Ulf Claesson’s party in Klong Toey

“Throw a party for the poor kids in Klong Toey!”      That was what Ulf Claesson – maybe half in jest – had replied when asked what farewell gift from the Swedish community he would appreciate when leaving his four year term as priest at the Scandinavian Church in Bangkok.       So that was what he got!       The community collected and gave to him 30,000 Baht and Ulf blew it all at a big party for the kids at Baan Chivit Mai in the Bangkok slum area Klong Toey on Saturday 14 June, 2003. Well, almost all. A small amount that was left he donated for the specific purpose of going on a trip with the kids to the beach or to the countryside.       From the Scandinavian Church in Bangkok Ulf Claesson was accompanied by Mrs. Elisabeth Bjorklund, Khun Chamlong and Mrs. Gro Haaversen Barth, the Norwegian priest of the Church who is likewise leaving Thailand this summer.       Ulf Claesson was introduced to the children by Khun Sirijongkol, who has been working with the center ever since it was established 12 years ago by Swedish Eva Olfosson. Her work also for AIDS affected children in the North of Thailand was in 2002 recognized by Swedish Queen Silvia, who presented her with the SWEA Woman of the Year award.       Khun Sirijongkol explained to the children that “Father Ulf is going back to his home country far away where the sun goes down.” Ulf Claesson quickly picked up the tone, adding that not only was Sweden far away, “our looks are also different from yours and we have strange names.”       “But we have one thing in common. We like to have a good time,” he added.       “We should remember that having a good time is also a gift from God, so we will celebrate this today!”       The mostly re-school children and handicapped children together with older relatives engaged in games and a lottery draws, which saw almost everybody win something, mostly useful things for everyday life like soap, washing powder, etc. and no useless items like plastic toys.       Khun Siijongkol was assisted by a young girl, Khun Ploy, whose mother Khun Nawin was among the first volunteers at the centre. In those days, Baan Chivit Mai concentrated mainly on taking care of the handicapped children in Klong Toey. Later Eva Olofsson introduced training in making artificial flowers and greeting cards, which were all sold in Sweden. Today, the centre has also a special project for teenagers to keep them out of drug related crimes or prostitution and works as a day care centre for pre-school children.       The lunch, which was the culmination of the party, was prepared by the kitchen staff of whom many have worked with Baan Chivit Mai since the beginning as well.       “When they started here, they could not read. Today we have supported them to take examination as 6th Grade Thai students,” Khun Sirijongkol proudly mentions.       Ulf Claesson received the 30,000 Baht for the party after his last service in Bangkok held on 7 June. He is currently packing and preparing his departure for on 13 July.       His successor Lennart and Lis Hamark will arrive in mid-August together with their six-year-old daughter. The family will take over the apartment of Ulf and Marita Claesson in Sukhumvit Soi 23. To allow for a few weeks to settle in, the new priest’s first service is not likely to be held until by the end of the month. See related articles: New Swedish Priest

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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