The hill tribe life in Thailand is tough under the best of circumstances. Isolated by washed out, treacherous mountain roads, hours from electricity or paved streets, the people of the hills live a hardscrabble life. Food comes by the sweat of hard labour, while creature comforts are rare indeed.
For a little boy with no mum or dad, a hot bowl of rice or a dry place to sleep during the cold mountain rains was a luxury only dreamed of. Orphaned at 6, Yindee spent a year living in the mountain jungle, silently slipping in and out of villages under the cover of night to forage for scraps. Nobody in the village wanted another mouth to feed but someone got word to ZOE about the “jungle boy.”
Suffice it to say that the process of bringing Yindee to ZOE was not easy. His clothes were so filthy and flea-infested, we literally had to burn them. His matted hair was shaved completely off to rid him of lice. He had to be washed no less than three times before he was clean.
When he arrived at ZOE, Yindee didn’t speak; he growled. When everyone else sat down to eat, he would grab his food off the plate and run away to hide while he ate. It took days before he was convinced that no one would take his food from him.
It truly is amazing how quickly transformation came. Yindee soon was running around laughing and playing with the kids. He finally consented to sleeping in his bed rather than under it. One day, not long after arriving, Yindee walked up to a staff member. Bowing low in a deep wai, he said “Thank you for saving me.” Hugging him tight, the staffer said “Yindee, you should thank God, not me.” He looked in her eyes and said “I already have. And now I’m thanking you!”
The little jungle boy who didn’t read, write, or smile had truly come home!
THESE STORIES ARE TRUE. THE NAMES OF THE CHILDREN HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THEIR IDENTITY AND DIGNITY.