Projects selected for Support

In September of 2008, Brian and Lek Duncan travelled to Thailand. This journey was one of sadness and one of hope.

As the first visit since the death of Cyril, there was a great sense of sadness in dealing with the aftermath of that terrible loss. One of great hope also, as they took the first steps in realising their dreams of setting up the first projects under the banner of 'The Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation'.

During the 2008 visit Brian visited 6 organisations:

  • BaanGerda
  • Safe Haven Orphanage
  • Mahatai Suksa Nonn Somboon School for Children from the Leper Village, Khom Kaen,
  • The Wiang Kaen Centre in Northern Thailand
  • The John Manning Project
  • The Melissa Cosgrove Children's Foundation

The support of these charities continued from 2009 onwards.


In later years, the Foundation expanded the number of projects being supported - see list below.You can click on the name to go directly to that project or just read down the page.

| Safe Haven Orphanage | Baan Gerda | Mahatai Suksa Nonn Somboon School for Leper Village |

| The Wiang Kaen Centre | The John Manning Project | The Melissa Cosgrove Children's Foundation |

| The Burmese Children Project | Gift of Happiness Foundation

Safe Haven Orphanage.

This orphanage is run by Mrs. Tassannee Keerepraneed. Tassannee is a member of the Karen Hill Tribe people. She has overcome terrible poverty and deprivation in her own life. Two of her immediate family were murdered. She grew up in the tropical jungle and, during periods of trouble with neighbouring Burma, she had to take refuge in the jungle. She believes her strength and courage comes from her survival in the jungle and sometimes describes herself as a 'Jungle Woman'. She only received two years of formal education, finishing her schooling at age 6. Despite this, she has been able to teach herself four new languages - including English, which she speaks, reads and writes quite well. The Centre is situated at Tha Song Yang, which is just inside the border with Burma. It cares for approximately 60 children from the Karen Hill Tribe both within the Thai border and from Burma.

As you can see above, living conditions can be quite basic (when was the last time YOU did your washing like this), but there is a great atmosphere of comradeship among the children and adults.

Tassannee founded this orphanage approximately 20 years ago when she became aware of an orphan child whose mother had died when giving birth to her in an adjoining Karen village. The head man of the village wanted the child to die as he believed the child, in causing the death of its mother in child-birth, would bring bad luck to the village.

Tassannee took in the child and renamed her Bkujay which means Lucky in the Karen dialect. I met Bkujay, who has grown up to be a beautiful young woman and who lives in the orphanage to this day. It was to this Centre I brought approximately 70 kilos worth of toys and clothing for the children which was donated by the staff of the Legal Aid Board in Ireland.

I was able to bring large amounts of presents for the children partially courtesy of China Airways and Aer Lingus.

Taken during his visit in September 2008, Brian and Tassannee are surrounded by the children.
Enjoying what was probably their first ever lollipop, and the first presents from the Legal Aid Board, Ireland.

I had to take two long bus journeys in order to deliver the presents. One journey took 12 hours to complete and it was followed by an overnight stop in Chiang Mai.  Another journey lasted 7 hours. I then had to take a 3 hour jeep journey to get to the orphanage to deliver the presents from all the staff of the Legal Aid Board (believe it or not I quite enjoyed the bus journeys!). On these visits, a present was set aside from the gifts I brought to ensure that each child would receive a Christmas present. The residue was then distributed to the children in my presence. 

The 60 children in the orphanages were absolutely thrilled with the items I brought - even humble items such as individual pens and pencils, not to mention items of clothing and football and soccer jerseys. Despite the great work of Tassannee and her mother, who run this orphanage to the best of their ability, the children who attend local schools are still in great need. This orphanage was one of the priorities for our charity.

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John Manning-Disabled Children from the Hill Tribe People.

John Manning is an Australian of Irish descent who has retired to Thailand and who works with disabled children among the Hill Tribe people.

The plight of disabled children in this area is particularly difficult. This is due in part to the extreme poverty and lack of education of their parents, and also to the isolation of the villages - many of which do not have proper road access. John Manning’s projects include setting up a team of therapists who will call to the villages and endeavour to educate the parents in the proper care of these children. The project will also ensure follow-up by the therapists to ensure that the children, insofar as possible, will receive proper treatment and care.

I met John Manning in Chiang Mai and he brought me out to some of the Hill Tribe villages where I met some beautiful, but severely disabled, children some of whom suffer from cerebral palsy.

