Norwegian couple run their four orphanages in Thailand via FaceTime during the pandemic

The couple tries to keep in touch with the children at the orphanage via FaceTime. Here they talk to Bae Ye who has lived in one of the orphanages for eight years. PHOTO: METTE VOLLAN / NRK

Norwegian Ole Jørgen and his wife Gjertrud owns and runs three orphanages and one youth home in Mae-Sot, western Thailand. The couple has since March been forced to run the organization via FaceTime from Norway, due to travel and entry restrictions in Thailand.

Ole Jørgen says in an interview with NRK, that he has spent most of his adult life in Thailand, but that the couple returned to Norway in March to give birth to their first child. Thailand’s borders have since remained closed due to the pandemic, and the couple has been stranded at Gjertrud’s parents’ house in the little mountain village Skåbu in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway. From there they keep in touch and communicate with the children at the orphanages online, mostly via faceTime.

The orphanages in Mae Sot, Thailand, are home to just over 90 children and young people aged between 3 to 20 years old. Some of the children are orphans, some have parents who are unable to provide for them due to drug addictions and others have been abandoned by their own families. Mae Sot is located on the border between Thailand and Myanmar and the children are all from the ethnic group Karen, where many have migrated from Myanmar and settled mostly on the Thailand–Myanmar border. The institution has 25 employees from the local community and is run by support through sponsorships.

Ole Jørgen says that he misses all the children and their employees. Although the employees can run the organization without them, it is very hard for the couple to be away, especially when difficult situations arise. The couple had high hopes of returning sooner but their work permits have expired, which keeps them from returning to Thailand where they live and work.

Gjertrud Jørgen explains that they are in constant contact with the Thai Embassy in Oslo and that they will jump on the first plane to Thailand when given the chance.


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