Cartoon is 5 years old and currently attends the Banyan Centre. Cartoon’s family have been part of Kwah Dao since we first started. Her aunt and uncle have progressed through high school and are currently at university on Kwah Dao scholarships. Cartoon’s mother, Poy, wasn’t so lucky. When Kwah Dao met her family her parents allowed her to attend the Rainbow School (Kwah Dao’s first, unofficial school) but as children were enrolled in Thai schools they considered her too old, so she never had the opportunity to attend formal education. She helped her parents by working and was 18 when Cartoon was born. Cartoon’s father left not long after and is no longer a part of Cartoon’s life.
Cartoon is a quick-witted.
Poy has a history of alcohol abuse and has struggled to take proper care of Cartoon. Poy lived with her parents during the first few years of Cartoon’s life, then moved to stay with friends nearby, leaving Cartoon with her parents. Poy then found a new boyfriend and when Cartoon was three years old her younger brother, Big, was born. Cartoon now lives mainly with her grandparents, but often stays with Poy. Her grandparents have a difficult relationship and Cartoon, at 4 years old, has told Kwah Dao staff how they shout at and hit each other. Her grandfather grows garlic and her mother is in bad health and can only work a little. They are incredibly poor, have large debts with money-lenders and struggle to take care of Cartoon. Kwah Dao gives them a small amount of money each month to help with her expenses.
From a young age it was clear that Cartoon had a problem with one of her eyes, so Kwah Dao staff persuaded her family to take her to see a doctor. After several trips in which doctors said she was too young to diagnose as she couldn’t explain things clearly, she was referred to Chiang Mai, a 3 hour drive away, as the local area does not have the facilities to deal with such a condition. Her family thought that it was unnecessary and were initially very reluctant to take her, but eventually agreed. She went with her mother, her 17-year-old uncle and Kwah Dao staff. Her mother found the long wait at the government hospital too stressful and walked out halfway through the day, and since then she has refused to accompany Cartoon to any of her hospital appointments, and for several months refused to allow her to go at all. Her appointments are now organized by Kwah Dao with the help of her uncle and aunt. Cartoon was eventually diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia and is permanently blind in one eye, and then, following a CT scan, septo-optic dysplasia, a related condition which can cause a range of developmental problems. She is still undergoing tests to measure the severity of her condition but will need ongoing monitoring and testing for many years to come. As she is not a Thai citizen she has to pay for all treatment. Her family could not afford this, so Kwah Dao is covering all her medical costs.