Willie opens his arms to Thai orphans

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WILLIE’S Orphan Fund has welcomed some very special visitors to Northern Ireland and they have left an indelible memory with the hundreds of people they met during their stay.

The party of five orphans of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 and three helpers were staying in Portrush but in their four day visit they saw many parts of the country. Everywhere they went they brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of the people they met.

Speaking after the visit, Willie Gregg said: “This was a fantastic visit and people who have been helping Willies Orphan Fund could finally see at first hand some of the people they have been supporting over the years.

“The children are so well cared for and happy and they have such a passion for life. It has been a pleasure to show them our part of the world.

“They all really appreciate the help they get from people here and they simply wanted to say thank you in person. They touched everyone’s hearts as they went around and we will all cherish their friendship and warmth for years to come.”

In the party from Thailand was Rotjana, the orphanage director, a breast cancer survivor and surrogate mum to over 500 orphans, Allyson is a UK qualified teacher and has been working with the orphanage since the Tsunami of 2004. Also travelling with the orphans was Gop, the head of kindergarten at the orphanage.

The two boys used nicknames on the visit. Q is now 17 and with the support of Willies Orphan Fund he will be going to art college and hopefully on to university to study art. The other boy was nicknamed I. He is 14 and wants to join the army as soon as they will take him.

The three girls were Prae who is 14 and wants to go into teaching, Patcharwpon who is 13 and wants to be a doctor and little Ohm is 11. She hasn’t a clue what she would like to do in life as yet, but she is very smart and will do well in what ever she decides to do It was a packed itinerary for the visitors who arrived by ferry from Scotland on Tuesday evening. Their journey from Thailand had first of all brought them to meet supporters of the orphanage who live on the Isle of Skye.

The party went along the coast road and stopped for hot chocolate at the Bayview Hotel in Portballintrea and a walk on the beach. Later they went to Shenanigans in Portstewart for supper and then an early night at the Inn on the Coast.

There was an early start on Wednesday morning as the party went to appear with Gerry Anderson on his radio show from Radio Foyle. After lunch at the Primrose Restaurant it was off to Moorbrook trout fisheries for an afternoon of fishing fun.

From there they went to Coleraine for a look around and to meet supporters and staff at Bonds Jewellers and later everyone went for dinner at the Ramore Oriental restaurant. During the evening the orphans performed a number of traditional dances.

Thursday morning started with assembly at Portrush primary School. The orphans and the children provide the entertainment followed by visits to classes at the school. The traditional Thai dances and a display of kick boxing were complemented by songs from the pupils at the school.

The visit continued with a boat trip along the coast, lunch at the Ramore Wine Bar, visits to supporters in Portrush, visits to Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, hot chocolate at Ballintoy. Later everyone had pizza for supper at Morellis in Portstewart and off to bed for a well deserved rest.

Friday was another very early start in order to get to Belfast Inst for assembly. The children again danced and the entire event was recorded by UTV and the story was then shown on UTV a few days later.

From the school there was a visit to the Odyssey and lunch in pizza Express. Back on the North Coast the party had a snack at new Society in Coleraine, watched surfers in action in Portrush and finished with supper at McDonald’s in Coleraine and an early night.

Saturday was the final day and things started slowly with a visit to the Lido café in Portrush and meeting some more friends in the town. The finale was a visit to the Giant’s Causeway and the Visitors Centre.

On Saturday evening the orphans and the staff took the overnight boat to Birkenhead for their last day in England before flying back to Thailand. There wasn’t a dry eye at the docks as everyone waved goodbye, but everyone was happy with a wonderful trip and a whole lot of memories.

Willie said: “This was a very moving visit and let the orphanage say thank you to people here. The trip was made possible by another benefactor but I had tremendous support from so many people in Northern Ireland and that made the visit here possible.

“There are too many to thank individually here but to all those who helped and supported us during the visit and to everyone who helps support the work of Willies Orphan Fund I have to say a great big thank you from me, from Willies Orphan Fund and especially from the orphans in Thailand.”

To find out more about Willies Orphan Fund activities and more about the visit go to the Willies Orphan Fund Facebook page, or log on to the charity’s web site: www.williesorphanfund.com