I went off to the Fatima Centre today which is a charity in Bangkok run by the Good Shepherd Sisters' Mission. The congregation of the Good Shepherd Sisters began in the French Revolution and since their inception they have helped society’s most deprived and rejected and in Thailand most of their work involves women and children. I went with the women’s group that I’m a member of.
We had a talk from Sister Louise who came to Thailand from her training in France in 1965, with a few pounds in her pocket. She and two other sisters from Burma and Sri Lanka (I think) set up a house to begin to support women in need. From those modest beginnings the work is now a really large affair. She grew up speaking Gallic, her English is fluent, she learned French during her training and I heard her speak Thai on the phone and to her staff today. She appears to be a kind of CEO of this huge and amazing social project. One of the things that I was most impressed with was her categorical belief that the girls and women should have dignity, self respect and not be ashamed. I think they are really succeeding from what I saw today, there’s no apology in the training or work that they are doing. We saw some of the handicrafts that they were making and they were of a really high quality. I’m sure she’d hate that I’m gushing, but she was the most astonishing woman. She’s not salaried and they were selling marmalade to support themselves: she made me feel ashamed of my desire for ‘stuff’.
I haven’t done many trips like this before because I felt self conscious about being ‘an expat wife’ and doing the ‘charidee thang’. Expat wives have a reputation. Sure, I expect some do spend all day drinking, sleep with their driver and have nothing to discuss except their maids and children, but all of us? It’s not really very likely, is it? Anyway, this year I decided I couldn’t give a stuff how it looks, and I’m going to get on and do all the stuff I didn’t do last year because I didn’t want to be seen to be a regular ‘expat wife’.