It is with indeed a heavy heart and deep sadness that I advise of the passing of Khun Rotjana, our shining light who was the inspiration behind and the founding Director of Baan Tharn Namchai. Khun Rotjana fought a courageous battle against cancer not once, but twice. She was first diagnosed in 2007 which resulted in aggressive treatment that would prove to be life saving. For almost ten years she lived in remission until it returned, this time presenting in her bones. For the past two years she battled against the disease that would ultimately take her precious life.
Having spent time that I will cherish with her over the passing months I saw her smile, laugh and we had time to reflect. I also saw her in pain, a horrible pain that despite the best medical treatment she was not going to get better from. So whilst we are rightfully sad in her passing, whilst we will miss her terribly, we can take comfort as we all should that her pain is no longer, her suffering is over and now she rests in peace and if anyone deserves to rest in peace it is indeed our beautiful Khun Rotjana.
Personally I struggle to think how empty it will feel to ride into Baan Tharn Namchai each January at the end of the 1,600km journey and not be greeted by her. It is a journey that I am not looking forward to, it’s an ending that I personally dread. Baan Tharn Namchai without Khun Rotjana will take a long time to get used to.
Her commanding presence, her warm embrace, her cheekiness, that laugh and her beautiful smile as she holds one of the children – the life of whom has been enriched through her presence – will be missed by all. We should and we will celebrate her life and the contribution she made, not just to the children of Thailand, but to the lives of so many of us who had the pleasure of knowing her. We knew her as the director of Baan Tharn Namchai, the mother of many, a wise and insightful soul and for many we knew her as a friend and some came to regards her as a sister. Whatever the relationship, we cherish the time we spent with her and as we celebrate her life, and of course we will mourn for the loss that her beautiful daughter Ton Palm has sustained. We will remain by Ton Palm’s side and provide for her with the love and care she deserves.
The Hands family will be there for Ton Palm, for Game, Gop, Khun Rotjana’s mother and her family. And of course we will be right there for the children and staff of Baan Tharn Namchai.
In the quiet time when we think of Khun Rotjana we might have questions of fairness and wonder how someone who gave so much to others can be inflicted with a disease that caused such suffering and ultimately take her from her those she cared for. How when someone’s life is so clearly devoted to the service of others be taken, how is that fair? But life is not fair. If it was, young children and those who leave footprints on our heart would not be taken early.
In the conversations I shared with Khun Rotjana her desire to see the children cared for of course never waned and her passion to see them afforded opportunities beyond school and Baan Tharn Namchai was equally important. In acknowledgement of this and in response to those who have asked what they can do, we have established the Khun Rotjana University Scholarship Fund. For those who were touched by Khun Rotjana or admired from a distance her humanitarian efforts to provide opportunities for the most vulnerable in society, we respectfully create an opportunity for you to contribute. The Khun Rotjana Scholarship Fund will exist in perpetuity supporting the future generations of children as per her wish.
It will take some time to heal for all those at Baan Tharn Namchai as it will for those of us spread across the globe who came to love her. She will be forever missed and she will be remembered fondly. But in time the laughter of the children will return, which is her wish and until that time we will hold Ton Palm and all at Baan Tharn Namchai deep in our thoughts and hearts.
Peter Baines OAM