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End of our First Year

26 May

We are nearing the end of our first school year.  We have one more week left of school and one more shift at the Swanky Swine before we take a break for the summer.   It’s been a great year.  It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a few months since we told the students that we would be starting a school store. I don’t think any of us knew what a big hit the concept would be or how much we would all learn along the way.

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One of the biggest unexpected outcomes was the opportunity for our students who were not in the program to learn to shop for themselves.  When we first opened, it was almost humorous to watch people who have never worked at a store and people who had never independently shopped at a store try to make a transaction.  Initially the two groups would stare at each other awkwardly.  Sometimes a customer would take what they wanted from the cart, throw their money on the counter or even directly in the cash box and walk away.  Other customers would give the cashiers money first and then pick out what they wanted.

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Eventually, our employees learned to welcome people to the store and initiate conversation.  The other students learned to wait in line, pick out everything they wanted, wait to be rung up, hand over their cash and wait for change.  By the end of the year, a normal shift at the store went from a grueling and confusing hour and a half to an efficient forty five minutes.  Lately, every time we end a shift the staff says “Was that it? It’s already over?!”

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The students have learned a lot this year.  Several students who have struggled with money math and counting coins for years are finally starting to have their “aha” moments.  Moving from lectures and worksheets to actual hands on application has made all the difference in the world.  Students who groaned every time they had to go to math class, now beg to work at the store and argue over who gets to be cashier.

They have all grown in confidence and independence.  At the beginning of the year, no one could put the store together without a lot of direction and support. This past week, two of our employees set up the entire display independently   They didn’t forget a thing. We were really proud of them.  Perhaps, more importantly, they were proud of themselves.

Most of our students are returning next year and we are excited to see what’s to come.    We’re thankful for every person who has come alongside us on this journey.  We have a lot of exciting things in the works that we can’t wait to unveil.

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“Making Change” in Chiang Mai

17 Apr

The Swanky Swine was created to “make change” in the lives of our students.

We believe that every person was created with a divine purpose and that each of us has the opportunity to “make change” wherever we happen to be.  We’re inspired by other individuals and organizations who work tirelessly and often sacrificially to transform lives.   We want to come alongside those people who are building bridges of hope out of hopeless situations.  We want to promote and support people who are “making change” all over the world.

At this time, we’ve decided to give a portion of our store’s earnings to Connie’s Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  You can read about this incredible organization and their mission below.  As we grow, we hope to support more non-profit organizations in different areas of the world.  We hope that this exercise will broaden our student’s worldview and teach them the importance of giving.

Making Change in Chiang Mai

Connie’s Home in Chiang Mai Thailand was started in 2001 by Americans, Richard and Connie Cummins.   This orphanage accepts babies and small children from the local government orphanage and from the national emergency hotline.  Right now, they have 15 children in their home whose ages range from 7 months to 4 years. Can you imagine having so many small children in one house?!

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Most of the babies that live in the home were unwanted by their families.  Some were born to girls who did not want their families to know they had given birth.  Some families are too poor to raise another child so they give them up. Other mothers determine that their baby isn’t perfect enough and abandon them.  Connie and her staff believe that every child is a gift from God and has a divine purpose.  They welcome these babies into their home and love them and teach them until they are adopted by families.

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Connie commented, “We have one little baby boy that was left in a temple with a flower and the emergency hotline brought him to us.  I also just got a call the other day when they found a 2 hour old baby in the bushes. They were asking me to take it after it got out of ICU.” Unfortunately, this baby never made it out of the hospital.

Connie and Richard adopted one of the girls, Tip, into their own family.  “We brought Tip home when she was 3 months old weighing only 4 pounds and 10 ounces.  Tip is from a failed abortion.  She was sick for the first year of her life. She is now 12 years old.  She is a living testimony of God’s work and healing power.”

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Caring for this many small children is obviously a huge job! Connie and Richard have Thai girls from the juvenile center who serve out their time by working at the home.  While living at the home, these girls learn valuable vocational skills that will help them find work when they finish their sentence.  As we are also discovering, work gives young people purpose and drive and can be quite therapeutic.  One of the girls wanted to earn some extra money on top of her salary so Connie and Richard helped her start her own drink stand.  She is learning hands on some of the same skills that the staff at the Swanky Swine are learning! After she completes her sentence she now wants to attend business school and Connie and Richard will help her raise the tuition.

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While there are many challenges, Connie considers the work she does an honor.  It is hard to say goodbye to the children when they leave but Connie says the most rewarding part of what she does is “seeing God heal the babies and allowing them to be adopted by a loving family.  All the children that we get are weak, sick or under birth weight.” When they leave they are healthy, happy, accepted and no longer alone.

We are so thankful for people like Richard and Connie who selflessly give their lives to “make change” for children and young adults.  We are proud to support their orphanage and the important work that they are doing in Thailand.

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