Enote 70 – Closing

February 24, 2011

Dear Friends,

It is great to be back in Mae Sot, our Asian home, and enjoying a somewhat slower pace of life. Mae Sot was the center of refugee activity when we first arrived in 1992, and remains a very active community of NGO work, as refugees continue to leave Burma now months after the elections. Dr. Cynthia told us that although the Thai have tried to stop the flow, an estimated ten thoussand newly arrived families, are now living along the Thai border. She is preparing to expand her orphanage yet again to meet the seemingly ever increasing need. One story, not yet published, but confirmed, by Cynthia; Pastor Robert, leader of the Karen Refugee Committee; and Shelia Aye, a worker for the UNHCR; tells of a group of about one thousand refugees that were forced back into Burma. It is said that thirty of those returning were killed by the Burmese army.

Saikhum:

We mentioned in the last enote that despite our extremely limited funds we were persuaded to help poor children from Saikhum village, India buy school uniforms. On last Friday we got emails expressing delight from the children in receiving their new school uniforms. Here is one: "I wanted to let you know that I had he great pleasure of being present when the school clothes you donated to the Saikhum village children were distributed. It was great fun to watch as Mr Nokap made a speech to the children and one by one their names were called. All were in a festive mood. As the children went forward to receive their new clothes from our nurse and village committee they could not contain themselves and all changed into their new clothes right on the spot. They all looked just fine and after pictures they proudly went back to their homes looking quite handsome. Thank you for your kind thought. It was a very special thing and much appreciated." Pictures on left and right show the children putting on the new uniforms, and celebrating their new look.

Karin Culture School:

Karen DrumPayment

We support about ten schools in the IDP areas of Karen State, but one is different. In fact we were told that it may be unique. We call it the Traditional Karen Culture School. It is located in an area of Karen State which has been set aside as a Community Forest to protect it from unhealthy environmental practices. Like the area in which it is placed, this school tries to protect Karen culture from the ravages of war, well meaning foreigners and resettlement which threaten its survival. It teaches, in addition to the usual curriculum for that area, traditional Karen religion, writing in the ancient script, music, dance, and legends. We are very happy to be the only supporters of this unique school. The picture on the left shows a Karen drum. These now rather rare objects made from metal, have been used for many, many years and are recognized by every Karen as a symbol of their identity. On the right we see a teacher receiving her pay at our school.

Meeting with Cynthia and CDC teachers:
MeetingTReps at work

We were happy that Dr. Cynthia could spare some time from her very busy schedule to visit with us and share some remberances of old times. After some discussion about how her work has changed, we saw her need for a hospital administrator. Any retired hospital administrators out there, who still have energy and committment? Let us know.

We also met with the leaders of her teaching team at the CDC, see picture at left. Last year you may recall, we had introduced the idea of a scholarship for a student who could gain entrance to the nearby Rajapaht. The idea was discussed but not acted upon. This year however the teachers were much more receptive to our ideas, and expressed enthusiasm for the offer. Of course this year we have less money and we hesitant to make any committment. Liz came up with a solution which involved redirecting some of our other support for the CDC to a scholarship.

The photo on the right shows our TReps from the right Alyson, Janice and Barbara, interviewing a student candidate on far left with the aid of an interpreter whose back is to the camera. We see them evert day while we are together in Mae Sot, and they are always a pleasure to be with. Always looking for more help!

Activities:

  • Feb. 15 Departed Chiang Mai for Mae Sot..
  • Feb. 16 Bank business, and visited with Do Mo to discuss Tay Mu Der schools.
  • Feb. 17 Met with Eh Thwa to discuss Community Schools Program.
  • Feb. 18 Dinner with Aung Win Shwe and Shelia Aye.
  • Feb. 19 TReps Alyson, Barbara and Janice arrive.
  • Feb. 20-21 Student interviews.
  • Feb. 22 Visa trip to Burma unsuccessful. Border closed..
  • Feb. 23 Visa extension, Meet with CDC teachers, Cynthia. Alumni Party.
  • Feb. 24 Met with Mae Sot Study Grant Committee.
  • Feb. 25 Visit Mae Hla, Saw Biset, Saw Polay. Also Mae Ramat Blessing House and Naw Hsa Say Polo.
  • Feb. 26 Attended Maw Kwee Closing Ceremony. Visited Kler Day teachers.

Soon on to a short trip to Vietnam and then home.

Best Wishes to all of you,

Tom

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