I met Tasanee – founder of Safe Haven Orphanage – on my first weekend in Mae Sot, two and a half years ago, and since then we have become close friends. This Podcast is a short interview I did with Tasanee whilst motorbiking around Northern Thailand with my sister last December. The interview is also contained in the much longer Podcast 1483km by motorbike in North Thailand.
In 1987 Tasanee started caring for orphaned children on the Thai/Burma border after she received a frantic message from a local villager in Tha Song Yang, Thailand that a little girl had lost her mother during birth. In Karen culture this is interpreted as a bad omen, and the child is often killed. Tasanee took in the young girl – now known as ‘Boonmee’ – and with her brother converted their childhood home into an open space to accommodate the children. Starting with whatever funds were available, she built the foundation of what has become the first Safe Haven Orphanage. Relying on her personal funds and the donations of the people of Mae Sot, she was able to expand and take on more children. She now has forty-three children under her care.
Last year, thanks to a generous donation from Ireland, Safe Haven Orphanage purchased five acres of land just outside the current village. The children and Tasanee are now working hard to make this land habitable, and to raise the funds to build a new orphanage.
The orphanage is located in Tha Song Yang, an incredibly picturesque Karen village in northern Thailand. It sits next to the Moei river which separates Thailand from Burma. It is surrounded by jungle and beautiful limestone mountains, which cut it off from the bustle of the outside world. Electricity was introduced only a year or two ago, and there is only one phone in the middle of the village. It’s what a small village should be; a small tight-knit community where all the kids play together and all the parents know each other. It was at one time a target of Burmese mortars; the pot-marked roads still show evidence. Now however, it is the most peaceful place you could imagine. In the mornings, the sun rises over the mountains to the sound of the local monks chanting.