As motorcycles growled down uneven dirt roads outside, children inside the Human Development Foundation, a charity for street children, cleared their plates and opened their math books.
With toothy grins and scrawny bodies, the children appeared 6 or maybe 8 years old. But they were closer to 12 or even 15.
"Remember that for as long as you live," said Father Joe H. Maier, a priest who started the foundation. "That's AIDS."
Maier is part of a small but dedicated network of Redemptorist priests who started a mission in Thailand almost 60 years ago. Many of the priests in Thailand have strong ties to Wisconsin, and the majority did their training in Oconomowoc at the Redemptorist Retreat Center.
With faith, hard work and a little luck, the priests ventured from Wisconsin to cities and villages in Thailand that had no electricity or running water. They came to spread Christianity. They also built roads and schools, and worked with impoverished farmers and families.