Hands of Hope gives purpose to life

Hands of Hope
Good Shepherd Volunteer Bridgid O’Brien on a morning commute to work in Nongkhai, Thailand.

The Good Shepherd Hands of Hope ministry in Nongkhai, Thailand, said goodbye to a kind and caring friend last month when Good Shepherd Volunteer Bridgid O’Brien completed her year of service there and returned to the United States.

Before leaving the ministry, Bridgid wrote two heartfelt pieces about her experiences with Hands of Hope Nongkhai. Her blogs The stillness of simplicity and Nong Namm, a young lost friend appear online at Global Sisters Report, a project of  National Catholic Reporter.

Bridgid joined Hands of Hope last August after completing orientation with Good Shepherd Volunteers in Astoria, New York. She spent most of her time in the Hands of Hope Nongkhai Care Facility and Garden of Friendship, where she cared for those living with HIV/AIDS. Facing discrimination in their village communities, children and adults living with the illnesses find support and unconditional acceptance at the Good Shepherd ministry.

hands of hope
Bridgid O’Brien and her young friend Nong Namm shared many happy moments together during Nong Namm’s short 5-year life.

It was during her time of sharing life with other volunteers and patients with HIV/AIDS that Bridgid found her calling and decided to leave Thailand a month early to apply for nursing school in the U.S. Hands of Hope sent her off with a traditional blessing and strings tied to her wrists as a symbol of the bond that Bridgid formed with everyone.

Dignity through Hands of Hope

The Hands of Hope community is made up of 27 on-site daily workers and seven people who work once a week from home. The workers make beautiful handmade paper products while their children attend school. They use Thailand’s famous ‘saa paper’ as the main medium, which is made from the bark of the mulberry tree.

The producers take full responsibility for all aspects of the project. An elected committee oversees production and management of daily tasks, including care of the working environment. Others within the group tend to the specific roles of designing, quality control, stock management, packing, ordering and shopping for raw materials. Each person in the operation is involved directly with production.

hands of hope
Nongkhai women, children and men living with HIV/AIDS find dignity and community through the Good Shepherd Hands of Hope ministry.

It is a peaceful place to work. Producers are either collected from their village homes every morning or they walk, bicycle or ride a motorcycle to Hands of Hope. After morning meditation and discussion, the producers work for three hours before sharing a meal together at mid-day. They work another three hours before leaving at 4pm. They receive wages each day.

Pre-schoolers are able to accompany their mothers to the center, where they thrive in a stimulating environment. School-aged children can be with their mothers during holidays and are given opportunities to earn money for their education by making their own line of products.

Life with purpose

hands of hope
Workers in the Hands of Hope ministry make beautiful handmade paper products such as cards, hanging mobiles and gift tags.

The community aspect of Hands of Hope is important to reduce workers’ feelings of isolation and alienation so they have friends with whom to share concerns and joys. Good Shepherd staff monitor the workers’ health and accompany them to medical appointments when necessary.

Anti-retroviral medicine is necessary for prolonging life, but without dignified employment and daily social support, people with HIV/AIDS cannot live a quality life with purpose. Hands of Hope gives those living with HIV/Aids love, dignity and opportunities for success.

Good Shepherd Volunteers provides full-time volunteers with the opportunity to work in social service ministries and to use their God-given talents to serve women, adolescents and children who are affected by poverty, violence and neglect. Good Shepherd Volunteers was founded, and continues to focus, on the four tenets of Social Justice, Simplicity, Spirituality and Community.

Read more Good Shepherd Volunteer personal experiences at the Just Love blogspot. Good Shepherd Volunteers is a jointly sponsored ministry of Sisters of the Good Shepherd provinces of Mid-North America and New York.

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website veganstoryteller.com