By Misty Schwartz on
Fresh back from the small village of Sangklaburi, Thailand, actress Stephanie Drapeau sat down with Misty Schwartz to share her experience at Baan Unrak with 150 children and one woman who changed all of their lives.
What is Baan Unrak and what inspired you to go there?
Well, Baan Unrak literally means “house of joy” in Thai and that is precisely what it is. It is a home of 150 children (ages 0-18) residing in a small village on the border of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Most of these children have either been displaced from the Burma conflict, abandoned by single mothers who could no longer care for them, or victims of human trafficking. Twenty years ago, a woman named Didi Devamala traveled to the Thai jungle and slowly but surely the locals brought her these children. With an open heart, she took them in and now she has an amazingly LARGE and loving family.
I was inspired to visit Baan Unrak by my husband, Christian Drapeau, who had gone several times and been deeply impacted by the immense transformation of these children, especially considering their backgrounds. To learn of such a place, I had no choice but to follow my heart’s calling and go.
What was your experience of Baan Unrak?
My experience mirrored that of every utterance my husband had shared, only I felt it within my own heart and saw it with my own eyes, which made it all the more palpable for me. Didi has created not only a home for the children, but a school (K-6), a garden to teach the children how to farm, a bakery for them to learn entrepreneurship, as well as a weaving center, designed to incentivize mothers to remain with their children by giving them jobs. She also teaches them meditation so that they can find peace within themselves, as they don’t always have a parental figure to lean upon.
You know, there are so many incredible organizations in our world that aid in healing individuals and communities. But it seems a rarity that one person can create a place with so much love that the callous upbringing virtually disappears from the faces of the children. I’m so very grateful to have come across such a place in our world.
Do you plan to work with them?
Oh do I ever! Yes. Our foundation (One World Foundation) is already working on a project that will help support their weaving center and we have another farming project underway. We have helped to develop the SÚK pants (www.buconscious.com), a hand-woven yoga-esque pant. 100% of the profits go back to Baan Unrak. Our long-standing aim is to bring Baan Unrak toward self-sufficiency so they can continue their mission without the pressures of constant fundraising.
What part of your visit impacted you the greatest?
Oh my, there are so many… I filmed a couple of scenes for a project while there, so I took a few hours to teach the kids about acting. When I was done, I asked a few of the girls what they wanted to be when they grew up…and they all answered “an actress!” Then they encircled me with a hug. I contemplated not coming home at that point. Another memorable moment was during a playtime activity where a group of 5 year olds were singing. One would sing, and the rest of the group would repeat the song. I was looking for the leader and I quickly realized that the “teacher” was in fact another 5 year old. The song ended in a silent meditation. To witness these little children meditating melted my heart. The maturity and wisdom they carry is unbelievable! Lastly, we interviewed Didi about her history and how she created this family of children. I felt like I was listening to the story of a modern day Mother Theresa. I was moved and inspired to the core. There were so many more experiences; I could go on for days.
How do you feel that charitable endeavors shape your life as an actress?
The more rich and dynamic my inner life is, the more creative depth I have to offer the role. It’s a matter of the exchange of energy. If I am both giving and receiving, then I am free to share as much of me as is needed for that role. But if I’m not taking part in humanitarian action on some level, something inside of me gets stuck and it directly impacts the work I do. It’s an added bonus that motivates me to stay involved in our global community.
What projects can we expect to see you in?
You can find me on CASTLE on ABC soon. I also have two films that will be released in January, 2013, CLOSURE and WEDDING DAY and several other films in development.
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