When Irish IT specialist Louise Hynes went a backpacking trip Down Under three years ago, she was planning to be away from home for a few weeks. She hadn't taken into account a small toddler called Tik and his friends. On her way to Australia, Louise visited Tik at the Pattaya Orphanage in southern Thailand and ended up staying for three months looking after him and many other abandoned children, as well as teaching at a school for deaf children at the centre. She returned to Ireland for a short visit and then went back to Thailand to spend another year working as a volunteer, teaching young disabled students at the Orphanage's Vocational School. The school is the first of its kind in Thailand to give young people with disabilities skills that enable them to get good jobs and lead independent lives. As an IT specialist - Louise used to work for Compaq and Intel in Co Kildare - she was the perfect candidate to share her skills, teaching a full range of software packages. During her last stay, Louise devised a two year curriculum for the subject, so future teachers will have something to guide them. She also taught English at the school. Louise, 29, is now is home in Waterstown, County Meath, for a well-deserved rest, but will be going back to Thailand in October to continue her volunteer work. She told ICN her parents and younger brother and sister are all very supportive of what she is doing, and she hopes they will visit Pattaya themselves one day. "Going to Thailand was a life changing experience for me," she said. "Working at the Orphanage has made me appreciate everything and how lucky I am. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from teaching the young students and it is humbling to know that I m helping them to go on to live independent lives. " The Pattaya Orphanage was founded by a Redemptorist priest, the late Father Ray Brennan in 1970, when an abandoned baby was left on his doorstep. Today, it provides a loving home and education to more than 700 children and young people. Besides the home for abandoned babies, it has a drop-in centre for street children - often at risk from getting involved with foreign sex tourists or drugs - a school for disabled young people; schools for deaf and blind children, and an old people's home. For more information and pictures, visit www.pattayaorphanage.org.uk
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