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Mahatai Suksa Nonn Somboon School - Khon Kaen, Thailand

This school is based in a particularly poor area of Thailand where approximately one-third of the population lives. The soil in the region is very poor, and the farms are unproductive when compared to the rest of Thailand. The school is run by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus Order and is close to the leper village at Kohn Kaen in Thailand and is based in the Province of Issan in North Eastern Thailand. The school was set up approximately thirty years ago. At that time ten families moved to the village in order that they could live together and form a new community known as the Leper Village. The people in this leper village were obviously victims of leprosy, and they begged for a living.  The Sisters of the Infant Jesus began to visit the village and to provide assistance appropriate to the needs of the community. The numbers in the village increased to two hundred families and they were living in extreme poverty. This is a particularly poor region of Thailand where approximately one-third of the population live. The soil is very poor and the farms are unproductive when compared to the rest of Thailand.

In approximately 1971 a school was built for the children of the community and it was, and still is, run by the Sisters of the Infant Jesus. The situation today is that many of the children who attend the school are looked after by their grandparents as their own parents have had to move to the cities in order to seek work. Initially, the Sisters gave lessons to the children of the village under the shade of trees until, eventually, a two-storied wooden building was built. Little by little the school was extended and a primary section was completed in 1971. In 1978 a secondary school extension was added and a considerable number of extra children were enrolled. The secondary school was closed in 1999 and there are now 700 children attending the primary school.

The wooden school building which was built 36 years ago is effectively in severe decay. The Sisters hope to build a new school for the children as well as provide funds to support the welfare of the children  - to include their education and meals at the school. I had the pleasure of going to the school and meeting the Sister Angela and the other Sisters who run it. I also met the teachers and staff – not to mention the lovely children. I was very impressed by the level of care provided to the very happy children there. 

I also had the privilege of visiting some of the children's grandparents who mind them in the adjoining leper village. I also saw the current school which is in urgent need of repair and replacement as it is a wooden structure and is approximately 36 years old. Particularly as it is in a tropical climate the wooden structure is in decay and urgently needs to be renovated and, ultimately, replaced. 

The Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation helped this Centre which provides such good care and education for the lovely children who attend this school.   

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BaanGerda Home for Children with HIV.

The BaanGerda Home cares for 70 children suffering from HIV and is situated in Lopburi Province North of Bangkok. It was set up by a retired German industrialist, Karl Morsbach, and his Thai wife, Tassannee. This is one of the most extraordinary and wonderful places I have ever had the privilege of visiting. All of these children are orphans and many of them have witnessed their parents dying of AIDS.

The children are minded by ‘families’ within the Centre. There are approximately eight children in each ‘family’.

The adult family minders are also HIV sufferers. The children and their minders receive the best treatment for AIDS and the appropriate Retroviral medication. Many of the children on arriving at the Centre are very close to death and, whilst some have died, the vast majority are now thriving in this wonderful community.

The 2 photographs above show one of the children cared for in the centre. His name is Oy. They were taken (1) on his arrival at the Centre some 5 years ago at death's door, and (2) a recent picture of him taken by Brian when he visited the centre in September 2008 -  thriving and in good health today.

The Centre is really a place of excellence and the children attend a very good local school set by his Majesty, the King of Thailand.

The Centre has individual houses for each family and a central dining area for the children and adults. It also has music, computer and reading areas for the children. An opera has been written for the children which is based on the book the ‘The Life of Pi’ (which, incidentally, was one of my late son, Cyril’s, favourite books. This was the first book I found in my son’s collection of books in Bangkok).  I attended some of the rehearsals by the children's orchestra for this opera when I was there.

As some of you may know, the book ‘The Life of Pi’ deals with the story of a boy who finds himself in a lifeboat with a tiger stranded in the Pacific Ocean. The boy, Pi, endeavours to deal with the tiger by considering whether he should kill him or avoid him. Finally, Pi comes to the realisation that the only way he can survive is to learn to live with the tiger.

The children get special care. One unusual story which Karl Morsbach related to me was that of two children who arrived at the Centre. Both children were close to death and started receiving treatment. One of the children was offered the benefit of a Reiki massage. It was discovered that the child who got the Reiki massage progressed better and more quickly than the other child. This was observed after blood samples were taken. So, now each child in the Centre receives Reiki massage as part of his or her treatment.

I also found that all the children I met  - particularly the children in the Ban Gerda Centre -  whilst robust and full of life and fun, were extremely kind to each other. I mentioned this to Karl Morsbach and he said that I was not the first person to observe this. I believe that it may be something to do with the children’s earlier experience of suffering which, for those resident in Ban Gerda, included not only their own illness but, for many, watching their parents die a terrible death from AIDS.

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The Wiang Kaen Centre in Northern Thailand.

