On December 26, 2015 Jen’s House family gathered in the Karen Town of Nong Tao, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. We came together to share and celebrate the success of a collective effort;  that is to provide opportunities for education for ethnic mountain children. Much to my surprise it was also a celebration of my birthday!

Everyone enjoyed the great food and rolled away from the table to relax just as dusk was falling. DSCF6969





DSCF6971 Tamla welcomed everyone and offered her thanks for their contribution she mentioned that I would say a few words a little later. During her introduction she talked about the Jen’s House family and how happy we were be together, including Jen’s House grandchildren.


After some songs and dance she called for me to come forward. Little did I realize that my getting up to speak was to be the cue to an amazing surprise.

As I stepped up to the microphone everything went black and silent. It didn’t surprise me as it’s normal for the power to be dodgy at the best of times in Nong Toa. But, what happened next certainly did surprise me!

Suddenly from inside the house two of our students carried a candle lit cake out  and everyone joined in a chorus of  Happy Birthday. DSCF6992 More students came from out of the dark, around the side of the house carrying three lit komloys, almost fully inflated, ready to be released. The students broke into song once again with, “Sunshine you are my sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey…” The sunshine song has become a kind off theme song for Jen’s House. It is the English song I taught the students during our first year together. Just a week earlier I’d been teaching our newest students, “our song.”

As the komloys lifted into the air the tears began to flow… I couldn’t have felt more appreciated or more proud to be a part of this amazing thoughtful family. DSCF6994

  …and then firecrackers were lit behind me,DSCF6996

                     …my jaw dropped!


Dazed, it was over before I realized what everyone had done for me. I have never been so fully engaged in the joy of the moments that were happening, as I tried to express my joy, through my tears.DSCF7003

We played in the darkness of the night, enjoying this precious time of warmth, love, and laughter.  DSCF7006

It wasn’t long before many of the students were ready to call it a night. I was all in as well. I jumped on the back of Chedede husband’s motorbike and we drove in quiet through the pitch black roads to their home.  He lit a fire and then he was gone. I sat in front of the fire’s glow enjoying the quiet and reflecting on this most extraordinary day.

In the aftermath of the day a sentence from Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist came to mind.

“What you need to know is this: before a dream is realized, The Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way”

Jen’s House – A Living Legacy

Built in 2009 to honour the memory of

Jennifer Lee Scott May 20, 1975 – November 1, 2003

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