for each beginning bears a special magic
a special Story
Austrian Barbara Meisl and the Swiss Graziella Ramponi Najai had just completed their studies in their homelands when they came to Thailand to gain experience as volunteers.
They met in Mae Sai, the northernmost city of Thailand, in October 2007. They were fascinated by the beauty of the nature, the lives of the people, which are mostly lived outside their homes, and the markets and new aromas, as well as the people who so often have a smile on their faces.
In Mae Sai they met Dam, a very sick six year old boy … neither Barbara nor Graziella knew how much this encounter would change their lives and that of so many other Thai children.
“During our service as volunteers we met a young boy who was very sick and who no-one was taking care of. We looked for an institution, or a home, or some place that he could go. But no-one was prepared to help the boy, or take him in.”Graziella Ramponi Najai | BAAN DOI Co-Founder
“Because of stigma, and discrimination, and also because there were no suitable institutions at that time, children were often without adequate care and left alone to fend for themselves.”Saowaluk Janwong | BAAN DOI Co-Founder
“And so the idea arose to do something for children who have a destiny similar to that of Dam, and have no-one to look after them, or take responsibility for them.”Barbara Meisl | BAAN DOI Co-Founder and Director
The realization of this idea would not have been possible without the assistance and support of Saowaluk Janwong, known as P’ Ae, the first Thai language teacher of Barbara and Graziella. She not only taught them Thai, but much of the culture and traditions of Thailand. And she opened their eyes to the often extremely difficult situation of the children in Northern Thailand, where poverty and statelessness lead to the threat of human trafficking.
P’ Ae encouraged Barbara and Graziella, an encouragement which gave them the courage necessary to move forward. From the outset, she helped with the necessary formalities such as the purchase of land and registration as a foundation. So it was only logical that she would be an important member of the board of the BAAN DOI Foundation once established.
To this day, Barbara, Graziella and P’ Ae also constitute the BAAN DOI Management Team.
Graziella: “If we had not taken care of the children, they would have had no future, some may even have died.”
Barbara: “Neither schools, hospitals nor municipalities take responsibility for the children. And what also shocked me, and in some cases annoyed me, is that people simply look the other way.”
Graziella: “We couldn’t just look away and leave the kids to themselves. We wanted to do something, and we knew, we had to help them”
Barbara: “We knew that without us, the children would have no future. And we wanted to provide them with a new family.”
P’ Ae: “At that time I realized that Barbara and Graziella had not only the heart, but also the necessary capability and the will to build an orphanage. I had seen how well they were able to fit into Thai society; and I trusted them. And of course I also recognized the need for something to be done for these children. So I was also able to contribute to Thai society by helping them where I could. ”
After buying some land, the first buildings were constructed with the help of many friends and relatives, and in 2009 Barbara and Graziella moved in with the first four children. The project was financed partly by private capital, and partly by donations from companies and the generous support of many people from around the world, and particularly from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
The establishment of a Thai Support Organization and the recognition of the BAAN DOI Foundation by the Thai government were further important steps along the way.
As a result of the unwavering commitment of Barbara, Graziella and P’ Ai, the staff, the volunteers and support from all around the world, the vision has become a reality. BAAN DOI is not only a safe place providing loving care for the children in the orphanage, but also a source of advice and provider of support for underprivileged and orphaned children who have a safe place to live with their relatives.
BAAN DOI continues to expand. At present, a prevention and training center is being developed – for the many underprivileged children and youth, the next step to a chance for a normal life, integrated in Thai society.