It is less than ideal, but the first time I met Naan was when I interviewed him. I interviewed him in his house, in the middle of a crowd of 10 or so people (about half of whom were strangers to him) and during his physical therapy session. Definitely less than ideal. You see, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along on a mini tour that Wasan and Chariya (co-founders of CCD) were giving to donor partners from Safe Child Thailand. The tour took us through all the major projects of CCD (with the exception of the government homes ), allowing me the opportunity to holistically see the work that CCD is doing and to also have amazing conversations with the people we visited (Stories On the Way, coming soon). Our final destination was a tour and night stay at CBR Chai Nat  – Naan’s home.
Naan has cerebral palsy, but unlike some of the more severe cases of cerebral palsy that I work with back in Nonthaburi, his physical and cognitive abilities are surprisingly strong – greatly facilitating the interview process. He was very friendly and polite, and willingly answered all of my questions. He’s 19, my age. Yet, his story is an inspiration to me. Hopefully it will be to you too.
The Stories #2
Naan’s world consists of a small wooden house (perhaps I should say room) in rural Chai Nat and a couple neighboring houses. Before CCD came into his life it was a rare occasion to go outside the tiny corner where his house is. His world, then, is about the size of my room at Duke, and that’s me trying to be generous by including his front and back yard. It certainly puts something into perspective doesn’t it? Still, Naan moves about this space with surprising agility, using either a cart-bicycle contraption or wheelchair to come out and welcome us into his world. He welcomes us with a smile at the front of the small neighborhood and guides us to his house, where the CCD staff begin physical therapy.
For therapy, the staff are working on strengthening his hand and leg muscles so that he can have better hand eye coordination and walk, respectively. According to his physical therapist, Suntharee Promsri (P’Aom), Naan is generally happy, easy-going, and follows instructions well. The benefit from physical therapy depends on certain periods – when he’s stronger he handles therapy better (as expected). His physical therapy session generally starts with parallel bars. P’Aom and staff are helping him develop the strength and skills to be able to walk on his own. Yet, a movement that we take for granted does not come so easy to Naan. He doesn’t try to stand up and walk every day, because sometimes it hurts too much, especially if he’s not wearing proper shoes (the parallel bars are built into the ground beside his house). From what P’Aom has observed though, Naan is the type of person who “will try really hard until he truly can’t do it”. Today is no exception. Once Naan lifts himself off his wheelchair he immediately grabs onto the parallel bars. Slowly and painstakingly, he lifts one leg and moves it forward. Minutes tick by as he begins to move his other leg forward.
“Does it hurt?” one of the staff asks.
“No,” Naan replies with a smile, but his hands are clenching the parallel bars and his legs shaking so hard that I’m suddenly worried that he might collapse.
Nevertheless, he keeps going. When given the proper help, Naan is determined. It’s this determination that has made CCD’s work in his life flourish – to the point where he now is almost able to live independently. This is a huge accomplishment for him. As a child, he was free to play outside (his favorite pasttime back then) as much as he liked, but when he began growing up, he wasn’t able to take on the responsibility in caring for himself. Feeding himself, changing clothes, going to the restroom, showering, etc – all were major obstacles for him. Then, CCD arrived and began changing his vocabulary from can’t to can. In Naan’s own words, “Before CCD came into my life, I was a boy who couldn’t do anything. Now, I can do anything.”
Though Naan has great willpower, some circumstances are beyond his control. His mom suddenly died of complications with her high blood pressure in September 2016 (actually within 2 weeks of when Daa’s mom died). Since Naan was closer to his mom than his dad, her death shook him. “Naan got so skinny,” Chariya, one of the co-founders of CCD recalled. “I asked him, ‘Naan, why are you so skinny?’ He said, ‘My dad can’t cook’.” It was then discovered that Naan’s dad didn’t know how to cook much more than an omelette (and an unfortunately very salty one at that). The solution then: teach Naan how to cook. The staff equipped him with cooking utensils and are thinking of getting him an electric stove as a safer a!ternative to the gas one in his house. In teaching Naan to cook, CCD has given him a sense of purpose such that he can (1) be able to live fully independently and (2) make himself his favorite spicy tom yum. This is much to the relief of Naan’s dad, who wants to Naan to be able to care for himself in the future, especially if there comes a day when Naan’s dad is no longer around.
Presently, Naan seems to be enjoying his new life with CCD. He loves when the staff come visit him and knows each of them by name. Other days, he likes watching Thai boxing on TV or going to the neighbors to talk. He dreams of being a police officer to catch evil people. Naan’s dad also likes having CCD come in. “Our lives were better, a lot better, when CCD came in,” he said. As for CCD’s side, the staff seem to be happy with the incredible progress that Naan has made. “A lot of disabled kids don’t get the care and attention they need,” says P’Aom. She fully believes that by being patient, getting to know Naan well, and walking with him (both literally and figuratively), CCD can empower Naan to reach integration with society in happiness. Naan echoes her thoughts. “Go a little slower with me,” he says. “Try to understand me and I’ll explain things slowly to you.” It’s this kind of partnership that allows Naan to reach success in each of his endeavors.
Naan’s smile remained throughout our time with him. My interview with Naan was the first and last time I’d see him, but I leave knowing that Naan is someone who, once being told he can do it, now has the will to move forward – on his parallel bars, in his goals, and in life. It will take time of course, slow and steady. But maybe some day I’ll have the chance to go back to visit him and try some tom yum myself (non-spicy though).
Yes You Can – CCD slogan, 2015
 The government homes have been kind enough to let CCD staff come in and do projects with the kids (therapy, music, arts and crafts, etc). However, visitors require special permission.
 CBR Chai Nat is the community based rehabilitation project based in Chai Nat, a city in Thailand about 180 km north of the CCD center in Pak Kret. Community based rehabilitation 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. Since Chai Nat is so far away, a visit to this CBR project usually requires an overnight stay.
**All interviews and information are presented with rightful and ethical consent.