Profile of Courageous Leadership: Janpon Kumjunsawan
My name is Janpon, my wife's name is Joy. We are parents at an Asia's Hope children's home in Doi Saket, Thailand, and I myself was a child who grew up at Asia's Hope.
I am from the Karen tribe and I grew up in a poor tribal village in Thailand. My father was a drug addict, and he died when I was in second grade. After his death, our family — which was already needy — was plunged into absolute poverty. My mom and my little sister had to spend all day in the jungle looking for food; they left early in the morning and didn't return until late at night. My older brothers dropped out of school and went off to find jobs. I was left alone, usually with nothing to eat and no one to care for me. I went to school, but was hungry almost all the time.
By the time I reached the sixth grade, my mother knew that she could not care for me — she could barely provide for herself and my sister. So when she heard about Asia's Hope, she decided to bring me to live at the Doi Saket children's home.
I was scared when I first arrived at Asia's Hope. Some of the kids were from other tribes. None of us spoke each other's tribal language, and many of us spoke Thai very poorly at the time. But I learned that it is God who brings people together, God who makes families. There were lots of challenges, but also new opportunities — the Hmong tribe kids, for instance, wore different clothes and played different games. I taught them about my culture, and they showed me theirs. It took a few months, but eventually we became one family.
At that time, the facilities at Asia's Hope were very basic. We lived in bamboo huts similar to houses in my village. We showered outside with buckets, the roofs leaked, and we often found snakes and scorpions in our beds and shoes — but we had enough food to eat, we had money to go to school, and most importantly, we had loving adults to care for us and raise us like their own children. It was a good life for me.
Today, my Asia's Hope kids enjoy opportunities I never had — the facilities are great, the kids can choose from many different sports teams, music lessons and extracurricular activities. But the most important thing remains: we love each other like a family.
To be honest, society here here doesn't care about hill tribe kids, especially orphaned kids. We are looked down on by most people and our needs are ignored by the government. Without the generosity and leadership of Asia's Hope supporters, I would have had no chance for success or happiness in life.
After graduating from high school, I planned to become a mechanic. I completed a vocational training program where I learned to fix cars and do electrical work. But I began to feel a pull towards full-time ministry of some sort. Thanks to Asia's Hope, I was able to attend Bible College, where I got involved with an anti-trafficking outreach ministry. Working with this group, I learned a lot about Christian ministry and I had the chance to work with government agencies. I also met Joy, who was on staff with the organization. We dated for a few months and then got married.
After my graduation, the anti-trafficking organization offered me a job. I prayed about it and asked Tutu, Asia's Hope's national director, for advice. In my heart, I really wanted to return to Asia's Hope to bless the family who had raised me throughout my childhood. To my great excitement, Tutu offered me and Joy a job. We moved to the Asia's Hope home in Wiang Pa Pao, about an hour north of Doi Saket, where we received training from the staff there. When our training was complete, we came back to Doi Saket to work at the Asia's Hope office. Now, we are Asia's Hope home parents, and we care for 13 children between the ages of 7 and 19.
Both Joy and I had the opportunity to work for other organizations, and we could have taken easier jobs for higher pay. But this is my family. Asia's Hope rescued me. Without Asia's Hope, I would have had no education. I would have grown up with no future in a life full of discouragement, depression and danger. I know what it's like for these kids because I was one of them myself. Now I want to live as an example for these children, to show them that they are truly loved, and to give them the skills they need to succeed as independent adults.
Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for supporting my children and my hill tribe people. May God bless you.
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Janpon, age 13, growing up at Asia's Hope in Doi Saket, Thailand.
"We lived in bamboo huts…We showered outside with buckets, the roofs leaked, and we often found snakes and scorpions in our beds and shoes — but we had enough food to eat, we had money to go to school, and most importantly, we had loving adults to care for us and raise us like their own children."
"Without the generosity and leadership of Asia's Hope supporters, I would have had no chance for success or happiness in life."
"Both Joy and I had the opportunity to work for other organizations, and we could have taken easier jobs for higher pay. But this is my family."
Janpon and Joy's children at their home in Doi Saket, Thailand.
Janpon with Tutu Bee, director of Asia's Hope Thailand.