Published on Wednesday 2nd May, 2012 by
'On Monday I had the pleasure of attending a civic reception to formally welcome the Good Child Foundation or, as the kids are more commonly known, the ‘Thai Tims’ to the bastion of tolerance of all things Celtic that is Glasgow (no laughing at the back there!). The event was held at the City Chambers and organised by one of our Trust members, Councillor George Ryan.
I’m sure most already know of the kids due to their heart warming and, at times, very emotional videos posted on the internet of them dressed head to toe in green and Whyte whilst singing and dancing to a range of Celtic songs. For those unfortunate enough never to have heard of them, I will do my best to provide a brief history of the foundation and of their links with us.
The Good Child Foundation was established as a direct result of the lack of schooling for children with special needs in Thailand. It’s founders Mr Prama Sarakoses and his wife, Mrs Yuvaret Sarakoses were motivated by the need to provide schooling for those less fortunate. As a police officer all of his career, Mr Sarakoses maintained a belief that education was the best way to keep kids away from crime and to improve the opportunities of the community. Mrs Sarakoses, a law graduate and business expert, has volunteered as a teacher for many years through her work for the ‘The Young Buddhists Association of Thailand’. Both of these compassionate and caring individuals took the step to create opportunities for children with special needs when nobody else would.
What has this got to do with Celtic? Well, when Celtic fan Paul Lennon and his wife Pun gave birth to son Berni in 2003 he was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Paul and Pun were faced with the worry, fear and dread that young Berni would not be able to receive an education. However, after countless rejections from various schools, Berni was finally accepted into a mainstream school in Triamsuksa on the basis that his parents volunteered to teach English.
From that moment on, their lives, and the lives of hundreds of children, changed. Paul and Pun immersed themselves in their new roles and their most famous method of teaching English was to do so by teaching the children Celtic songs. Videos soon appeared on the internet and the ‘Thai Tims’ were born.
Fast forward to last week and the children arrived in Glasgow as guests of the Club. They are due to play a concert in the Royal Concert Hall and lead the team out at the match against St Johnstone this Thursday. More and more videos have been appearing online of their mini concerts at schools and religious establishments across the country. In addition to this, they have appeared on Sky News and are also due to visit Belfast for a day which is testament to how popular they are amongst not only the Celtic support, but also amongst those who do not even have an interest in football.
I admit I love watching their videos online but having the opportunity to meet them at the City Chambers was something else. When I arrived the kids were covered head to toe in green hats, gloves and Celtic scarves as well as their own Thai Tims hoodies. They behaved impeccably and one of the characteristics that stood out was how happy and content they seemed. I’ve no doubt that all the travelling must be very tiring for them but watching them smile, laugh, dance, shake hands and pose for photos with everybody, you wouldn’t be able to tell. They were lined up on chairs along one side of the room but when Emilio Izaguirreand Adam Matthews entered the kids went wild. A scream went up and the euphoria increased in tune with the children’s excitement. They surrounded the two players whilst raining down hugs on the pair of them. It was a joy to watch and, in true Thai Tims fashion, a song soon erupted about fan favourite Emilio.
After ‘order’ was regained the kids lined up, all still smiling and ready to rock. They sang and danced to a mix of songs including This Land is Your Land, Celtic Symphony, Let the People Sing, The Fields of Athenry, The Celtic Song, I’ll Tell Me Ma’ and, last but not least, I Just Can’t Get Enough. Again, to see the children enjoying themselves so much while singing every song to perfection was heart warming. It is extremely difficult to put down in words the feelings and emotion of watching the kids perform live, particularly after Paul described the relationship murdered Celtic fan Reamonn Gormley had with the children when he was a volunteer at the school. Paul explained how difficult it is for him to speak of Reamonn’s death but managed to tell the audience how each volunteer is only required to teach English for four hours per day but most days Reamonn would be teaching for eight or nine hours followed by playing with the children after school or mixing with the local villagers in the evenings. The emotions surrounding Reamonn's death are clearly still very raw but it is clear that his spirit lives on in the smiles of these children.
I could try and write all day about these amazing kids and the work of the equally amazing teachers and volunteers who make it all possible but there is not enough words in the world that would be able to do them justice. Seeing the kids in action brought it home to me not only how much of a credit they are to themselves, their families, their country, their teachers and volunteers but to us too. These kids are a credit to Celtic Football Club and its supporters, none more so than Reamonn Gormley. Their story manages to capture what is special about our club and the hospitality shown to them by the club and fans alike show that we haven’t been completely removed from our roots.
Finally, we really should not underestimate how privileged we are as a club to be given the opportunity to welcome these kids, teachers, volunteers and all their families into our lives. I can safely say that meeting the kids is easily one of the proudest moments I have experienced as a Celtic fan.'
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