More than four decades ago, Father Ray Brennan, a Chicago-born Catholic priest, accepted into his care an unwanted baby. That one act of kindness was a spark to kindling. In the resort town of Pattaya, where children are often faced with unfortunate circumstances, Father Ray went on to open residential facilities for orphaned, abandoned, neglected, and abused children. He also opened a home for street kids — runaways from all over Thailand who came to Pattaya, hoping for a better life, but were sucked into the nether worlds of street begging, gangs, or prostitution.
Father Ray believed in the potential for greatness latent in all people, and he devoted the later stages of his life to providing opportunities to less fortunate youth in society. The impact of his efforts was far-reaching and ambitious. He founded a school for deaf toddlers, as well as a school for blind and visually impaired children. Later, he started a vocational training centre for young adults living with disabilities.
Father Ray passed away in 2003, but the foundation has continued to grow in his memory. Today, it takes care of 850 children and young adults, abiding by the motto, “We never turn a needy child away.” On top of projects devoted to the deaf, blind, and disabled, the Father Ray Foundation has also opened a drop-in centre for street kids, the Father Ray Day Care Center, and a children’s village nestled into the community near the Siam Country Club, where orphaned, abandoned, and homeless kids live, learn, and play with “brothers and sisters” under the watchful eye of a “mother,” who cares for the children, day and night, and is trained in first aid.
At the children’s village, workers, volunteers, and kids have formed a community as enduring as a family. Registered as Pattaya residents, all children are eligible to receive subsidized health care. Older kids who have moved on to university or vocational schools in Chonburi or Bangkok return on weekends and holidays to spend time at the village. The houses, which hold eight children and a “mother,” have kitchens, family dining areas, and living rooms with TV sets and books. Behind the houses are farms, where kids grow fruits and vegetables and learn about proper nutrition.
The recently added Father Ray Center for Children with Special Needs supports local families with special needs children. Staff teach reading, writing, simple mathematics, and English, as well as life skills and personal hygiene. There are also regular swimming classes and physiotherapy, which collectively build physical strength and confidence.
The Father Ray Foundation gives children a home, an element vital to leading healthy lives. There’s shelter, a place to stay that’s free from risk, and family. Not only does this give kids the childhood they may never have had, it also gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential through education. It’s a chance to grow, to achieve, and to become independent members of society.
There are many ways to get involved — cash donations support dental and medical examinations, food, education, sports equipment, everyday clothes, and more. You can also sponsor a day at the foundation, sponsor a child, and volunteer shortor long-term. Of course, all are welcome to visit the centres at any time. For more information, visit fr-ray.org or email: [email protected]