Aranya Nitiwattananont used to work in Bangkok as an English language teacher.
One day, about ten years ago, she decided to leave a life of luxury in the big city and opened a home for orphaned children in a province near the Thai border with Myanmar.
“Without this home, they have nowhere to go, no future,” said the 62-year-old lady.
She started the New Life Home in Hindad in the province of Kanchanaburi, 270 kilometers west of Bangkok, after encountering the idea during a trip to Sweden.
When she came back to Thailand, Aranya, who used to be a teacher at Assumption Thonburi School in Bangkok, made possible her dream of taking care of poor and deprived children.
“As a lay Catholic, this is my mission,” she told Bishop John Bosco Panya Kritcharoen of the Diocese of Ratchaburi who visited the New Life Home this week.
“It is not necessary that only priests and religious proclaim the Good News,” she said. “To take care of young children requires love, care, and mercy, and I can do it.”
“This is the very heart of the Gospel,” said Aranya. She told the bishop that the institution offers the children a chance “to know and touch the love of God.”
“I am deeply impressed with her dedication and devotion to the poor,” Bishop Kritcharoen told LiCAS.news. “This is truly the face of the Church, the Church for the poor.”
She said the teacher is a “model for other lay people” to follow.
Aranya Nitiwattananont, founder of the New Life Home in Hindad in the province of Kanchanaburi, 270 kilometers west of Bangkok. (Photo courtesy of New Life Home)
Because of Aranya’s determination, the children are now growing up with dignity.
Those who “graduated” from the Home, about 70 of them already, found jobs and are now earning and are even supporting the orphanage.
“They regularly donate their income for the little ones here,” said Aranya.
Everyday, the teacher would drive her pickup truck and transport the children to and from La Salle School in the province that provides full scholarship to the children.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Thailand and schools closed, the children planted vegetables and fruit trees.
“It has been a very tough time for me and the children,” Aranya told LiCAS.news, but she said she has to teach her ward “life lessons” to be able to support themselves and survive in the future.
“I teach them to be responsible for their life,” she said, adding that all the children have to share in doing household chores.
The children of the New Life Home in Hindad in the province of Kanchanaburi, 270 kilometers west of Bangkok, take a ride to school. (Photo courtesy of New Life Home)
Volunteers, some are Aranya’s former students in Bangkok, would usually come to the Home to help, teaching children how to cook, bake, among other life skills.
The Home was even able to open a small store where the children sell their produce and a barber shop that serve the surrounding community.