“I’m so grateful for the Compassion sponsorship program that has been walking alongside our church and has enabled our children’s ministry abilities. Because of our partnership with Compassion, it’s like an open way for us of community access and trust from the government,” says Walai.
Yongyot, 16, lives in a crumbling house with his two older sisters and a father who’s almost never home. They live on the edge of the river, in a poor area near the church.
“My house is almost wrecked. Compassion has helped many times to fix it enough to make it livable and even built a toilet for us,” says Yongyot.
Yongyot was registered at Compassion’s program when he was five years old in 2011. His parents are daily workers, earning around $5 per day for 12 to 18 hours of work. The cost of living is about three times what they earn. His father succumbed to alcohol abuse and became increasingly unreliable, leaving his mother alone to take care of the whole family.
“My mom always works hard to make sure all of us can have food, and we can go to school. My dream is that one day, I can take care of her,” says Yongyot.
Paying an Unpayable Loan
As a quick solution to their financial problems, his mother took some loans. First, she borrowed from neighbors; then, when she couldn’t pay them back, she borrowed from a loan shark.
But the interest rate on the loan soared faster than a jet. Before she realized it, her $30 loan ballooned to $8,754 in just a short period of time. There was no way she could pay even a fraction of that amount. But when she tried to explain the situation, the lenders started to harass and follow her everywhere. Even her children were caught in this horrible trouble; they lived in fear.
With nowhere else to turn, Yongyot’s mother found herself knocking on the church’s door.
“His mother decided to come to church and ask us for advice about her debts. And we decided to help her as the situation became worse and harsh on Yongyot and his sisters,” says Walai.
Many other families like Yongyot’s also came for help. The church was overwhelmed to see the desperate situation of so many families. Yet, they determined to find the best and healthiest solution to help these children in need.
“Their burden is like my burden. Their suffering made me feel like I am suffering with them. I felt it in my heart,” says Walai.
With such an urgent case like Yongyot’s, the church gave financial help, contributing $146 to his mother so she could invest in beginning her own small food stall. With this business, she could make a better income to care for her family and begin to pay her debts. Walai and other staff helped her purchase cooking equipment, tables, pots, plates and so on.
But the sharks were always circling.
“It was only for about two months that Yongyot’s mother made a profit from everything we helped her invest because her creditors watched and took all money she made. When the customers were paying, they took the money right from their hands,” says Walai. Every penny Yongyot’s mother made was taken by the creditors.
With her back against the wall, she decided to do something no one expected. She ran away — and hasn’t been seen since.
Walai the Protector
“Before she ran, Yongyot’s mother called me about her decision and asked me to help with her children. And I immediately went to see how the children were doing,” says Walai.
Yongyot’s mother left, but her problems didn’t. The loan sharks continued to harass Yongyot and his sisters. Walking home from school, and even at home, the children were followed by the creditors.
Walai couldn’t bear it. She had to step in.
“I couldn’t stand how they were harassing Yongyot and his sisters. So, I sent a strong message and told them the children were innocent — they were not the one who made the deal! Thankfully, they left and stayed away from the children. Otherwise, I would have gone to the authorities, and that would have become a big deal,” says Walai.
Walai works tirelessly to help protect her center’s children from many types of harassment. The center became a haven where Yongyot and his sisters knew they would be protected and loved.
“I like to come to the church because I know it’s a place where I find peace and feel safe,” says Yongyot. “The staff has shown me what the love of God looks like through caring for me and always being there for me when I needed help.”