One year ago, the world was riveted by the unfolding rescue story of the Wild Boar soccer team who was trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. The rescue of the 12 boys and their coach seemed nearly impossible as rising waters in the cave system pinned them in place.

The Wild Boars had no contact with the outside world for a week.

“By the tenth night, we were losing patience, hope, physical energy and courage. The only thing I could do was 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,'” says 15-year-old Adun, one of those who was trapped.

You might have heard Adun’s voice before.

In a now-famous video clip, Adun, the only English speaker in the group, responds to the British divers who first reached the team. The world breathed a sigh of relief when Adun confirmed the number of team members present:

“How many of you?” the divers asked.

“Thirteen,” came Adun’s voice, strong and confident.

After a massive rescue operation including Thai Navy seals and cave diving experts, all 13 were rescued by July 10th.

We recently caught up with Adun, a Compassion sponsored teen, to find out about what life is like one year after the rescue.

A heard and torso portrait of 15-year-old Adun. He is wearing a white football jersey and looking and smiling straight at the camera.

Before June 23, 2018, life was relatively simple and quiet for Adun. He would go to school from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Then soccer practice until 6 or 7 p.m. Finally, he would head back to the church hostel where he lives to eat dinner, do homework and have some 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 United States to appear on national TV and even got to meet one of their favourite soccer stars, Jose Mourinho of Manchester United. Now, Hollywood filmmakers want to turn their story into a movie, and the boys are regularly sought-after guests for local and international events.

Today, in addition to his daily routine, which includes soccer matches, church services and activities at the Compassion child development centre at the local church, Adun fits in occasional appearances at local events, where he is treated like a celebrity.

Before all of this, Adun had an unstable beginning.

A landscape in rural Myanmar. There is a river in the foreground and green mountains behind.

A similar rural scene to where Adun’s parents live in Myanmar.

The oldest 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. Not being Thai citizens, many Lua don’t have access to the same education, health care 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.

Adun, wearing a white short sleeve button-down shirt and dark shorts, sweeps some steps on the church hostel property with a broom.

Adun does his morning chores at the hostel before going to school.

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 that 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 also became a part of Compassion Thailand’s sponsorship program at age eight. As part of Compassion’s program, he receives educational support, health care, vocational training and other development opportunities.

His parents’ desire is a reality, and their son has a strong faith.

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 God—and that it is God who keeps him safe not only during the dark moments of life, but in everyday challenges.

Today, Adun is still 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.

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.”

Thai children sit in red chairs in a classroom at the Compassion centre.

Adun sits in a class at the Compassion centre.

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 teens facing challenges, he says:

“I would say to be patient and confident in God. Pray and wait on God with hope.”

And 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.

“I am so glad,” Adun says. “This means starting a new life.”

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Would you join us in praying for Adun during this huge change?

  • Praise God that the government has granted Adun Thai citizenship, opening up future opportunities for him.
  • Pray that Adun and all the boys would continue to heal mentally and emotionally.
  • Pray that as he makes this major shift, Adun will find good friends and mentors along the way.
  • Pray for Adun’s parents as they prepare to say goodbye to their son, with his upcoming move to New York.
  • Pray that Adun will continue finding hope and strength in the Lord.

Adun shared this message of thanksgiving last year, and it still stands today:

“Thank you to everybody who prayed for me and the whole team. Thank you to everybody that helped us, and the last thank you is to the Lord. Thank you, God. God bless you all.”

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More: Watch The Cave, the Church and Compassion: The Untold Story of the Thai Cave Rescue.

Words and photos by Piyamary Shinoda, Compassion Thailand