Father Ray, an American Priest in the Redemptorist Order, was told a year before his ordination that he would be sent to Thailand, an idea he didn’t much like! His mother though, didn’t seem surprised. She said that of all her children, Ray was the only one to like rice!
His first posting was to Sri Racha, a small fishing village about a two hour drive from Bangkok on the gulf of Thailand. He remained there for 6 months studying the Thai language. His next assignment was to Isaan, the vast, flat northeastern part of the country along with the newly independent country of Laos. Having mastered the Lao dialect, he was given a parish in a village in Loei, a mountainous and sparsely populated province.
After 10 years in Thailand’s northeast, Father Ray was assigned to replace a parish priest in Pattaya, an R&R destination for U.S. soldiers. In 1969, Fr. Ray replaced Father Godbout who had been the pastor of St. Nikolaus Church for two years. After about one year of being Pastor at the Church, one day, at the end of a Sunday service, a woman approached him with a baby in her arms. She told him that the father, her husband, had run away, and that she had since found a new husband, however, her new husband would have nothing to do with the child. Father Ray said that he would take the child, not having a clue what he would do with it. When Father Ray accepted the child I am quite sure he was not aware of how many lives this one action was going to change.
This was the first step that led up to the original start of the Father Ray Foundation and also many subsequent programs to help the poor and disabled of Thailand.
Fr.Ray founded the Redemptorist Vocational School for the Disabled. This school was designed to serve the physically disabled, seventeen year or older who were born with physical disabilities, or crippled by disease or victims of accidents. Fr. Ray planned to offer classes in ceramic tile-making, electroplating, computer skills and possibly bee culture. After experimenting with the various courses and looking at what would be most profitable to his students, Fr. Ray decided that computer skills and repair of electronic equipment would best fit the bill.
In 1987 the first class trained in electronics left the school for a six month apprenticeship in various radio shops throughout the Kingdom.
At the end of six months and with a letter of favorable appraisal in their possession, they returned to the School to receive a job in the business world, with their newly acquired skills. Currently we also offer two year courses in Computer Science and Computer Business in English. All students are also taught basic and advanced English. To this day, anyone who graduates and passes their apprenticeship, is guaranteed a job. While at the School all students are encouraged to take part in sports, and most do. All the sports have been modified to suit the students and many of them have participated in National and International games, often bringing home medals. To this day, hundreds have passed their courses and have received jobs allowing them self respect and a contributing position in society. Today, we have an enrollment of 250 students attending the classes and receiving accommodations free of charge, with an ever growing waiting list.
In December 1999, offices in a building on the Redemptorist Center grounds were turned over to the newly created Job Placement Agency for the Disabled. This was not just for graduates from our Vocational School, but for all disabled Thais.