Somporn and his wife, Sopak, had quiet plans for their future. They would work the small rice field near their home, tilling the soil, sowing the seeds, and reaping the harvest. They imagined a tangle of children running through the bright-green shoots, laughing and playing. And when their first child was born, a little girl named Pidsinee, that dream felt more alive than ever.
Which made the nightmare that followed that much more horrific. When Pidsinee was just 2 months old, Sopak began running a high fever. Her head ached and her neck felt stiff. The doctor in their village said she had Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus. Sopak needed medical care at a larger clinic, but the rainy season had turned the roads to churning mud, impossible to travel. So Somporn could only wait, watching his wife grow more ill each day.
Sopak eventually went into shock, and Somporn borrowed a car and made the harrowing trip to the district hospital. Doctors there sent her home after three days. Twenty-four hours later Sopak drove with her again in the borrowed car, shuddering over pothole marred roads to a larger hospital in a more distant city. She died just hours after they arrived.
“I could think of nothing, just wondering how it all happened,” Somporn says of that long drive back home to his now motherless daughter. “It was like a dream. How could one die so easily?”
At just 23 years old, Somporn had never taken care of a child. He had no younger siblings, and while he deeply loved his daughter, he had largely relied on his wife to care for Pidsinee’s needs — feeding, bathing, clothing. He didn’t even know how to make up a bottle.
For weeks, Somporn was in a shocked daze. Even Pidsinee had grown quiet and listless. Neighbors and family tried to help, but they had their own families to provide for. In this small village, though, word of the tragedy had quickly spread. Phongphet, the director of the Bethania Church Child Survival Program heard Somporn’s story, and knew he needed to act quickly.
“I remembered that Somporn came home with his head hanging down,” says Phongphet. “He seemed lost. When I saw this, I suddenly thought of the Child Survival Program. Since he had no stable income and little knowledge of childcare, we could be the answer for him.”
A month after Sopak’s death, Somporn and Pidsinee were registered at the program. Somporn was the only male caregiver, but he was eager to learn. Phongphet and his staff worked to come up with new ways to minister to Somporn.
“Initially we just taught him about practical skills and provided for his immediate needs to better care for his child,” says Phongphet. “In the future, we hope to provide agricultural resources and teach him about organic farming and give him an income-generating skill.”
Pidsinee has grown into a laughing, active 9-month-old. She loves going on walks with her father, strapped securely to his chest in a soft sling. And while Somporn still grieves his wife, he sees her every time he looks into his daughter’s eyes. He is reminded of the dreams he once shared with Sopak — and the new hope and dreams that the future will hold. Dreams that include his daughter running at his side through the bright-green stalks of a rice field.
“Raising Pidsinee has not been easy,” says Somporn. “If I were to do it by myself, I would have never made it on my own. But with the help from the Child Survival Program and my parents, life is getting better.”