Eleven years old, illiterate, and wearied from dodging the punches of drug-dealing parents, he was on the fast track toward dropping out of school. He now finds refuge within the walls of Breakthrough. Here he finds peace, a meal, opportunities to learn and positive distractions from the chaos of home. Breakthrough and the soccer field are his safe places, and they are paving his path toward literacy and hope.
He has grown up as the village “fat kid”; his identity scarred by the unwittingly harsh labels from family, neighbors and teachers. He is often excluded from activities, if not for his size then for his timidity and perceived lack of intelligence. Soccer has given him a chance to be accepted, included and expected to work as hard as everyone else. He’s getting healthy, learning to read and experiencing the joy of belonging to a community.
Raised by his hard-working grandmother, he’s got the grit and independence of a street kid. He first came through the door more than three years ago with a gaping wound on his knee, still full of gravel and dirt after several days of inattention. I’ll never forget him gritting his teeth as I scrubbed, cleaned and bandaged it. Nor will I forget his shy gratitude making its way through his light-up-the-world grin. He’s a head shorter than his soccer teammates and about half the size of most of his opponents, but his smiling determination is his secret weapon. He can out-run, out-work and out-grin anyone he’s up against. And, boy, can he work miracles with a soccer ball.
Having been berated for unruly behavior most of his childhood by frustrated parents, teachers and his community, he dropped out of school partway through seventh grade. But he knew deep down that his small stature wouldn’t serve him well in a life of construction. Given a second chance at school in a new environment with Breakthrough, it wasn’t long before his musical, linguistic and athletic genius became apparent. Unruly behavior (read: boredom) is being replaced by daily household responsibilities, music and soccer. As the soccer team’s captain and leading scorer, he is discovering his own personal genius.
These are just snapshots – small windows into the faces of the boys that bring life, joy and hope to the Breakthrough community. And they are quickly becoming the pride of the village.
Parents, guardians and community leaders are now recognizing the potential of their young boys. Perhaps, after all, they’re not destined to the same fate as their siblings and predecessors. Perhaps they can stay in school and get an education. Perhaps they can resist the societal pressures of drugs and alcohol.
Perhaps they can be strong fathers and community leaders. And perhaps they can break the cycles of poverty and brokenness that mar these beautiful landscapes of Isaan.
Breakthrough recognizes the need to invest in young men just as much as young women in breaking cycles of poverty, brokenness and exploitation in Thai society.
We are grateful for the leadership of Breakthrough staff Anusorn (“Ad”) Kotchakreng in investing in the potential of these boys. For his hours spent teaching and mentoring them both on and off the soccer field, and for the seeds of life and hope he is sowing into this village.
Want to invest??
If you’d like to make a one-time or recurring donation to Breakthrough’s education and mentorship programs for village youth, click here and select “Breakthrough Village Outreach.”