Sr Chalaad of the Good Shepherd Sisters
“Every value of life is important, and I believe that everyone can support each other in a small or big way. It’s about giving a chance to the mothers and the children.”
For more than 50 years, women and children from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds have turned to the Good Shepherd Sisters for love and support.
In all that time, the message has been the same: “One person is of more value than the whole world”. It’s a phase repeated on posters and message boards, and written on the walls of the home, in Bangkok, Thailand, where mothers seek refuge to care for their babies.
Sr Chalaad has dedicated her life to the Good Shepherd Sisters, having celebrated 25 years with the order in 2019. The message resonates as much today as it did when she first came to know the work of the Good Shepherd Sisters, soon after leaving high school when she was 18.
“It touches my heart”, she says. “I feel that everyone is important. Everyone has a value and dignity.”
Sr Chalaad grew up in north east Thailand, the fifth child in a family of 8 children. Her parents had a strong connection to faith. Her father was a Buddhist monk before converting to Catholicism, when Sr Chalaad was at very young age.
She recalls her father’s love for the Bible fondly, reading it daily to his family.
“He was the one, who taught us about catechism. When I was young, every day after meal, after supper, we would come together, and he would say a story of the Bible.”
Sr Chalaad, runs the Mother and Baby Home, and believes that everyone can find happiness when they help others in need to improve their way of life.
“Everyone can be a good person," she said.
“That’s why I work with the children, I can see how they can be good people in the future."
The Mother and Baby Home provides young mothers and children with a safe home, food, pre- and post-natal medical care, support with a small community of women in the home from similar backgrounds, and parenting skills training classes provided by professionals.
When Sr Chalaad first started working at the home there was about 30 young mothers and their babies. Resources were stretched, and sometimes there were not enough beds.
“But we still accepted them," she said.
“It really helped me a lot to realise how important one life was: a life of the baby.”
A typical day at the Mothers and Baby Home starts at around six o’clock. The young mothers attend to their own duties, before gathering for breakfast at around 7:30. A daily prayer session will follow. There are also daily, short meditation sessions to set up the mind for the day.
Sr Chalaad and her small but dedicated team support the women in developing their confidence and understanding how to become strong mothers.
“We let them know about how to take care of the children, how to love themselves,” she said.
At the Mother and Baby Home, the mothers are given time on their own to take care of their children, some visiting the hospital or the doctor for medical appointments. Others use the time to prepare meals not only for their children but taking turns to cook for others.
The sisters take care of the children of the mothers who go to work at the nearby training centre. They all meet for lunch, with the mothers taking care of their children, where they also do some handicraft in the time in between. They all pray together before going to bed around 8 o’clock.
The Mother and Baby Home fosters a community of care and support.
“Every value of life is important, and I believe that everyone can support each other in a small or big way,” said Sr Chalaad.
While community attitudes and acceptance of single mothers and children born out of wedlock is changing in Thailand, Sr Chalaad says the support and assistance of the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Mothers and Baby Home is needed now more than ever, with a concerning trend of domestic violence.
The Thai government is doing its best to raise awareness, but many women are suffering and in crisis.
“There are many government programs to support domestic violence but there are still come cases that they can't reach out to,” she said.
"So, they come to us. That's why we still need to help.”