This Centre is located in Northern Thailand at Wiang Kaen, which is close to the border with Laos. It is run by Sister Bernard of The Holy Infant Jesus Order. It was established fifteen years ago to protect the children of the Hmong and Yao hill tribe people who live in this area in Northern Thailand. It provides education, food and lodging for 58 of these poor children from the surrounding thirty villages.  The Centre was originally set up to ensure that the children were not sold, or allowed by their poverty- stricken and poorly educated parents to end up in the sex industry.  Currently, the Centre provides accommodation for the children. It also provides for their needs together with their education, and endeavours to alleviate their extreme poverty. The Centre also provides food, lodging, transport for the children. There are approximately 58 children living in the Centre. The Centre is in great need of funds as they are not a publicly funded charitable organisation. 

I attended this Centre and met Sister Bernard and Father Paul Anurak Prachongkit. I was very impressed by the level of care which they provide for the children. I was also made aware of the need for funding which is essential to carry on the good work.

The Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation helped and assisted in this very worthwhile project and thus provided for the beautiful children who reside in the Centre.  


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The Melissa Cosgrove Children's Foundation

Award winning Fundraising guru Tracy Cosgrove has given hope to thousands of youngsters in Thailand and Myanmar ( Burma ) through the Melissa Cosgrove Children's Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which she set up after seeing at first hand the terrible conditions in which many are forced to live. Her transforming work in orphanages, street children's projects, and for Aids and disabled youngsters, has received international recognition - and inspired hundreds of people who have been touched by her courageous story.

Now based in Pattaya, Thailand the MCCF team is working alongside the booming construction industry to continue giving hope and improving the lives of children living with their parents in the many squalid labour camps around the cities of Pattaya and Bangkok.


(Above) Pictured at the Hard Rock Hotel swimming pool with a group of children from one of the nearby labour camps are Fintan, Tracy and their teacher. The children enjoyed some time out, thanks to the great generosity of the staff in the Hard Rock Hotel.

(Left) The appalling conditions of a workcamp living area.

Much of the work of The Melissa Cosgrove Children's Foundation is based in the labour camps set up by developers to service their building projects. It is very difficult in the 'civilised' West to to realise the terrible conditions under which these people live. Large galvanised iron compounds are filled with 2 storey galvanised buildings which are then divided into sections. Each family is allocated one section. How big is a section?? - 2 metres x 2 metres, with no windows, no cooking facilities, communal toilets for over 2,000 people.

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The Burmese Children Project

Through the Melissa Cosgrave Foundation we have a special project in relation to a group of 75 Burmese refugees and orphans who are taken care of by Buddhist monks in a Monastery in Bangkok. As these children have either individually fled Burma, or are the children of Burmese refugees who no longer care for them, their status in Thailand has not been determined.

The children rely totally on the Buddhist monks for their care and wellbeing. The monks take total care of the children, providing their food, clothing and education. They receive some benefits from the Thai Government in that there is an alternative educational system in place for migrant children, and the Government also offers some teacher assistance. One of the major problems which this Charity has encountered is in providing proper food and nutrition for the children. Currently, the children share the food which is donated to the Monks each morning around the city. 

This Charity has already been able to purchase freezers where food can be properly stored. Up to this the food deteriorated in the warm climate. It is hoped that through the Charity, sufficient funds will be raised to guarantee proper assistance for the children for the next four years.

It was also hoped that the Charity would be able to finance the appointment of a third teacher for the children to ensure that they get a proper education. There is a mixed ability in the classes as the children are at different stages. As the children's initial language is Mons they have to be taught Thai, Burmese and English. Thus, an extra teacher would make a huge difference to the children's education.  

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Gift of Happiness Foundation - a registered charity in the Kingdom of Thailand. Registration number: Kor Tor 1914. VAT: 3-0337-6259-4.

A non-profit organisation under the Royal patronage of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.


Dedicated to giving happiness and essential goods to poor children and families in Bangkok and throughout Thailand.

Our Prime Objectives...

  • We serve happiness through giving simple slap-stick comedy shows and useful goods to people whose entire lives as innocent victims of fate, may be filled with only negative, abusive or unhappy experiences.

  • We know that positive experiences like having a good old-fashioned laugh, helps children living in difficult circumstances to cope and gives them a great memory that no-one can steal from them.

  • People who receive our unusual gifts live in Orphanages, Crisis Centers for abused women and children, Bangkok slums, HIV/AIDS centers, homes and schools for physically & mentally challenged children.

  • We also serve refugees along the Thai/Burma border, medical centers, communities of migrant workers, their families and people displaced by civil war.

  • We give the people very much needed new & used goods like clothing, toys, educational equipment and medicines. Since 2005, we have given more than 500 truck-loads of donated goods. Those donations come from International Schools, Social Groups, Rotary Clubs and individual families in Bangkok, Australia, UK, Ireland, Europe, USA and S.E. Asia.


© Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation
Copyright Notice: All work is copyright of Cyril Duncan Siam Children's Foundation

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