Thai Cave rescue one year on
15-year-old Adun was one of the 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand. Here he opens up about how those events changed his life.
One year ago, the world was riveted by the rescue story of the Wild Boars soccer team who were trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Twelve months later, teen Adun – who played a role in the rescue and is sponsored by Christian charity Compassion Australia – shares how life has changed for him.
“The only thing that I could do was to pray. I prayed ‘Lord, I’m only a boy. You are almighty God, you are holy, and you are powerful. Right now I can’t do anything. May you protect us, come to help us…”
On 23 June, 12 boys and their soccer coach parked their bikes and entered the gaping mouth of the cave. Caught inside by monsoon floodwaters, the Wild Boars had no contact with the outside world for one week.
“By the 10th night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy and courage” said 15-year-old Adun, one of those who was trapped.
“We could not do anything to help situation. The only thing that I could do was to pray. I prayed ‘Lord, I’m only a boy. You are almighty God, you are holy, and you are powerful. Right now I can’t do anything. May you protect us, come to help us all 13.’”
You might have heard Adun’s voice before. We listened with tears as the British divers who finally reached the group asked “How many of you?” and Adun, the only English speaker in the group replied, “Thirteen.”
After a massive rescue operation including Thai Navy seals and cave diving experts from Australia (and other countries), all 13 were rescued by 10 July.
Compassion recently caught up with Adun to find out how he’s doing one year after the life-altering event.
A dramatic life change after the Thai cave rescue
Before 23 June, 2018, life was relatively simple and quiet for Adun. He would go to school from 7am to 4pm. Then he had soccer practice until 6 or 7pm. Finally, he would head back to the church hostel where he lives, for dinner, then homework and quiet time before going to bed.
“It was very laidback,” says Adun. “I had everything I needed, and daily life was nothing exciting.”
But since the dramatic rescue, life for Adun and his teammates has been anything but laidback. The group travelled to the US to appear on national TV shows and even got to meet one of their favourite soccer stars, Jose Mourinho of Manchester United.
Hollywood filmmakers want to turn their story into a movie, and the boys are sought-after guests for local and international events.
In addition to his daily routine – which includes soccer matches, church services and activities at a nearby Compassion centre – Adun fits in occasional appearances at local events. He is treated like a celebrity.
Adun’s unstable beginnings
The eldest of five children, Adun is from the Lua ethnic group. Tens of thousands of Lua have fled to Thailand in the past 50 years, escaping instability in neighbouring countries.
Adun’s parents came from Myanmar. Not being Thai citizens, many Lua don’t have access to the same education, healthcare or work opportunities.
Adun’s parents came to Thailand from Myanmar before he was born, although his family has since moved back home. Like many children from this region, Adun moved to a church hostel in the city in order to attend school, an opportunity that’s not available in his home village.
Although this separation was difficult for Adun’s parents, they knew sending him away was the only way he could have a better future. They were confident he would be in a loving, caring community at the church under the care of the pastor and his wife, who is a relative of Adun’s mother.
Adun and the others are healing every day from the trauma.
Adun also became a part of Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program at age eight through which he has been able to receive educational support, healthcare, vocational training and other development opportunities.
Relying on God before and after the cave rescue
His parents’ desire for Adun to grow up with a strong faith became a reality through his experiences in the church and Compassion centre. And that faith grew even stronger as he turned to God during those awful moments when his life hung in the balance in a dark, cold cave.
“Help came from God during the hardest time,” says Adun. “I very intently prayed, and God answered me with his help. It was me and God together facing that situation, and I am thankful to him for helping me get out of the cave.”
Adun knows that his strength comes from the one he believes in and that it is God who keeps him safe, not only during the dark moments of life but in everyday challenges.
Still today, Adun is not publicly sharing details about his experience inside the flooded cave. He and the other boys have received psychological care through government and non-government services. They have been counselled that they never have to share about their experience if they don’t want to. But Adun and the others are healing every day from the trauma.
“Adun and 12 other friends have been closely monitored by the Chiang Rai Provincial Social Development and Human Security Office,” says Siripan Kongsuriyanawin, Compassion Thailand Child Protection Specialist. “When the psychologists assessed them, the mental state of all 13 children is normal.”
Big change coming for this survivor
Adun is grateful to resume his life as a normal teen. He is a go-to person for his friends and classmates whenever they have problems. He’s easy to talk to and is good at encouraging others. When asked how he would advise other teenagers facing challenges, he says: “I would say to be patient and confident in God. Pray and wait on God with hope.”
Recently, an incredible opportunity came to Adun. He received a full scholarship to a college preparatory boarding school in New York. Adun was chosen because of his good character and work ethic.
With the support of the Thai government, he has completed the applications required for studying abroad, and is continuing to learn English to be able to transfer to the school in New York as soon as he can. Now Adun will receive one of the best educations in the world.
“I am so glad,” Adun says, excitement gleaming in his eyes. “This means starting a new life.”
Meanwhile, life is back to normal in Northern Thailand after the dramatic cave rescue. Compassion reports that its church partners will continue to fight for the most vulnerable children in their midst.
Piyamary Shinoda and Amber Van Schooneveld