About Ban Rom Sai
Ban Rom Sai was established in December 1999 in a suburb of Chiangmai, in northern Thailand, as an orphanage for children who have lost their parents due to AIDS or have contracted HIV from their parents.
The establishment was made possible thanks to a generous grant from Giorgio Armani Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of the Italian clothing conglomerate. Today, Ban Rom Sai is home to 30 children, between the ages of 2 and 17 (in 2014).
From the get go, we did not want Ban Rom Sai to be just an orphanage, but instead a 'big family' for the children who call it their home. Therefore, we have run the orphanage with a system in mind for the children to enjoy a healthy and balanced lifestyle, rather than making decisions that would simply make it easier to run the orphanage. This has so far been made possible due to the commitment of our Thai staff and many Japanese volunteers.
By using a system of trial and error, working closely with the children, we are now welcoming the 15th year since establishment.
Ban Rom Sai is set in a spacious and green property, with plenty of space for the children to play. We work hard to create a clean and hygienic environment for the children, as well as provide nutritiously well-balanced meals.
Sadly, the first three years were focused around fighting death. We lost ten children during this time, who developed full-blown AIDS. Back then, anti-viral drugs were not available and none had yet been developed for children. However, thanks to the continued monetary support from many people and new anti-viral HIV therapies, it has been possible to suppress the onset of AIDS and the children are growing up and are healthy! Since October 2002, we have not had a single death at Ban Rom Sai.
As the years passed, we have seen further improvements in medical technology, which have made possible to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. As a result, the number of AIDS orphans and children living with HIV has decreased significantly.
Children now come to live with us for various reasons. Some of the children’s parents are refugees from the neighboring countries, some parents are imprisoned for drug related crimes and some parents simply cannot raise the children themselves due to poverty. It is our mission to support the children who are the victims of this unfortunate reality.
Most of the children at Ban Rom Sai have experienced tough situations during their short lives. This includes events, such as their parents' death, social discrimination and ostracism. However, now the children have found a ‘home’ at Ban Rom Sai and can enjoy some peace of mind here. The 30 children are all individuals, each with their own personalities, hopes and dreams. We want the children to grow up and become active members of society. In this respect, education is important, but we also try to give the children different opportunities and experience new activities. Whether it is painting, ceramics, photography, traditional Thai dance, theatrical performances, cloth dyeing, sewing, swimming, soccer, Aikido or computer programming. There is something for everyone and hopefully one of these skills, coupled with education, will also help them earn a living, when they are grown up. We do not make unilateral decisions regarding the children’s lives and the children are actively involved in discussing and making decisions about their lives.
We have also had the bitter experience in the past of children being flunked out of the local elementary school, because of prejudices and discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS. This made us realize that educating people about HIV/AIDS was also going to be an important role for Ban Rom Sai. With a generous donation from Credit Suisse, a Swiss investment bank, we were able to build a library, computer room and activity room at Ban Rom Sai. Theactivity room is routinely used to host seminars about HIV/AIDS and educate the local community. The library has also allowed Ban Rom Sai to better integrate into the local community, which had previously shunned us. Village children now come to use the library to read and borrow books, as well as use the computer room. The children of Ban Rom Sai and village children now play together harmoniously. For us, the gift of the library has given us so much more than just access to books and computers!
< What is the meaning of Ban Rom Sai? >
Ban Rom Sai is a Thai phrase, which translates as 'a house under the Banyan Tree' and symbolizes a haven, a safe place. Our logo incorporates the Banyan tree, symbolizing this motto. Our vision and what we want to create for the children is a safe haven and a home.