“Five minutes until the buses arrive. Everyone make your way to the road to welcome the children” shouts Holly over the microphone. We join the group of volunteers and walk about two hundred metres from beach to the roadside, together with Holly the event organiser.
In the distance we can see the flashing lights on a police car leading the procession, and we can hear the rumble created by the Asian Nomads Motorcycle Club. These guys have assembled in the small coastal town of Khanom for the weekend to escort the children as they travel by bus from the orphanage in Nakhon Si Thammarat up to Khanom, a distance of one hundred kilometres. The buses pull up and the children are madly waving at us from their seats inside the bus. They’ve had a long bus ride to get excited about the day ahead.
It’s our first time helping out at Charlie’s annual “Fun on the Beach & Beach BBQ Day” for the children of the Nakhon Orphanage, and I’m not sure what to expect. Charlie lives in Khanom and owns CC Beach Bar & Restaurant, overlooking Nadam Beach. He has generously hosted this event for several years, supported with kind donations of local businesses and assistance from many volunteers, giving the children one day a year where they can be thoroughly spoiled.
Around one hundred kids descend from the two buses in a very orderly manner and they form lines in their age groups. Some of the younger children are a little unsure of their surroundings and there’s a couple of tears, but within minutes all of the children are smiling as they make their way down to the beach.
The Thai kitchen staff at Charlie’s restaurant have been cooking throughout the night, preparing for this moment. The children are being treated to a royal feast, and they tuck into platters of fried chicken drumsticks, grilled sausages and chicken skewers, burgers, french fries, pizza and fruit. I’m sure they eat much simpler Thai meals back at the orphanage, so this must really feel like a festival.
There’s a bouncy castle taking prime position on the beach, and the football pitch and volleyball court have been setup. The first thing the kids want to do is swim in the sea. A very generous donation from Similan Dive Centre means that there’s a life jacket available for every child. The children are quickly fitted with lifejackets, and just a few minutes later we have around fifty children heading towards the shoreline.
We offered to help with water safety at the event and were assisted by a small team of professional lifeguards, who have travelled up from Nakhon Si Thammarat. The lifeguards are wearing full wetsuits (we’d call them ‘steamers’ back in Australia), along with bright yellow rash vests and neoprene booties. I guess the water seems cold to them at this time of year. In comparison, we are wearing t-shirts and board shorts, mostly for sun protection but also out of respect for Thai people who consider western swimwear too skimpy to be worn at public beaches.
It’s only one day of the year that these kids get to swim in the sea, so it’s humbling to see the boys having so much fun. Although there’s an onshore wind, and the usual calm water has been replaced by regular sets of white fluffy water coming into shore.
My Thai language skills are still very basic, and I didn’t expect that I’d need to have Thai phrases ready to control the children in the water. But the conditions were rougher than we expected and there’s a current sweeping the children towards the northern end of the beach.
“Bpai thee nan! Bpai thee nan!”
I started telling the kids to ‘go over there’ and pointing to a large blow up Coca Cola bottle anchored to the beach, which was where the flags were marking our supervised swimming area. This had limited success, so a few minutes later a few more Thai words came to mind.
“Wai nam thee nee maai daai! Bpai glais glais khuuat Coca Cola!”
At the time I was feeling confident with my extended vocabulary and the children seemed to get the gist of what I was saying, although I’m not sure that the words were in the right order. I was telling the kids that they couldn’t swim here, and that they needed to move further up the beach, towards a big blow-up Coca Cola bottle.
It wasn’t easy getting such a large group of kids to move in the same direction, and fortunately the professional lifeguards stepped in with their whistles and we got all of the kids out of the water and walking back up to the sandy area in front of the restaurant. The life jackets were packed away, and we moved onto the organised activities. The younger children were happy making sand castles, getting their faces painted and taking turns in the bouncy castle. Whilst the older children started rotating between beach football, volleyball and video games.
In the afternoon, a variety of flying machines made an appearance, including a group of paramotors circling over the beach. Imagine guys dangling on parachutes with small hovercraft motors on their backs that they use to propel themselves forward, and you have a visual of the paramotors. There was also a jetpack demonstration and a helicopter fly by.
After the sack races, 3-legged races and wheelbarrow races, the children filled their plates one last time and the volunteers were gathering clothes and shoes ready for the bus trip back to the orphanage in Nakhon Si Thammarat.
All credit goes to Charlie Wij, for generously hosting this special event every year at CC Beach Bar, and the amazing Holly Chaitongkam for her amazing organisational skills. It was a pleasure to meet both Charlie and Holly and to participate in the event. We’re looking forward to coming back next year. Hopefully the sea will be flat next time, and we can get some kids out on paddle boards.
Tammy & Ian.
For more information about Charlie’s Children’s Charities click here. The “Fun on the Beach & Beach BBQ Day” was held on Nadam Beach in Khanom on 19th September 2015.
Photo credits: Charlie’s Children’s Charities.
- We took the Seatran Car Ferry from Koh Samui to the port of Donsak on the mainland. The ferries leave the port of Nathon every hour, and it’s a 1.5 hour crossing across to the mainland. (http://www.seatranferry.com/en/index.php)
- I’d recommend pre-booking your ferry tickets, so you don’t have to queue for the ferry. We pre-booked at the Seatran Pier in Bangrak. A one-way ticket for the car and driver costs 450 Baht, and it’s 120 Baht for each additional adult.
- Khanom is a small coastal town located on the east coast of Thailand, around 700km south of Bangkok. It’s just 30km south of the port of Donsak, where the ferry arrives from Samui.
- We stayed at Bamboo Bungalows, which is really easy to find. It’s about 6km south of the town of Khanom. Our bungalow was clean and comfortable, and cost 800 Baht per night. (http://www.bambookhanom.com/). Some of the other volunteers stayed in a modern apartment building next door, called Khanom Beach Residence (http://www.khanombeachresident.com/).
- The event was held at CC Beach Bar, a lovely restaurant and bar located right on the beach. You could easily spend a few hours here, enjoying great food, cold drinks and overlooking a peaceful beach. (https://www.facebook.com/ccbeachbar)