After Kavi and Krit were born, life became difficult. But with the support of Holt sponsors and donors, they now have everything they need to grow strong. And their mom has everything she needs to be there for them, always.
“This time,” says Ping, “I will do things differently.”
As this mother of three shares her story, she can’t focus for long before Kavi or Krit — her twin 8-month-old boys — draw her attention back. With buzzed hair and drooly grins, they scoot and shriek and take off crawling in opposite directions.
Twins are exhausting.
But Ping’s wide, eye-reaching smile is genuine — barely hinting at the hardship she has endured.
Ping has another son, Chati, who is in his 20s. With Ping’s bright eyes and hair pulled back in a red scrunchie, you’d never guess she has an adult child. When she first became a mother, she found herself a single parent and unable to provide for her son. So she left him with her own mom while she worked at a German restaurant in Pattaya — a touristy city nearly 600 miles away from her home in southern Thailand — sending money back to provide for his food, medical care and education.
But she wishes she could have done things differently.
“He always complains that I didn’t love him,” Ping says of her oldest son, who still lives at home with his mom. They live in a small concrete block house with several other family members, including Ping’s mom, her sister and her sisters’ elementary school-aged children. But although they live in close proximity, Ping and Chati are not very close.
“He blames me for the difficulties in his life,” she says. “It was my big mistake — leaving my oldest son with my mother and only sending money.”
Regret is evident in her eyes as she says this. But more heartbreaking is the fact that, without support, she really didn’t have any other options.
At the time, she had to choose between raising Chati herself, or feeding him and meeting his physical needs. This was hardly a choice.
Now, more than 20 years later, she finds herself in a similar situation. A single mother, raising two sons, with little support.
Ping and her sons are a good example of the over 600 families Holt serves each year in Thailand through our longtime partner organization, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF). The majority of these Holt sponsor-supported families include a single mother and her young children — families like Ping’s, who are vulnerable to malnutrition, intense poverty and the threat of abusive relationships.
Ping met her twins’ father while living in Pattaya, but he soon grew abusive. To protect herself and her children, she made the brave decision to parent her sons alone. “He lost his mind,” Ping says about their father. “I was scared to live with him.”
To be near her family and oldest son, she moved back to her hometown, near Nakhon Si Thammarat. While she hadn’t lived here for two decades, this was her home. But as she soon found out, home doesn’t always mean support.
“To me, it is very difficult, because I was away working very far away from home for over 20 years,” Ping says. “I didn’t know a lot of people and my relatives were not very supportive.”
Begrudgingly, her family allowed her to stay in a room of their home.
In order to care for the twins, she had to leave her job at the restaurant. And without a job, she had no income. The trauma of the abusive relationship with the twins’ father took a toll. This even affected her physically — keeping her from producing enough breast milk to feed Kavi and Krit.
Shortly after the twins were born, Ping connected with HSF. Kavi and Krit both got matched with Holt sponsors. This time would be different.
Ping connected with Pad, an HSF social worker who immediately identified nutrition as the family’s primary need. Right away, Ping joined HSF’s infant formula program and she began to receive monthly shipments of the nutritional alternative to breast milk. Because resources are limited, she received just enough formula for one of her twin boys. But Pad also connected her with aid available through the government, which provided enough infant formula for her other son.
“Before,” Ping says, “I had no idea the government offered this kind of support to children.”
Infant formula is very expensive in Thailand. And while HSF always promotes breastfeeding as the healthiest option for infants, for Ping, this wasn’t a possibility.
“If it weren’t for HSF’s support, I would have to buy sweetened condensed milk,” she says about the less expensive, nutrient-deficient alternative many impoverished families in Thailand feed their young children. “What Sahathai helped me and my family with includes the infant formula for the twins, emotional support and knowledge, and understanding about the childcare, child development and nutrition.”
The effect of this support is obvious. Kavi and Krit are healthy and plump, as 8-month-olds ought to be.
“I give them three major meals of rice per day with some soft meat like ground chicken, pork or liver,” Ping says. “And every day, about two times, I also give them local fruit like a papaya or banana or mango.” This is all in addition to the shipments of infant formula that they still drink in between meals.
As Kavi and Krit grow, Pad coaches Ping on how to introduce these other healthy foods into their diet, as well as other ways to promote their health and development.
Every day, when the twins’ older cousins return from school, they play outside for one hour. For playtime every day, Ping puts Kavi and Krit each in their own walker. Kavi and Krit can’t wait to get outside and within seconds are rolling off into different directions. Ping extends her arms to pull each of them back in and ties the walkers together with a towel. Kavi and Krit both shriek with excitement as their young cousins follow them around the yard and make faces trying to get them to laugh.
Kavi and Krit are healthy and thriving. But HSF’s role in Ping and her sons’ lives is not over.
Ping says she’s still unsure about what she will do in the future. Her boss at the German restaurant is committed to keeping her as his employee, and has even come up with options for childcare while she works. Pad talks with Ping about this, about the different relationships in her life, and encourages her to think of her children first.
As she holds both Kavi and Krit in her arms, she says she is determined to keep things this way. Together.
“[I’ve learned that] money is not the most important thing in life!” she says. “For the twins, my dream is I will try to take care of them by myself so that they are together all the time.”
Determined to give Kavi and Krit what she couldn’t give Chati, she wants her twins to feel both loved and emotionally secure.
And most of all, she says, “I want them to know that I am here for them.”
Megan Herriott | Staff Writer
*names changed for confidentiality
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