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Thomas & Rachel’s news – March 2017

Hi!

Yes, we know in recent years, these things have tended to only come around when we have a new baby to show off. No, we don’t have a new child called ‘Vietnam’ (who would do such a silly thing?).

But we do have some BIG news…

…and you guessed it, the Abbotts are packing up their life in Chiang Mai, and jumping on the next elephant to Hanoi.

So how did that come about?

Well, following the successful transition from pilot project to National Foster Care Project here in Thailand (August 2015), I (Rachel) challenged us at the beginning of 2016 saying: “Have we achieved what we came to do? And if so, what’s next?” I (Thomas) contemplatively nodded my head in response to the first question, and then followed with a less assured shaking of the head to the second.

Roll on June 2016, when we travelled as a family, together with three Care for Children colleagues, to visit with the government in Hanoi and conduct a pre-pilot project research visit. Following Care for Children’s National Foster Care Conference in Hanoi (February 2014), the government formally invited us back to help them launch and develop foster care in their child welfare system. With a new Child Law approved and scheduled to be enacted on July 1, 2017 providing legislative support for foster care for the first time, it is clearly a unique opportunity for Care for Children and Vietnam to work together.

Care for Children team meeting with the Vice Minister in Hanoi, June 2016

It was a successful visit in many ways, not least because it inspired us, and in particular me (Rachel), to consider using our experience of the last five years launching and developing the Thai project into helping the Vietnam project start strong. We will be going as a team, together with a new family to Care for Children, the Greens, and a colleague from the China project, Emma Zhang. It will indeed be a strong start, and we’re excited.

I (Thomas) will continue to oversee the Thai project in my new role as Group Projects Manager, and what a privilege that will be! The work in Thailand continues to go from strength to strength, and with a wonderful, hardworking and dedicated team. We are now working with every government-run Child Welfare Home (orphanage) in the country, training and encouraging them to develop foster care in their local communities. We have been invited to join a steering committee and working group within the Thai government to develop National Minimum Standards for foster care. And we have grand plans to start working with Emergency Shelter Homes in every province (77). It has truly been a team effort, so we are quick to share the credit (as tempting as it might be to claim it for ourselves!).

National Foster Care Meeting, Chiang Mai, February 2017

As you can imagine, this is a bittersweet time for us. While we are delighted with how the Thai project has developed, allowing us to leave it in good hands and move on to this next challenge, it will be so hard to leave friends behind, with whom we have shared many of life’s joys and challenges. We came to Thailand as just the two of us, but we leave as four – a fact forever recorded by the middle name of our oldest son (Theodore Siam). These painful goodbyes are the risk we knowingly took embarking on this lifestyle, and experience doesn’t make it easier. And while Hanoi will eventually bring the same heartache, we also think of the positives, and take heart in the friends we are collecting who will be dotted all over the world, and who we can anticipate crossing paths with again sometime (see below picture!).

Friends made in Chiang Mai, now living back in the States, meeting together in Canada!

We were honoured to have Francis Chan come out to visit the project and do some filming with us a few weeks ago. He is a great advocate of Care for Children’s work in Asia, and with a personal interest in this part of the world. Keep an eye out for the film coming your way via social media (and probably an email from us) soon!

Rachel giving Francis a few tips on public speaking

Theodore (Theo) and Barnabas (Barnaby/Barney/Nabs/Nabi) are thriving. It’s fun to watch a robust brotherly relationship forming, including hysterical laughing, competitive toy-grabbing, and motorbike rides with Dad. Theo (4 in May) has a very caring side to him, which makes for a great big brother! Nabs (15 months) is a little more rambunctious and with a wicked sense of humour (like his Mum…). This upcoming transition is going to be particularly tough on Theo, who, understandably, loves Thailand, and lets us know it when we’re back in England. While watching the Olympics last year we had a hard time convincing him that he was British… regardless how well Team GB were doing. But we’ve talked him through the move, and we feel he understands what’s going (probably better than most 3-year-olds). He knows the Green family who are moving to Vietnam with us (including their dog, much to his delight), so that has been (and will continue to be!) a blessing.

Yep, those are nappies on their heads…

In other news, we are quite excited to share that our ‘story’ has been included in a book called ‘When Oceans Roar’, by Dr Ernest Crocker. It primarily follows my (Thomas) storyline, starting from my childhood in Birmingham, but includes how Rach and I met in China, moving to Thailand, starting a family, and the reasons we do what we do. Don’t worry, it’s only eight or so pages long, but it is one of 22 ‘Powerful True Stories of Courageous Faith and Changed Lives’ (according to the cover). Our chapter aside, it really is a remarkable read. And if you like it, we recommend Ern’s first book: ‘Nine Minutes Past Midnight’: ‘…a book about doctors and patients who took God at His word and were astonished at what followed’. Visit ernestcrocker.com for more.

 

That’s all for now folks, but we’ll try and send out another update shortly after finding our feet in Hanoi. Come out and visit!

Take care, keep in touch & God Bless,

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