DOI SAKET, Thailand — She traveled half the world in search of some peace — but still hasn’t found it.
Madonna Badger, whose three young daughters died in last year’s horrific Christmas Day fire in Connecticut, journeyed to this remote corner of Thailand to visit orphaned girls and give them the very toys her children were supposed to find under their tree.
But she never made her planned trip to the orphanage on the anniversary.
“It’s so hard right now,” Badger had told The Post Saturday as she strolled near Breanna’s House of Joy orphanage in Doi Saket.
“Last night was the hardest yet. I cried and cried. I couldn’t stop crying.”
Then Badger, 48, began weeping anew.
She said she has been “trying to heal” by traveling to the orphanage, which was founded by missionaries from Colorado near the major city of Chiang Mai.
Badger, who arrived on Dec. 8 to the Tao Garden holistic resort with a friend, said she chose a charity in Thailand in part because yuletide in Asia was likely to be much more low key than Christmas in Connecticut.
For one thing, there would be no one dressed up like Santa Claus, she reasoned.
Her father had been working as a department-store Santa — his “dream job’’ — right before he and her mother were killed, along with her children, in the Stamford house blaze.
Badger also hoped to escape the usual holiday festivities that would only serve to remind her of her beautiful, joyful girls — 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah.
But reminders of her unspeakable loss were everywhere, especially when she visited the orphanage. There, 44 girls, ages 6 to 20, live together in modest white houses with brown-tile roofs across from a rice paddy.
When she went there for the first time three days before Christmas, she braced herself as she saw a banner proclaiming the message “Merry Christmas” over the entrance to the main house.
But the courageous mom went in anyway and met with the children, who are from the impoverished hill tribes of northern Thailand.
“These are very high-risk girls,” Badger said. “A lot of their parents sold them.
“I painted with them, and they played music.”
Then, she added excitedly, “I’m going with them to church tomorrow.”
But when that day came, and orphanage workers came to pick her up, Badger was unable to bring herself to go with the girls, many of whom are around the same age as her daughters.
“She said that when she . . . saw the children, she was overwhelmed and cried the entire day,” said Badger’s lawyer, Frank Corso, who spoke to her on Christmas Eve.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.