Enote 43 – Forgotten Muslim Children

March 04, 2008

The forgotten Muslim children:

As the situation of the refugees in Thailand and India continues to evolve, and as our work with them changes to adapt, Liz and I are always looking for new persons in need and ways to help them. Below we mention a prospect.Piawan 

Those of you who received our brochure last year will remember Piyawan and her interest in teaching little children. For those of you who have not received our brochure, her picture is shown at the right in her very beautiful traditional Karen dress. She has been able to arrange her college studies so as to have one day each week to teach little children. In our interview with her this year we remembered that she worked with children in Mae Sot, and were interested to visit her project. Fortunately the following day was a school holiday and Piyawan was able to arrange a visit for us. It was there we met the forgotten children.

 

Sister TheresaThe Arakan State lies in southwestern Burma bordering on East Bengal, or what is now known as Bangladesh. It was populated during the British colonial period with Muslims from India. Over the years some of these people spread to eastern Burma, and some came out as refugees and migrant workers into Thailand. These poor people have endured much discrimination by almost everyone in Burma and in Thailand. The children who are the object of Piyawan’s love and affection, are the children of the Muslim community.

Sister Theresa Joy of the Daughters of Charity, who is in charge of the relief project, is shown here among the debris of their waste land community. She has started a small school there and has plans to build a larger one next year. She was delighted to see us, and we both hope that we may find a way to work together in support of the Muslim children.

A new Blessing house near Mae Ramat:

Sah Say Po Lo, the house mother had been talking to us about a new house for her children, for some 
time. Now the Thai owner of the place she had rented for years, wants her to leave, so it was just in time that she was able to get a grant from another source to support a new building. Sah Say Po Lo is shown above with her boys at the old house on the right.

New Boarding HouseLater we were taken to inspect progress on the new house. As the picture shows it is a beautiful new structure. It is located on about one acre of land very close to the school, and it has room for a small vegetable garden and a fish pond. This is the second time one of our boarding house mothers has been able to attract a grant for a new building to support their work. We like to think this is an endorsement of their and our work. Liz and I are, of course, very pleased and look forward to seeing Sah Day Po Lo and her children in the new facility next year.

Malaysia:
As I write this Liz and I have just returned from a short (4 day) vacation in Kuala Lumpur, (KL) Malaysia. For those of you interested in food, this is a very good place to visit. The mixture of many races and religions, seems to have brought food from all over the world. In our own brief visit we saw restaurants from Cuba, Lebanon, India, China, the West (Kentucky Fried Chicken), France, Brazil, as well as traditional Malay. 

Not to be completely at rest, we did visit a Chin refugee community who is having difficulty educating their children. We were exploring any ways we might be able to work with them in their task. We visited two small schools in KL, and talked with the teachers. The Chin Student Organization (CSO) is doing a good job under difficult circumstances, but we found that we probably would not be in a good position to help them. First they are already receiving substantial aid from MCARE, a Malaysian Christian organization, and second the community is quite unstable. All of the Chin in Malaysia, are hoping to resettle in a third country, so they are all transient persons there. We would have no one who we could deal with on a long term basis. So with some reluctance, we decided not to develop a new project there.

Activities:

  • Feb. 08 to Feb. 13: Returned from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai and had student and project interviews.
  • Feb. 09: Met with Chiang Mai alumni for discussion and supper. (These people were not interested in resettlement so we discussed new ways in which the Fund can help students. One idea was to give one or two small awards each year to encourage graduates to create and make application for funding their own projects.)
  • Feb. 13: Met with Sai Yee Tip, and discussed Loi Tai Leng project. He invited us to visit the project and we expect to see it on Mar. 07.
  • Feb. 14: Traveled to Mae Sot.
  • Feb. 14 to Feb. 19: Had student and project interviews.
  • Feb. 17: Barbara (a Trustee Representative), Vanessa (her daughter), Janice (an Australian Thai speaking friend), Cristy (our daughter-in-law and a Trustee of the Fund), and Olivia (her daughter) arrived.
  • Feb. 18: Hope (a resettlement aid of Karen and other refugees in Syracuse, NY) arrived. We were also accompanied by Hoppy and Judy Winfield (a Trustee of the Fund and Trustee Representative respectively.)
  • Feb. 19: Visited Dr. Cynthia’s school, and observed the overcrowding resulting from Burma Army hostilities to the people.
  • Feb. 20: Visited Hsa Say Po Lo’s Blessing house, reported above.
  • Feb. 21: Visa trip to Myawaddy, and talked with Eh Thwa about our cross border work.

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