Enote 77 – Russell's VisitFebruary 18, 2012
Our son Russell Brackett has been able to join us for a week this year, and we are just completing a very busy schedule of visits in which he met with all of our project directors and in doing so covered a distance of several hundred miles from Bangkok, to Mae Sot, to Mae Hla, Mae Ramat, Mae Salit, Maw Kwee, Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, and finally back to Bangkok to depart for home. The old folks are exhausted, but Russ seemed to thrive on meeting new people, and understanding more about our work.
Our first stop was in Bangkok to visit a program we started about 10years ago called DEARBurma. This program teaches migrant workers in Bangkok who are employed in low level service jobs in the city. To accomodate to their schedules it is open only on Sunday, and it offers several levels of education in Thai, Burmese, English, and Computer applications.
Last year DEARBurmaa had over 900 students, but the floods caused an interruption in service which cut deeply into student attendance. Now after a few lean months the school population is back up to about 700. During the time of the floods the Burmese communiuty was able to be of significant help to the Thai community, thus contributing to improved relations between the Thai and the Burmese. Russ is shown here with Myint Wei the program's director.
After a long (510 km. or about 300 mile) trip we arrived in Mae Sot around 3:30 and shortly thereafter met with Eh Thwa. See her in picture at left with Russ and Liz. Eh Thwa runs the Community Schools Program, a large project supporting over 30 schools in many villages in the IDP areas inside Burma. We started this project with Eh Thwa in 2001 and we support with the help of the Robert Brackett Family Foundation (no relation), about 4 of the schools. Eh Thwa continues to see no direct easing of relations between the army and the indigenous people attendant on the new government ventures, but we were interested to note that some of her schools are becoming recognized by the Burmese government, a precursor to a child being able to attend Burmese schools at higher levels.
The following day we took the 60 km. drive up the border to Mae Hla refugee camp and visited the St. John's Orphanage. Russ met with Saw PoLay, Saw Pee Pee, Tamla and the children studying there. We learned that refugee children are still crossing the border many to seek higher education particularly in the refugee camps. And as a result while people continue to resettle from the camps, the population remains approximately constant. This is happening while those responsible for feeding and sheltering them, facing decreased support from the world community are having to cut their rations. We are not at all happy with this turn of events, but we see it as part of a transition to a keenly hoped for improved situation for the future. And for that we need to make careful plans.
On the way back, we stopped at the Mae Ramat Blessing House run by Hsa Say PoLo. This boarding house was started with the intention to give refugee children a safe home-like place to live while they went to school. This, of course, is the reason many children are filling up the refugee camps. Hsa Say PoLo has done an excellent job in running the house and finding additional means of support, but only about one quarter of the children are actually refugees. We need to encourage greater efforts on her part to help the refugee children.
This covers about half of Russ' week-long trip, but I will save the rest for another note. In closing I want to leave you with our current impressions of the evolving circumstances of our refugee friends.
The refugee society has been broken by many years of civil war, and those fractures have been magnified by a number of factors including continuing systematic abuse by the military government, and less than complete and open welcome by host countries. The re-establishment of a healthy society living in freedom and peace will not come soon nor easily. It is for us to continue make our best efforts to restore the refugees to a peaceful productive life.
- Feb. 11: Russ arrived in Bangkok
- Feb. 12: Visit DEARBurma, and later with Doug Offenhartz
- Feb. 13: Drove to Mae Sot and met with Eh Thwa
- Feb. 14: Visited Mae Hla Camp, Mae Ramat Blessing House, and later with Dr. Cynthia
- Feb. 15: Drove to Mae Sariang and along the way visited with Kler Day teachers, and the Maw Kwee hill-tribe school, that evening had supper with Hoppy and Judy Winfield and Hser Hti Moo
- Feb. 16: Drove to Mae Hong Son and met with Aung Soe Myint, Head of Karenni Department of Education and with Rosie at the Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Center
- Feb. 17: drove to Chiang Mai
- Feb. 18: met with John Littleton to discuss the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh
- Feb. 23: Drove to Bangkok and dropped off parents at Tak who took bus to Mae Sot
Thank you and Best Wishes,