After a stressful week of “Did, you forget to take your meds?” Congressional hearings and diaper-wearing, tiny-handed orange balloons, I thought you might need to end the week on a positive note.
Adul Sam-on is one of the “Wild Boars” soccer players who was trapped in that cave in Thailand. It was not, by far, the worst place he had ever been. Adul was secreted into Thailand from nearby Myanmar by his parents. They, like most other parents of immigrant children, wanted a better life for at least one of their 5 children. In his home of Myanmar Adul most likely would have been forced to fight with the local guerrillas.
It was Adul’s proficiency in English (He also speaks Thai, Burmese, Mandarin and Wa.) that enabled communication between the rescuing British divers and the rest of the soccer team. The first requests were easily interpreted by Adul—food and an estimate of how many days they had been trapped. The Principal of Adul’s school, Punnawit Thepsurin, attributed Adul’s courage and tenacity to his being a stateless immigrant. “Stateless children have a fighting spirit that makes them want to excel…Adul is the best of the best.”
Three members of the soccer team as well as their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, are immigrants and ethnic minorities. Coach Ek was orphaned in Myanmar and entered the world. Buddhist monkhood to survive. He now works as a custodian at his temple as well as looking after the children. While trapped in the cave the Coach taught the young boys to meditate in order to relieve their stress and often sacrificed his share of food and water so the children could have more.
There have been others in the spotlight that focused on this cave rescue. Thailand’s military has achieved some much-needed recognition for its efforts and for the bravery of the Thai Navy SEAL divers, especially Saman Gunan, who died during the rescue. Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun even appeared publicly during the ordeal. (I had to get that name in here, just for the fun of typing it.) Despite the military and the monarch, it was, in large measure, the stateless immigrants who made this event so compelling. It was the coming together of heroes from all over the world to rescue a group of kids and their coach that made this a story of hope fulfilled and gave us all new hope for an inclusive…world.
Written by Margaret Pendleton & published with permission.