At first, I only knew of Daa as a friendly face, the boy would give me a wide smile and a sawadeekup (polite Thai greeting) every time I passed him, even though we had never formally met. He was a new member to Rainbow House but not CCD, having moved here from their community based rehabilitation project in Chai Nat .
Daa has Down’s Syndrome. Whether he would have wanted me to include that or keep it omitted, I can’t be too sure. This sweet, seemingly shy boy might not give you the most comprehensible conversation, but he loves talking to you. When I asked him for an interview, he immediately agreed and happily answered my questions, even though I almost made him miss his ride home. After our interview, we became best friends with him studiously seeking me out to tell me more stories or to give me his iconic smile and sawadeekup.
I admit that I could not understand much of what he was saying – perhaps a combination of my hearing/Thai speaking not being as good as the average person here, and his blurred manner of speaking. Our interviews  went a lot like this: “…..guitar…friends….mom…water…died”, where the ellipses are parts that he did his best to articulate to me but were unfortunately lost to my understanding. I pieced together the rest from interviews conducted with other staff members.
But enough of my observations. Let’s get to the actual story of what makes Daa, well, Daa.
The Stories: #1
Daa grew up in a small wooden house in rural Chai Nat. It was mainly him and his mother, toughing it out through life. “No one really talks about his dad. It seems like he hasn’t been in the picture for a very long time,” Lydia, one of the long-term volunteers here recalled. He has an older brother who is a soldier, which means that he is often away from home for long periods of time. It appears that they lived simply, but I can’t say confidently that Daa had a wholesome childhood. Daa never got a formal education, and according to Daa (and some of the staff), his mother struggled with alcoholism. He became involved in CCD’s program, and eventually his mom opened up that she wanted help caring for him. A couple months after this conversation, his mom abruptly died in a drowning accident. “I cried a lot,” Daa said. And that was that.
Yet, it wasn’t just that. As time went on, Daa did not cope well. (Even now, conversations with him almost always include his mother, and it is clear that her death left a permanent scar). He lacked someone to care for his basic needs and his brother could only visit so much. So, on December 23, 2016, Daa moved into Vision Home, one of CCD’s independent living projects. In Vision Home, boys who have grown up with CCD in Rainbow House and are now in their late teens to 20’s are developing the skills to live independently (i.e. cooking and cleaning), under the care of a house parent. In the five or six months since then, ‘’the change has been incredible,’’ said Lydia.
Daa loves being here. He has the freedom to do the things he likes, which are numerous. He is no longer a struggling or lonely boy defined only by his disability. On any given day, he can be a musician, an athlete, a student, a friend, or a brother to the other kids here. Instrument of choice? His black guitar or the drums, but he also loves letting others play so that he can dance. Sport of choice? Soccer, out in Lydia Garden with the rest of the boys. Subject of choice? “We’re trying to teach him the Thai Alphabet, colors (red, white, black), and numbers,” Rachaya (P’Nun for short), the staff member in charge of the boys at Vision Home says. Friends? Don’t even ask, Daa is quite the popular boy. Wasan and Chariya, the co-founders of CCD are like parents to him. The boys at Vision Home are like his brothers, and the little kids in Rainbow House love playing with him. When asked who his friends are, he practically lists the entirety of CCD.
He is not without challenges though. Currently, the staff are trying to teach him some important life skills including taking care of body cleanliness (brushing his teeth for example), learning the value of money, and managing his emotions. To teach him is to understand him, according to the methods laid out by P’Nun. For example, taking into consideration that his childhood and death of his mother left scars, one can begin to understand his strong emotions – from anger at light teasing to a need for love and attention (although the latter is quite universal in my opinion). Another example involves understanding that when Daa takes things (perhaps from the Sharing Shop  where he spends much of his time hanging with friends or learning new letters), he is not stealing but rather, he was never taught how to use money.
As Daa learns and grows, he looks forward to the future. His hopes and dreams are empowered here to be achievable goals. He wants to get a job, get married, and go back to Chai Nat, where his mom left the house and land in his name. “When Daa is focused, he shows remarkable progress in understanding new things, especially when it involves hand-crafts and making things,” explained P’Nun. Perhaps a job for him is in the near future! As for getting married, shhh… Daa won’t disclose anything much about his potential prospects, but he will banter endlessly about it. Before the marriage step though, I’m sure he can be satisfied with the love he’s found here at CCD and the love that I hope he’ll receive when people read this. After all, he’d love to tell you his story, he just needs people who are patient enough to listen.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves”
 Community based rehabilitation projects (CBR projects) are where CCD identifies at risk families in various communities and helps support them by working with their disabled children and teaching the families how to care for their kids. The goal behind this is to lessen the abandonment of disabled children.
 Daa’s attention span/focus usually doesn’t last longer than about 15-20 minutes so I conducted multiple interviews over the course of several days.
 The Sharing Shop is a convenience store set up by CCD to help some of the older boys get experience managing a shop (customer service, dealing with money, etc.) It is also their new hangout spot.
**All interviews and information are presented with rightful and ethical consent.