Seven Fountains Sponsorship Programme
“As we made our visits, my eyes and ears were opened to the very real challenges these children face in covering just the basic necessities like lunch money, books, transportation, and uniforms,” reflected Scott Johnson, one of the sponsors of Seven Fountains Sponsorship Programme who visited Samoen and Mae Wang Districts last year.
Seven Fountains Sponsorship Programme – raised by the community of Seven Fountains, a Jesuit retreat house in Chiangmai, Thailand - aims to assist poor students from the north of the country to receive an education. These children come from very poor families, and mostly from different ethnic minorities. Each child is screened by the community of Seven Fountains, and the real needs established.
Although primary and secondary education in Thailand is free (government sponsored), there are many unseen expenses involved. These families are so poor that many of them cannot afford the uniforms that children are required to wear, or the supplies, like pencils and notebooks, that they need in school, or live so far from school that they cannot afford the transport cost. At the tertiary level, Seven Fountains’ students could not proceed in their education without the community’s support.
Fr David Keith Townsend SJ, British Jesuit priest who has been in South East Asia for more than a decade, is currently one of the resident spiritual directors at Seven Fountains. He celebrates his 45th years since his ordination tomorrow, 7th July. Fr David formerly worked with the Jesuit Refugee Services in Malaysia and Thailand, and he has been part of St Beunos’s staff.
Last year, he provided a very detailed report of the first trip of Seven Fountains Sponsorship Programme, which allowed to survey the actual situation of the structures and classes supported in 2017.
In the majority of the cases, the scholarships are not given directly to students, but to the teachers and/or those who take care of the dormitories. By doing so, the money are spent to buy uniforms, studying materials, house stuffs and food for the students, and avoid them using the saving for less practical items.
Along the journey, the group experienced how difficult and perilous the commutes can be. The road from Omkoi District to Zibrae school, for example, was zigzag and slippery. There were some parts completely muddy, because of the rain.
During 2017, the Seven Fountains Sponsorship Programme supported a total of 620 students, in four hostels under care of Jesuits in Seven Fountains Center: Baan Kaad Hostel, Maelamoo, and two hostels (one for boys and one for girls) inside Seven Fountains itself. The money goes to fund their whole expenses: food, electricity, water, building reparations.
The report also suggested other two places in need of funding for the coming year: Huay Yao school (with 21 kids), and Nongmontha school (with 64 students). “We hope next year we'll find scholarships for them, so all students here don’t need to go far for study” Bro. Dzung SJ, Assistant Chaplain at Seven Fountains, concludes the report’s summary. “They really need our help.”
“I was humbled and reminded of just how very little it takes on my part to make a huge impact in the life‐direction of a child” remembers Scott Johnson, in his final reflection back from the survey fund trip.
Congratulations to Fr David Keith Townsend SJ for his anniversary and we wish his work, and the efforts of all the staff and sponsors at Seven Fountains, will continue to provide the much needed support for the children in the Northern region of Thailand.
To find out more about the Seven Fountains centre and their programmes, visit their website.
Read David Townsend's article for Jesuits and Friends issue 62, 2005: Refugees are dangerous