Enote 41 – Report from AizawlJanuary 24, 2008
Report from Aizawl:
As I write from our hotel on the eve of our departure from Mizoram, listening to beautiful singing coming from the Presbyterian church a hundred feet below, many images press on me waiting to be told. This year we are accompanied by our niece, and Trustee of the Fund, Dianne Becker. Dianne spends most of her time traveling around the world making video documentaries and this year she is busy documenting our work in India. We recently received a grant from the B.K.Kee Foundation to support our work in India and this has lead to a very busy and productive ten day visit. But rather than discussing all that I wish to dwell on the stories of two very poor young women, and one man who has come to their aid.
let’s call her Zanei, comes from Zokhawthar, a very small town directly on the border of India and Burma. Except for a few traders, and some Mizo families who have lived there for years, all of the people living in Zokhawthar are Chin refugees from Burma. Zanei has studied in the primitive schools in this border town for several years and just recently took the nation wide examination for class VII. One of the major examinations in a child’s life, this exam allows passage from middle school into high school.
In a very rigorous system which drives children to the limits of their ability, Zanei received the highest grade of all the children in the entire province of Champai. Considering the modest quality of the schools in Zokhawthaw, this is a remarkable achievement. But it appeared as if Zanei, would not be able to attend high school because that school was to be closed in Zokhawthar, and she could not afford to go to school elsewhere.
we’ll call her Remmi, is just finishing class X and faces that examination in a couple of weeks. This exam is perhaps the most important exam, because it is the termination of high school, and beginning of the college grades. One of the questions we routinely ask all of the students we interview, is ‘Did you have any difficulty this past year which interfered with you school work?’. Remmi started that question, with tears in her eyes and she began to tell her story. She and her brother and sister had been living with their mother ever since her father died two years ago. Recently her mother died and she was left with only her sister and brother. She was afraid that she would have to stop school and work with her brother to help support her little sister.
is one of three Chin students who left the University of Rangoon in 1989, shortly after the student demonstrations of 1988. He and his friends are now working as school teachers in Aizawl and Champai. They also have been helping us for the last several years in selecting students for scholarships and mentoring them.
When Pianga was informed of Zanei’s situation, he arranged for her to enter the Helen Lowry school in Aizawl, a respected English medium high school. He also arranged for a family to give her a home while she was studying in Aizawl. When we saw her, Zanei had already moved to Aizawl, and the picture shows her proudly wearing her new uniform.
After speaking with Remmi’s brother and sister, Pianga has, at his own expense, taken her into his house to live with his wife and family. Even if she were to fail this year because of the grief she is still suffering, Pianga will let her stay for another year to try again.
My friends, Liz and I have been deeply touched by much that has happened to us since we began this work, not the least by some of the most generous donations you have given for our refugee friends. But I must say it is deeply gratifying to see refugees like Pianga, voluntarily reaching into themselves to find resources to help their people.
We have prepared a calendar of activities for our stay in Asia, and I will surely share some of it with you in a later enote. But one person reading it said it made her tired just to read it, and I am too tired to rehearse it now. Suffice it to say we are looking forward to a busy, interesting, and productive eight weeks in Thailand.