A child with Down’s syndrome was allegedly abandoned by his Australian parents and left in the care of his surrogate mother in Thailand. The child’s story has been making international headlines.
Yet, tragically abandoned babies and hopeless futures for children with special needs are not unusual in Thailand.
Judy Cook, a BMS World Mission worker in Chiang Mai, lives and works with little boys and girls who were born with severe disabilities.
These include children like NamChok, who has Down’s syndrome and was abandoned outside the government orphanage in Chiang Mai when he was just a baby.
He was left with no papers, no history and no way to trace his mom and dad. He didn’t even have a name.
Eventually, NamChok (which means lucky boy) was brought to Hope Home, a home for children with disabilities, which was co-founded by Cook. Since then, he has flourished.
Now 4 years old, NamChok still doesn’t have much speech, but he is happy and he is loved.
Every morning, he goes to school and is getting much better at concentrating in his classes.
He also has official papers and an identity number so that he can enter into the adoption process.
In the next year, NamChok will hopefully be adopted into a family of his own.
But NamChok, as his name suggests, is one of the lucky ones. There are many disabled children in Thailand whose stories have gone differently.
Often, to avoid bringing shame on their families, disabled children are hidden away and not allowed out in public.
Belief in karma is prevalent in Thailand, a majority Buddhist country, and children with disabilities are frequently stigmatized because many people believe the reason babies are born with special needs is because they or their families have done something bad.
When disability is seen as a punishment, helping children can seem less important.
And those parents who do try to get medical help for their children are given no hope.
In Thailand, parents of children with special needs are often told their children are brain damaged and there’s nothing they can do.
“Families come away feeling very discouraged,” Cook says. “They don’t know that they can do anything to help their child.”
But life doesn’t have to be hopeless for these wonderful children, made in the image of God. That’s what Cook and her team at Hope Home are proving every day.
In their work with children like NamChok, they are shining the love of Jesus into the lives of children who seem to have been written off by their society.
“The biggest thing we can offer families is hope,” Cook says. “You want to be looking for what the children can achieve rather than what they can’t do.”
Some of the children at Hope Home have very severe disabilities, but even when there appears to be no progress, there is still hope and an opportunity to give the best life possible.
Through Hope Home’s kindness and care, “the children know that they are loved and accepted,” Cook says.
And witnessing the smiling faces of the children, you can’t help but see how precious, happy and loved they are.
Sarah Stone is a writer for BMS World Mission. A version of this news article first appeared on the BMS website and is used with permission. You can follow Stone on Twitter @Sarah_Stone and BMS @BMSWorldMission.