Arkansas native devotes life to poor women in Thailand

.- Some people dream of making a difference in the world and others actually do it. Arkansas native Elizabeth Lachowsky Thaibinh and her husband, Michael, founded Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Wildflower Home is a shelter for single women with small children and pregnant women in crisis, Thaibinh said.

"We take mothers in crisis, maybe they are single and pregnant, victims of domestic violence or whatever the situation," she said in an interview with Arkansas Catholic during a recent trip back to Conway, Arkansas and Houston, Texas. "We teach them and help them readjust to society so they can effectively raise their children."

Wildflower Home began in 2004 as an outreach ministry of the Maryknoll religious order. The Thaibinhs were lay missionaries and began their mission work in Thailand in 1994, she said. Even though in June the Maryknolls pulled out of Thailand and Vietnam because of financial concerns, Thaibinh said she will stay in the country and continue Wildflower Home.

"We are now independent and no longer part of the Maryknoll Lay Missionaries," she said.

"When we came to Chiang Mai we found no other organization to help these women. There were over 300 abortion clinics, no government help and no other foundations," she said.

Thaibinh said women as young as 14 and as old as 44 have stayed at Wildflower Home.

"We usually have between 10 and 15 women plus their children, between 12-15 of them at a time," she said. "We receive a lot of teenage mothers, refugees, hill tribe women. They really are the poorest of the poor."

The inspiration for the home's name came from the wildflowers that grow in Thailand.

"Wildflowers in themselves are so beautiful, but often go unrecognized and people don't attend to them as they would flowers that they plant in their yards and nurture," Thaibinh said. "Our women and children are also so beautiful in themselves, but somehow out of mainstream society."

Thaibinh, daughter of Alfred and Mary Lachowsky of Conway, graduated from St. Joseph School in 1983. She earned her bachelor's degree in theology at University of Dallas and returned to St. Joseph in 1988 as coordinator of religious education and youth ministry for two years. She then returned to college to complete her master's degree in religious studies at the University of Incarnate Work in San Antonio. She met her husband while working as a campus minister at Texas A&M.

Thaibinh and her husband created a foundation in the U.S. to support Wildflower Home. The foundation is called San Se, which in Vietnamese means "share," she said. Thaibinh's husband, Michael, is Vietnamese.

"We have about $25,000 more to pay on the land and we're in the process of building a permanent all-purpose building with classrooms," she said. "We have $24,000 more to raise to complete that project."

Thaibinh, her husband and three children live at Wildflower Home. Her children, Andrew, 15, Katrina, 13, and Michaela, 9, attend an international school in Chiang Mai.


Printed with permission from the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark.

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