I will try to answer all of your questions about doing this here. I would first like to talk about courage vs. fear. I will admit, when Matt and I were planning this a month before we were leaving (we are always very last minute travelers!) I had fear. Matt had fear. We were very nervous about what we were doing because of our 6 children-ages 14 to 2. We still have little ones and so my main concern was for their safety. We have traveled a lot, but both of us had never been to this side of the world. We had no idea what to expect.
But, this was a dream of ours. Something we had talked about doing for years. I think it was the reality that we only have Sam for 4 more years that woke me up. There were still so many things that I wanted him to experience before he left home. We had better start fitting it in or it would be too late.
These words helped us to decide:
"Everything in life requires courage. Courage is essential to the human experience. Yet courage is the rarest quality in a human person. The most dominant emotion today in our modern society is fear. We are afraid. Afraid of losing the things we have worked hard for, afraid of rejection and failure, afraid of certain parts of town, afraid of certain types of people, afraid of criticism, afraid of heartache, afraid of change, afraid of what people think, afraid to tell people how we really feel...We are afraid of so many things. These fears can play a very large role in directing the actions and activities of our lives. Fear stops more people from doing something with their lives than lack of ability, contacts, resources, or any other single variable.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the acquired ability to move beyond fear. No one is born with courage. It is an acquired virtue. You learn to ride a bike by riding a bike. Courage is acquired by practicing courage. And like most qualities of character, when practiced our courage becomes stronger and stronger and more readily accessible with every passing day." Matthew Kelly
So, we decided to let the fear go and try it. We would start with this little adventure out of our comfort zone and see what happened. We had each other (which helps a lot) and we did feel good about it, so we booked it.
I booked it not knowing where we would be helping out, but I was confident there was a great need for help in Thailand. I started doing research online and found a couple places, but never heard back from anyone. 2 days before we left I finally heard back from an organization, but nothing was concrete. What I have learned here is that communication is hard--they are not ignoring you on purpose. Not many speak English. I did really have a good feeling that we would be able to find what we were looking to do so when we got here we got a map and through a series of little miracles (I really believe God will give us these tender mercies along the way) found all of the orphanages we wanted to work in. They have been SO grateful for help. We have made contacts here and have addresses and phone numbers now, so if you really are interested in coming we are happy to help you by giving you this information.
Moral of the story---don't be terribly discouraged if you don't have everything worked out before you go. Part of the adventure is working it out while you are there! It will all eventually come together if you keep at it.
As far as lodging. There are places that let you stay with them. The Home and Life Orphanage will let you do that for $15 a day. The lodgings however, are primitive. The above picture is one of the places you can stay. They have little mats on the floor. I think if I had only older children I would be more apt to do that, but with our little ones it would not have worked. We are staying in a hotel and go every day to the orphanages. They get to swim for a bit before bed, so it breaks things up a bit for the little ones.
Thailand is very cheap outside of the hotel and rental cars. Our whole family of 8 can eat for $20. You have to be willing to eat native food though! We also have bought a lot of food at the grocery store and try to eat what we can here at the hotel.
Day to day life here is as follows. We either go in the morning and work until late afternoon, or we go after lunch and stay late. It has been nice to be fully on our own and not organized with a group because we have complete flexibility. We decide which orphanage we want to go to when. The kids are very involved in where we choose to go and what supplies we give to which people. They have voted on how much money we should spend where and who needs the most as far as donations. It has been so fun to hear all of their ideas and opinions. They notice things that we haven't.
If you want to help from afar, here is the information on how to donate. They are trying to raise enough money to build an infirmary so that sick children do not infect everybody else. They also want to build a proper bakery/restaurant on the front of their property to be able to earn more money. It does not have to be a huge sum and it is a great way to get children started on helping the less fortunate.
Safety--it is very safe here. We are watchful, but I have never felt scared. They love and revere children here so it is a great place for families. The Thai people are so open hearted and would do anything to help you. They are gracious and sincere.
That really is it. It truly is so much easier than we ever thought it would be. We have never looked back on our decision. I am so incredibly grateful that the fear did not win on this one. Look what we would have missed out on... (bummer, it won't let me upload a picture!)