This is the AIDS Orphanage Baan Gerda
Film about Baan Gerda, Thailand: A home for AIDS orphans
Impressions from the AIDS Orphanage Baan Gerda 2017
In the beginning of January we received the annual report 2017 from Baan Gerda, which shows the daily routine in the orphanage and how the children develop.
••• For the annual report and the picture gallery 2016 please scroll down...•••
The history of Baan Gerda
Baan Gerda was established in 2001 through the vision of Karl Morsbach and his wife Tassanee (Baan = Tai word for village, Gerda was the name of Karl's mother).
Baan Gerda is a little village in the Province of Lopburi, 230 km north of Bangkok. It is situated on the grounds of the Buddhist temple Wat Phra Bat Nam Phu. Some 90 children live here with their foster parents. All are infected with HIV. Baan Gerda was founded according to the principle that, owing to their birth alone, children have a right to love, security and medical care, irrespective of their social origins or health disorders. We also feel that adults have the duty to defend this right, all the more when children are vulnerable and need help. AIDS orphans belong to this group.
The care that orphans infected with AIDS receive in Baan Gerda is in many ways different from the care provided in the government and private institutions that we know in Thailand. A new family surrounding is decisive for the orphans. Their lives take place in a framework suitable for children. This includes attendance of public schools. The Management in Baan Gerda neither pursues any political or religious objectives, nor does it pretend to have found the "philosopher's stone" with respect to care for children infected with HIV. But it is certainly on the right track when it is all about restoring and preserving the children's health as far as possible. Its constant endeavour is to optimize this approach.
Children suffering from AIDS are often in a desperate situation. The majority of them have been infected since their birth. They saw their parents die of AIDS and often already have AIDS symptoms themselves. Finally, they are expelled from their familiar communities and deprived of their homes. Many children had traumatic experiences during their early childhood. When they arrive in Baan Gerda, they are almost no longer capable of emotional response. They neither laugh nor cry. They are no longer at home in this world and have given up seeking contact to it. Their empty eyes no longer perceive their new surroundings in Baan Gerda. Dealing with these children is an emotional challenge for all those who have the intention to help.
Baan Gerda was founded to relieve the suffering of these children and to create a good remembrance in their short lives. Baan Gerda wanted to be a hospice. But soon, ARV medication was available and friends announced their help in procuring these expensive medicines. What was meant to be a hospice soon became a place for life. At the end of the 1990ies, it was still inconceivable that the health of children with an advanced HIV infection could be restored and that these children would have a largely normal life expectancy.
Meanwhile, many types of anti-retro viral (ARV) medicines are being produced as generic products in Thailand. The country is known for its model role in caring for persons infected with HIV and makes the majority of the ARV medicines available at no cost. Although the procurement problem is largely solved in this way, the difficulty still resides in the professional application of ARV. Moreover, stigma continues to be a big problem. It results from a lack of information. As a rule, persons infected with HIV are being marginalised, which has particularly gruesome effects on children. Having become orphans through AIDS and bearing the virus within themselves, they scarcely have a chance to find accommodation with their surviving family members. They are abandoned.
As far as we know, Baan Gerda is the only project in Thailand accommodating AIDS orphans in a new family and simultaneously providing comprehensive therapies. We could observe that the security that can be given in a family is one of the decisive factors for recovery from AIDS. Healing processes commenced even before the ARV medicines could unfold their effects. The development of new medication in the fight against HIV/AIDS will continue and better medicines will be available.
The Baan Gerda Principle
1. Life in the family
The children are grouped into families. Each family lives in one house. The "parents" are also infected with HIV; in some cases, they are a married couple. In the majority of the cases, however, the children are taken care of by two widows. The elder "brothers and sisters" take care of the younger ones and they all feel like a traditional family. Experience shows that children accept this security and feel at home quickly. It is part of the parents' duties to administer the medicines on time, to do the daily chores and to take care of the children just as lovingly as if they were their own. Visitors are often struck by the cleanliness in the residential houses, the well-kept environment and the high measure of harmony in the village community.
2. The medical facility
The medical department in Baan Gerda consists of a nurse and her assistant. Children in need of medical help are transferred to the nearest provincial hospital; in more severe cases, a specialized clinic in Bangkok can help. Every eight weeks, a physician specializing in HIV from Bangkok pays a visit to the village, examines the children and adjusts their medication, if necessary. Blood samples are taken routinely and at regular intervals. The samples are transferred to Bangkok to be analysed. A medical record is created for every child in order to note down changes in weight and size, the medication administered, laboratory values etc. Regular laboratory tests are indispensable for a proper adjustment of the ARV medicines, the supervision of their effects and the examination of the patient's general state of health.
The type and quantity of the medication prescribed for the individual child is dispensed to the parents in the different houses once a week. They are responsible for the prescribed distribution. For the children, it is an irrevocable ritual to take the medicines exactly at the fixed times. The parents know about threatening resistances and are aware of the importance of disciplined medication intake.
3. School and education
The children of Baan Gerda attend a school in the village's vicinity. The majority of them are even good pupils. However, a few pupils’ learning ability is delayed owing to their past marked by AIDS. Many activities fostering the children's creativity take place in Baan Gerda. Painting and doing handicrafts is on the agenda, just like music and dancing lessons as well as additional English classes. The parents have access to the in-house carpenter's workshop and sewing room, where they manufacture products for sale. Teachers coming regularly from Bangkok give them lessons and supervise their progress. During their holidays, the elder children help at work on an hourly basis and thus receive their first craft training.
These activities are not very cost-intensive and enrich the village life. They are also suitable to discover the children's talents.
4. Other facilities
Baan Gerda is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Thammarak Foundation, which is managed by a Buddhist monk. Ten years ago, he generously made two hectares of land available to us for the construction of our village. Today, it surrounds a central building which we have named "Star for Children" (Name in German: "Kinderstern") after its donor and design. The Star for Children is reception room for guests, refectory, meeting place for events and many other activities. There are ten houses for the families, one house for the employee, one infirmary, one guest house and one multi-purpose house with workshops, music rooms, computer and reading rooms.
5. The future
The soul of Baan Gerda is the family. Children need a family, especially when they are sick and stigmatised by society. Studies have shown that children in foster families thrive and prosper better than in orphanages. Under the conditions described, children infected with HIV can grow up without symptoms and without AIDS breaking out. They may have a fulfilled childhood. We would like to convey this message.
After his visit to Baan Gerda in 2003, Andreas von Stechow, the German Ambassador, said: "My visit to Baan Gerda left a lasting impression on me and encouraged me to consider the HIV problem in Thailand. Above all, I would like to say that every baht, every dollar, every euro for Baan Gerda is a good investment in order to help children in need directly. I will start doing so immediately."
KIn November 2006, Karl Morsbach was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit by the German Ambassador in Thailand for his outstanding merits in the fight against AIDS.
Royal Visit in Baan Gerda
There was great excitement in Baan Gerda when Princess Sirat paid a visit to the village in 2006. She is the daughter-in-law of the governing royal couple Bhumibol and Sirikit. Tassanee, and Karl Morsbach had been busy with the preparations for the arrival of the court for weeks. The royal project with schools and organic farming adjoins the grounds of Baan Gerda. The Aids orphans of Baan Gerda are allowed to attend this school, which is a matter of great fortune.
Impressions from the AIDS Orphanage Baan Gerda 2016
In December we received the annual report 2016 from Baan Gerda, which shows a lot of the daily routine in the orphanage.