Enote 52 – Kudos for a favorite couple

March 16, 2009

Dr Cynthia Celebrates:Tom & Cynthia

I am writing this enote from a Bangkok hotel on our last day before returning home. Since our last message we have finished our work in Mae Sot, taken a holiday in Burma (our very first official trip to that country, the source and subject of our concern for many years), said our goodbyes and finished our business. 

Last month, Dr. Cynthia celebrated twenty years of work at the Mae Tao Clinic. She was gracious in extending her thanks to Liz and I and our organization for helping her in the early days and in continuing to support her school since we started it in 1997. The picture at right shows me receiving an award at the ceremony.

The Last Interview:

On our last day in Mae Sot all of our usual places visited, our celebration for alumni and seniors finished, having contacted and interviewed all but one or two students, Pannee finally called. Fortunately Tomy Kana was there helping us right at that time, because I was unable to understand a word she said. He took the phone, discovered who she was and was able to tell her that now today was the only chance she had to do her interview because we were leaving the following morning. Could she get to our hotel today? “Well, yes, but was there any one to help translate?” Tomy said if she could not find another, he would be willing to do that. A few hours later Pannee arrived, and Liz called Tomy for help. And so it was that Pannee was able to complete her required interview. 

I returned to find Tomy leaving the hotel after the interview, and he told me that Pannee was a very poor young woman, but very lucky because she had just made the interview at the last possible time and at a time when he could help. I went up to the room and saw Liz who told me the interview was a very emotional experience. The depths of her poverty and her need were very clear to Liz and to Tomy, and after Tomy had left as Pannee herself was leaving, she hesitated at the door, turned around, came back to Liz, and said, “God bless you”. Liz held out her arms, they both embraced and Liz cried. 

Moments like these are our special rewards.

Kudo's from a favorite couple:

Our visit to Burma was largely a tourist trip. We hit some of the usual highlights including Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Inlay Lake and Pago, but we did make a short trip to Thwante to see the work of Curt and Cathy and to visit them in Sagaing. Our friendship with Curt and Cathy goes back to our early days in Mae Sot where they stopped by on a bicycle journey around the world. They met the refugees, became acquainted with their story, and sought to help them in many ways. Eventually they developed a process for making ceramic filters capable of purifying water so that it was safe to drink. 

Curt n CathySince then under the auspices of an organization they founded called Thirst Aid —check it out on the internet, it’s 
worthwhile— they have established five factories in Burma and are starting up another, and have plans for more. Curt and Cathy are retired engineers and Liz and I think they represent the best of what bright, energetic, committed Americans can do in this world of great need. Actually it is a mutual admiration relationship as there following comment shows.

Hi Tom and Liz,
Thanks again for making all the effort to see our projects in Twante and Sagaing – we are truly honored. After you two left Cathy and I were riding back to the project site and we both agreed that you two are perhaps the best role models we could imagine and that you’ve really served as a true inspiration to us since we first met so many years ago. In short, we hope to someday grow up and be just like you! ...
All our best and thanks again,

Thank you Curt & Cathy, we think you are pretty special too. Those interested in Curt & Cathy’s work are invited to look at Thirst Aid.


  • Feb. 20: Visited St. John's Orphanage at Mae Hla and met with two IDP project directors. Visited No Boh.

  • Feb. 21: Visit Maw Kwee & Kler Day and discuss program for next year.

  • Feb. 22: Farewell breakfast with Alyson, Barbara and Janice at Dave's.

  • Feb. 23: Last Day in Mae Sot. Interview with Pannee described above.

  • Feb. 24: To Pitsanulok. Interviewed student nurses at Boromarajonie.

  • Feb. 25: One last student interview then on to Bangkok.

  • Feb. 27: Last day with granddaughter Erin in Bangkok capped with dinner cruise on the river.

  • Mar. 04-13: Vacation trip to Burma.

  • Mar. 14-16: Meetings with Chris summarizing trip.

  • Mar. 17: Return home exhausted by a very long flight. Met in Syracuse by John Novak.

Our best wishes to all of you,

Your day is not finished until you've done someone a favor.