I first learned of the CSCR in 2010, from a friend of mine who has lived with HIV for decades (a Thai, married to a German). She told me about this little place near Rayong where they take in AIDS orphans and children with HIV whose caretakers are no longer around or unable to properly take care of them.
When I first visited the Center, I found that it also has a Palliative Care Unit -- the PCU -- where people with a terminal diagnosis go once the doctors tell them there is essentially nothing left to do but keep the pain under control and wait for death. Although I admired the work the Center does, I did not immediately feel a connection to it...It is one of the institutions run by the St. Camillus Foundation of Thailand, a Roman Catholic monastic order whose roots lie in the late 16th century. Sumalee was never a big fan of Roman Catholicism, being more of a Quaker/Buddhist bent, and Catholicism had thrown its mothballed, dim-lit shadow over my own childhood in the form of endless Sunday mornings spent in church being force-fed sermons and hymns at the side of my unloved stepfather...
Two years ago, I went back to the CSCR, and was in for a surprise: this time, a man named Jürgen "Jimmy" Kilbinger showed us around, and I could immediately tell that changes were afoot at the center. Jimmy, 54, has to be experienced to be believed -- a German who has spent the past 25 years in Thailand, he used to play professional soccer (on the Welsh national team, e.g.), and has done everything from working as a physical therapist to teaching English and writing computer programs. A flamboyant homosexual -- but celibate -- he sports a diamond in the middle of his everpresent impish grin, and just spreads love and enthusiasm wherever he goes. You can watch a YouTube clip about Jimmy/Jürgen here. In a nutshell: He came to the center to die, but found a new life's purpose instead, and during his near-death experience gained a new level of power (for instance, he is now a medical intuitive). During his time at the center, he has infected almost everyone in the place with a whole new will to live and serve, has invented various devices to enable very weak patients to exercise, and has helped bring the death rate down from 178 in 2012 (including those who died in hospital directly after spending time in the PCU) to just 11 deaths last year (!).
Jimmy and I hit it off immediately, but neither of us knew what big plans the universe had for our friendship. All of the projects that the YOGG has sponsored/is sponsoring at Camillian have been spearheaded and organized by Jimmy. This is very important to me, as funds have a way of disappearing at most large organizations, and this way I could be sure that Mom's money was actually going to help those it was supposed to be helping. To date, our projects have included an ambulance, a rainwater collection and filtration system, the Sumalee All-Stainless Steel Wheelchair, and a new treatment/therapy room for the patients at the center, as well as several smaller items like a karaoke and sound system for festivals and parties. They will be described in greater detail below as separate projects as I gradually add content to this site.