New Project Thailand/Burma (Myanmar)
Education is the way out of poverty
LifeOptions is a humanitarian organisation with a passion for basic human rights. The right to clean water, safe dwelling, lifelong learning and lots of love
A young family has approached us to support them in “educating their Karen home village” in Burma, just over the border from Tha Song Yang, 90 km north of Mae Sot.
To be safe from the ongoing and constant military conflict, they truly believe to be “savvy” and better understand the political issues, they need to educate themselves in the way of the world.
They long for peace and respect. Whilst Aung San Suu Kyi is in power and is working to develop Myanmar into a more stable country, she has no power over the military. She has fought tirelessly for democracy in Myanmar, resulting in her own imprisonment for many years.
A Brief History of the Karen Hill Tribes.
The Karen people originally came from Tibet many centuries ago and settled in what is now Myanmar & Thailand; mainly in the Myanmar mountains near today’s border.
After the takeover of the government in Burma in 1948 by the military, persecution of the hill tribes started in January 1949. So, because of the persecution and the armed conflict, whole villages were burnt down, and many of the occupants of all ages and both sexes were slaughtered and the tribesmen fled for their lives.
Thailand was the nearest country for many of these refugees and, around Mae Sot, the border is the Moei River, not impossible to cross. However, this did not leave the refugees in a safe and comfortable situation. They were not wanted in Myanmar, nor where they wanted by the Thais. As recently as June 2016, the Thai Prime Minister and Aung San Suu Kyi met in Bangkok to discuss the refugee situation and issued a joint statement saying that both countries were determined to repatriate all the refugees as soon as possible. 90% of the refugees in Thailand are members of one of the various Karen hill tribes.
In September, 2016, 94 families began the repatriation process but, within a month, it already appeared to be a failure, as predicted by many!
La Refugee camp was founded in 1984 outside Mae Sot, there were 1,100 occupants initially but now there are 50,000, it is the largest camp in Thailand.
It is run by the TBBC, a union of 11 international NGO’s.
A message from Denise
LifeOptions, under the direction of Gary Love and me, has been operating in the western world for 35 years to support families in identifying how they wish to live, and how to develop the skills they need to be strong in their commitment to their family choices.
Gary has senior management skills, and I am a Registered Nurse in Australia with a Master’s in Nursing. I worked with the indigenous people of Australia 43 years ago when that community had only known “westerners” for 10 years. I have continued working as nurse in many different environments and, over the past 28 years, have worked as a Birth Consultant to many organisations, established Doula Training in Australia, and consulted to 3 major hospitals in Bangkok (implementation of World Health Organisation’s “Baby Friendly” status and uninterrupted birth). I currently consult to a Cambodian non-profit organisation called Women’s Health Cambodia, run by local midwives.
Two separate but complementary groups of young Karen people, who are organising support for the Karen villages they grew up in in remote areas, have captured our interest. They are growing organically, and are determined to offer sustainable appropriate education, and medical & village skill building support.
As an Australian registered charity (LifeOptions Inc. NSW CFN/21718) we support the work of social change organisations in developing countries. We have been mostly self-funded, but are most grateful to an amazing group of people from Australia and around the world who support us with funding regular amounts.
Myanmar/Burma is calling.
There are currently (November 2016) thousands of internally displaced people in Burma, as they choose to call the country, and my particular interest is in the Karen people. Gary and I used to run a school from our home in Bangkok for many of the Karen children there who are stateless. Min, our Karen House Manager, helped us to run the school and educated us in the challenges her people face. More recently, a wonderful young Karen man and his family reached out to us to support him in enhancing life in the region of his home village, just across the border in Northern Thailand. Following a visit to the Maw Poe Kay school, we feel compelled to support their education initiatives. There is a vague health service…. mobile health service erratically throughout the year for vaccination. Otherwise, people need to try to cross the border in a boat illegally for medical help in a remote village……. inadequate to say the least.
What excites me is that it is like beginning with a blank canvas…. wonderful traditional thoughts and attitudes. Self-sufficiency beyond belief and a committed, visionary elder who has given everything to establish an education centre.
They are aiming towards self-sufficiency, growing organic food, raising poultry, and the 70 children who live in the education complex do all the work relating to the care of the facility, cooking and cleaning…
It is our intention to honour the systems already in place and support them in the supply of rice, which they cannot grow, to maintain a stable and safe environment to attend school, to provide teacher education, and establish a health care program for the children & teachers.
Watch a recent account of the Karen community situation near the river (border) close to Mae Sot.
Transport across the river from Thailand to Burma
Principal - half salary
$ 200 per month to enhance a very small salary
6 teachers, who act as house parents, cooks, maintained, building, growing food, attending animals,
$ 300 per month to add to their salaries.
One girl’s dorm where the animal’s live underneath
$250 Some fencing and animal stalls
Improving boys dorm
$2,500 required to build a safe space
Simply building for them to sleep $2000
$250 Solar panel
$500 Volunteer Housing, Teacher x 2, nurse x1 Midwife x1
$200 per month for housing etc.
This is in a safe area of the Karen State, but it is a dynamic country (recent armed conflict one hour away). We need strong brave people to share their hearts, skills and capacity for adventure.
