At Agape, dedicated staff and volunteers provide around-the-clock residential care to more than one hundred orphans, thirty percent of whom are HIV+, who range in ages from swaddled newborns to gangly teenagers. The home was founded twenty-six years ago by Avis Rideout, a very determined Canadian whose core philosophy is that she will never turn any child away. Despite being well into her third decade of devotion to a cause that is entirely supported by outside donations, Avis helps give the best possible lives to her ‘family’ (she hates the word ‘orphan’, and doesn’t want Agape kids to grow up feeling alone). They are family – and to the outside visitor, the atmosphere at the home is one of kinship, friendship and a heart-warming sense of community.
On Saturday, a group of expats from around Chiang Mai, mostly retirees who turned up with their own families, brought even more smiles to the faces of the children of Agape. How did they do that? By presenting the children with fifty-three brand new bicycles.
When the COVID 19 crisis hit Chiang Mai, Australian retiree Michael Paul O’Brien’s partner Jane Rojsuranash wanted to do something for the local community. Along with Jane’s brother and father, they enlisted their Canadian friend Ian Watt and began gathering donations from friends from near and afar in order to be able to cook and deliver meals to Chiang Mai people in need. Over the following months, they delivered more than 3,500 meals – almost all hand-cooked by Ian – to temples, hospitals, food distribution centres and orphanages, one of which was Agape.
Frequent visits to the home and exposure to the children living there made them wonder how else they could help. Soon a new charity drive to provide the home with bicycles was put into action, with help from Englishman Stewart Ashby, who runs OMG Bar & Restaurant in the city.
Flash forward a couple of months, and armed with more than 150,000 Baht gathered in Thailand and abroad (including from a pub crawl!), they asked Decathlon Chiang Mai if they would like to become involved. The rest is written in the smiles of nearly a hundred kids who turned up to find several dozen shiny new bicycles lined up, ready for them to enjoy. And enjoy themselves they most certainly did.
Agape Home and Orphanage depends entirely on donations (it is fully registered with the Thai authorities, but receives no money from the government). Anyone who would like to volunteer their time or donate to the running of the home should please visit this page.