Hospice and Cottage Repurposed in 2019

Chiang Rai was among the Thai provinces hardest with the HIV/AIDS, news that reached us even before our move here in March 1999. This pandemic became a reality for me during my weekly visits in the villages. It was then that I experienced personally this epidemic and I was attending funerals weekly of the Thai men and women whom I had befriended. As I asked the Lord how to respond, God spoke the idea of hospice into my heart and mind. He was also speaking to me about assisting pregnant women and young mothers who were affected by HIV. *Statistics showed that almost 10% of pregnant women in the area were HIV+. The health department and social welfare reported that much was being done in the province for older children but very few non-profit organisations and foundations were focusing on pregnant women and babies. 
To reclaim hope and expand the future of HIV affected women, children and infants became and continues to be the passion of my heart, serving them by providing community support and a residential facility to empower and care for those without family.  The hospice goal was to serve these HIV affected families needing respite and end stage care.
The planning, fundraising and fitting out of the Home of the Open Heart Hospicetook almost a decade. The facility was officially opened in 2012. We provided care for five patients, one who returned several times. During these years, Home of the Open Heart volunteer nurses and a volunteer doctor were able to train our staff and some of our teens in basic relevant hospice care procedures.
Thailand’s efforts to educate about HIV/AIDS and providing funding for and subsequent provision of medications has been hugely successful, therefore minimising the need for hospice particularly in the past five to ten years. I understand now that medical professionals and social workers were recognising the diminishing need but out of cultural politeness did not want to offend me by discouraging my vision of hospice care. Our project was forming and developing as the need was diminishing.  The amazingly good news for people living with HIV is that they are able to live long and healthy lives provided they take their medication accurately. In short, due to advancements in research and subsequent medication for people living with HIV, the need for HIV/AIDS hospice care is now extremely low.
We built a total of six small cottages over a period of eight years. A total of seven pregnant/young mothers found respite and made a home for themselves and their infants in our cottages over the years. These ladies were all HIV+ single mothers without family support. Each were ostracised by their villages and families due to their HIV status. 
It has been a privilege to provide education to extended family members and their community to dispel myths about HIV/AIDS and eventually to reunite most of the families, except for Nafuu who passed away in 2014 and A’Sian who is still living here.
Following is a list of women and children who lived in our cottages from 2004 to 2018. 

Bui and Lukchai – lived with us just over one month before she was able to return to her village once her family were educated about misconceptions of HIV.

Nafuu and baby Yanee – Nafuu lived on the streets before coming to live at Home of the Open Heart in 2004 with her five day old baby girl. She had no known family support.  Nafuu passed away in hospital, after ten years of living in one of our cottages and since her death Yanee has lived with us in our children’s home. 

Waan and baby Brenda – came pregnant and after delivering her baby girl lived here two years before she returned to her province in the north east.

Gaew and baby Cashew Nut – came pregnant, stayed two years and we were able to assist her in finding employment at a local cafe who agreed to provide her with an internship. Later she returned to her village in north east.

Anne and Joshua – came pregnant, struggled with mental health issues. We assisted her to provide her baby boy a safe home in the care of a relative. She agreed after living here six months to admission to a mental health facility. 

Ploy and baby Alex – came pregnant and lived here seven years before returning to live with a sister in her village.

A’Sian, Tdon three yrs & DeeLek two yrs – came to live in 2005 and has lived here for 14 years with her boys. She has extended family from her husbands side in Mae Sai who remain reluctant to support, however Baan Nana, a non-profit have agreed to provide support and accommodation for her from October, 2018. Her husband died of AIDS in jail in 2006. 
List of hospice patients.People with AIDS were candidates for our hospice.  See definitions of HIV/AIDS below.

Wichai was referred from Thai government hospital, stayed 12 months. Wichai improved in health and became quite strong during his stay, so no longer needed assistance. He was transferred to a nearby foundation in Chiang Rai who care for homeless and elderly.

Duan was referred through a private doctor. Stayed one month and improved greatly. Referred by DrRachel. He became well enough to return to family. 

Fang and her 18 year old daughter came many times from 2014 until early 2017, with her adult daughter. They would stay for 5-6 days at a time for respite care. They returned to their family each time, after rest, healthy foods and  juicing restored their bodies.

Bua was referred from police and Thai government hospital she stayed 3 months, then was re-admitted to hospital with severe infection and died 2 days later in hospital. Our Thai daughter, Hope, 17 years, led her to the Lord before she died. 

My heart and values were always shaped and centered around keeping family together, wherever possible, to promote independence rather than dependence on foundations. Our goal was always to reunite family into community, once education occurred and if relationships were able to be restored, with our women’s ministry, hospice and children’s home. 
In May this year while praying about the future of the ministry, I read this scripture. Ecclesiates 3:6 “…there is a time to search and a time to give up.” And sensed God was encouraging to me that I have been faithful in my search for staff and patients for hospice and now is the time to give it up. Not that I am “giving up” on the vision but that it is okay to give this up to the Lord and that an end of a season is appropriate. I sensed God saying it is time to give the hospice up, to release this project, to be content that the season is over. 
Home of the Open Heart Hospice has made significant impact, both temporal and eternal. Strong hospital relationship has been built and education has been provided to many people groups in villages including teachers at schools, our own village headman, neighbours, visiting groups/teams, volunteers, clearing misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. Without exception each of our patients has prayed to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. We trust God that these decisions will continue to have an eternal impact on the patients friends and extended family members.
As we have processed with our mission leadership and our foundation leaders, there has been complete agreement in the direction we are heading. There have also been tears of grief in the closing of this past season of this particular aspect of Home of the Open Heart’s ministry, but with them has come encouragement and confirmation, and so we move ahead.  Walking together with our donors, advisors and Project L.I.F.E. leadership, we are remaining prayerful in our decisions.
The Chiang Rai based Ezekiel Rain Foundation, a ministry for those at risk of being trafficked and for survivors of human trafficking has expressed great interest in purchasing the Home of the Open Heart Hospice and cottages so it can be utilised for training and counselling, prevention, intervention, and after care programs that promote holistic restoration. 
It is our desire to invest the proceeds from the sale of this property, to continue to support the needs of the women and children affected by HIV at Home of the Open Heart into the future. 
We are excited for the future, so grateful we can continue to make a difference in our part of the world, as we continue to care for the children in our care, who have lived with us since infants. We also continue to provide assistance to several of the women who we have been able to integrate back into the community after living in our cottages. These Thai children, their discipleship and education is now our primary focus. As you know, we are incredibly grateful for your partnership and advice as we continue to seek to make an impact on all the lives of the children, men and women we are privileged to touch. 

Penny Wilcox

*HIV and AIDS are different…

Important to note the difference in definition between HIV & AIDS. HIV, an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus depletes the immune system gradually weakening the persons ability to fight infections, eventually, without treatment, death usually from TB or PCP, a specific type of pneumonia, common to people with AIDS. A HIV+ individual can be a carrier of the virus but can appear quite well, sometimes for years. The difference in terminology is the progression of the disease. An individual with AIDS is a HIV+ person with advanced disease, so the individual is not well and usually has one or more life threatening illnesses, due to the depletion of their immune system. 

*Mae Chan hospital 1999