Article: Swim Safe Program, Agape, Thailand, 2015

Published by Twin Town Times, 23/04/2015.

On Wednesday 1st of April, Spencer Swim Safe volunteers Alison Giles and Ben Spencer made the long journey to Chiang Mai, in Thailand, to volunteer at Agape Home Orphanage.

Agape Home opened in May 1996 as a response to the plight of children impacted by the spread of HIV/AIDS across Thailand. Many of the children who come to the Agape Home to live are, or are at risk of being, HIV positive. Many of them have already lost their parents to AIDS, and there are no other options for their care.

Ben and Alison joined a volunteer group called Team Love, who volunteers at Agape Home each year. Their main aim is to provide the children with a loving, supporting environment where they can experience a range of opportunities they otherwise would not receive.

Although they were a part of Team Love, Ben and Alison ran daily swimming lessons for the children, under Spencer Swim Safe’s banner. They focused primarily on the toddlers group and taught the children basic water confidence and fundamental swimming skills. The children showed huge improvements throughout the week and were able to participate in a swimming carnival on the last day of Team Love’s visit.

Ben and Alison both felt a deep connection with the children and were amazed at the trust, love and acceptance they had for total strangers. When they weren’t in the pool Ben and Alison were involved in the Team Love program which consisted of arts and crafts, and a number of excursions including of fishing, ice skating and a Korean BBQ dinner.

Ben’s mother Vicki Spencer also travelled to Thailand to join Team Love. Throughout the week Vicki primarily spent time with a young girl who was born blind. They formed a very special bond and thanks to Vicki, she was involved in every experience the other children had the opportunity to get involved in. She swam, fished, sang, danced, ice skated and did a wide range of arts and craft.

After spending a week at Agape Home Ben, Alison and Vicki came away feeling as though they had made a difference to the lives of children who have had a very challenging start to life. They look forward to continuing their swimming programs within the Binalong community and hope to return to Agape Home next year.

Some special mentions go to the Binalong P & C for donating library bags and kids jumpers, Zoggs Australia for swimmers and goggles, Spencer Travel for being a major sponsor and all our supporters that attend fundraisers or have helped in anyway. Things such as this opportunity don’t happen without great support!

“After spending a day at Agape Home you could just tell it was a special place. It is so hard to describe the feeling you get when you can see and feel the love that exists for each and every child.”

“The most challenging thing we had to deal with was saying goodbye to the most gorgeous children we had ever met. It was a total life changing experience! Seeing these children who are all affected by HIV, living life to the fullest and showing so much compassion and love for each other really makes you appreciate the things we have in life.”

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Pictured is Ben Spencer with two of the many children they have helped to learn to swim with their program.