Thabom is a village in Loei Province, 560 km northeast of Bangkok. It is about eight hours by car from Bangkok. Public buses leave Bangkok daily for Chiang Khan (the last district bordering Laos) and from there a local bus to Thabom is available. It can also be reached by plane or train via Udon Thani or Nong Khai, two neighboring provinces. Loei airport is open only during cool season (December-January). Thabom is about 40 km from this airport.
There is a large and long established Catholic community in Thabom. It belongs to the Diocese of Udon Thani. There is a Parish Church dedicated to St. Raphael the Archangel and a resident priest who together with another Thai priest minister to the pastoral needs of the community. The community gathers for Sunday Mass and numbers in the congregation can reach 300-400 people at certain times of the year.
The village is hilly, cold in the winter and quite hot and humid in summer. Rainfall is not as heavy as in nearby provinces. There is electricity in the village, public telephone booths and a health clinic run by the government. There is low-cost public water system in the village. Residents also get their supply from rain and from a water source some kilometers away.
The parish is made of three village zones: 8, 9 and 13. They are surrounded by a friendly Buddhist community. Most of the villagers are farmers, a good number of whom seek jobs in Bangkok for supplementary income after the planting season, leaving elderly parents and young children at home. They also grow fruit trees, some vegetables, gather forest products for marketing.
St. John’s chose to develop a school in Thabom as part of its long-term commitment to reach out and provide education to the poor. Upon the request of St. John’s, the Assumption Sisters from the Philippines help St. John’s and the diocese manage and run the school in the village.
Mahathai Suksa Thabom School is a kindergarten/primary school in the village, which is owned by the Diocese of Udon Thani. It runs mainly on a government subsidy. Opposite the primary school is St. John’s School Thabom, providing secondary education up to grade 13.
In 2005, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the Diocese of Udonthani and St. John’s School in Bangkok allowing the Assumption Sisters to have a free hand in the operations of both schools in Thabom. At present the total enrolment of students in the schools is about 1,000 from over sixty villages.