunities were limited.
Good Shepherd implemented development projects and village outreach programs with the local people which continue to be a source of empowerment, improving the quality of life for all involved.
Good Shepherd provides the following services in Nongkhai:
- Economic opportunities through training and agricultural programs
- Outreach services to villagers
- Education to prevent increased HIV infections
- Sponsorship of children to help families meet schooling related costs
- Dignified employment for those living with HIV/AIDS
- Nursing and hospice care to patients without relatives to care for them
- Long term and emergency accommodation for disadvantaged families
Good Shepherd Volunteers in Thailand have the opportunity to fill important roles in economic justice projects and the village outreach program. The skills of the volunteer and the needs of the site are taken into account while developing a unique role for each GSV. There are typically two to three volunteers in Nongkhai, and they have the opportunity to work in the following programs.
Hands of Hope
Hands of Hope is an income-generating project begun in 2005 for those living with HIV/AIDS. Due to their illness, the workers at Hands of Hope have found it very difficult to secure work elsewhere. Facing discrimination in their village communities, the people have found support and unconditional acceptance at the Good Shepherd ‘Friendship Centre’. They work together to produce beautiful handmade cards, decorations, mobiles and gifts, exclusively using Thailand’s famous ‘saa paper’ – made from the bark of the mulberry tree. These fair trade crafts are sold locally and to international partners in Australia, Europe, and the United States through HandCrafting Justice. More than the monetary benefit, the men and women at the Hands of Hope provide friendship, encouragement and hope to one another.
Good Shepherd Outreach Team
This program is organized and supported by the Good Shepherd Sisters and provides services and support for people living in numerous poor villages in the Nongkhai area. Many of the families visited by the Outreach team are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The Outreach team visits the villages regularly to provide food and medical care, as well as run a nutrition program for infants. Staff accompanies patients to hospital appointments and provides transportation for the sick and handicapped. The Outreach program has also helped to construct basic houses for families that are considered to be in desperate need.