We cross the river by boat (not so legal) and there is a Thai town to return to on weekends.
We are 90 km, north of Mae Sot…. a visa crossing place. A well establish town with good food and coffee……import issues!
Capacity building to Teachers have mostly competed high school (year 10), but no teaching qualification
Offer wellbeing children’s checks, treatment and referral
Offer English classes, as education and opportunity are the way out of poverty
Address gender issues as they are identified by the community
Capacity build the whole of a community to move toward the direction they choose to lead their lives
Offer safe living environment whilst the village always feels vulnerable to military intervention
Enhance the lives of village people under their own direction
Support the traditional birth attendants
Enhance antenatal and postnatal care
HIV Aids testing and offer treatment
Mentor men in women’s equality and change to enhance family life
Reduce domestic violence
Inform of risk of human trafficking
Clean water and sanitation
Following our successful track record of our model of village-driven capacity building and health education in Cambodia, we will share thoughts and skills further:
By living in the community, developing a deep understanding of the lives, needs and wants of a community serviced only by volunteer health workers
Directed by the community, mentor and clinically support the implementation of changes requested
Maintain really clear motives of sustainability and capacity building
When objectives of the project are achieved, encourage obvious leaders to share their skills within the village and outreach work to other villages
We stand beside (this is a major difference) the people in rural villages to develop kindness to the families they serve, safe practices and skills, and support them in identifying the needs of the people in the communities they serve. We do not see ourselves as educators but skill sharers.
Volunteer Support Program
We cannot do this without your help
Anybody and everybody with a passion for change with capacity to accept things the way they are, not push western standards, and allow spiritual beliefs in the village to continue as they are.
School Human Resources & Financial Support
Parents in this region have identified the need to educate their children, although it is challenging for families to free their children for school. Most families have many children to add to their work force. When a child attends school, then younger siblings are lacking carers, and the family is short of hands to grow food.
It has become clear that if we can educate children at the beginning of life in all aspects of health and nutrition, and give them the opportunity to learn and grow life skills, then Karen villages will change and grow stronger. We work in a very corrupt society, so also establishing a feeling of integrity, honour and trust is a starting place for inner and community health.
Building Capacity of Village People
We have found parents attend many of the classes, and we will build on the opportunity to learn. English is required as well as Thai and Myanmar national languages….we need volunteers. I have a simple to follow teaching program. Many men are despairing. There is no work. There is little or no money for many families, and if they are lucky enough to grow rice, it is not enough.
Many leave their families to join the Karen Army to protect their families and villages.
Many people don’t have transport at all. There is no access to health care and food is in short supply. We will try and get a small vehicle for transport.
Sanitation and Water Project
Lack of toilets leads to problems with health for children. Diarrhoea continues to be the big killer, along with mosquito borne disease. Whilst there are a few wells, clean drinking and cooking water continues to be a major cause of ill health.
As donations come for toilets, we are working toward each family having a toilet. The family prepares the ground and digs the hole, a builder works with the home owner to construct the toilet.
Hand washing stations within the schools to really enhance habitual hand wash, reducing all sort of disease.
Anti human trafficking
the poorer a country the more vulnerable its people are to trafficking. Our plan is to support older children through youth forums to develop skills to share information with others about the dangers of being offered jobs “that are too good to be true”. Our adults and children need this information so they can better understand how to protect themselves and others around them. Lateral thinking and strategic planning in their lives will help them to address ways to avoid military action and peaceful independence in life.
Our children have very little. Many have very few clothes. They don’t have enough food, and live with worms, no shoes and work hard to support the family. Anything you can give to help them grow into strong, caring adults would be amazing!! 1 in 7 do not live to age 7. Many die in the first 6 weeks of life, and many don’t make it to their 2nd birthday. There is no medical help
Want to help?
Have a fund-raising event! Talk to your local organisations that support projects
Corporate sponsorship. Monthly direct debit…. if every person that I knew offered $10 per month, we could fulfil all the dreams of education and safe birth we are being asked for.
$1 feeds a hungry family with a new baby for a day.
Mini black board for each child to have to write on
$2 builds a simple hand washing station outside a family toilet (diarrhoea kills our young children)
a cake of soap to hang from the washing station
$5 lunch and dinner for 70 children at the school where they live away from their families
$10 buys bananas and 1 egg for each child at school each day for the week
4 mosquito nets to avoid Dengue fever or Malaria……big killer in the community
Supplies for safe birthing practices
$25 feeds a very poor family for a month with a new baby to give the mother and baby and chance of survival…. we work with very poor rural families
$30 builds a toilet to ground level for one family.
$80 teacher’s salary…. our teachers work as house parents and cook and cleaner as well
4 walls on a poor family tiny dwelling
$130 Supplies medication for poor people in a community for basic care
$150 well and water pump. We have a huge water shortage. Supplies new roof to a small dwelling.
$500 Solar panel for many things
$1000 Bathroom for 2 dormitories and teachers
$2000 sleeping room for teachers
$2500 A dormitory for 35 boys
$5000 a second-hand vehicle
SWIFT code ANZBAU3M (for donors outside Australia)
a/c no. 250001495
Please reference “Burma” in your contribution