Dear Friends of Shan Refugees:
Things are changing fast in Burma. In November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest (after being confined to her home and yard for 15 years); in the spring of 2012, she was elected to Burma’s Parliament. Since then, she has collected human rights awards around the world, including the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991, and the US Congressional Medal of Honor. That said, the human rights situation is bad in Burma.
Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State continues; those who flee to nearby Bangladesh are turned back. Burma will not grant them citizenship, although they and their ancestors have lived in that country for 300 years. In Kachin State, there is all-out warfare between the ethnic minority and the Burmese military, which seems to be self-governed. Ceasefire treaties with ethnic groups are ignored.
According to the Shan Herald Agency for News in Chiang Mai, approximately one thousand Shan each month still flee to Thailand for refuge. We must continue to support the education of Shan children and youth until there is true peace in Burma. You may read more at this website.
The good news is that the Shan State children we support in Thailand continue to excel! Below is a photo of some of the youth we support with bus scholarships. Schools in their area are only through 6th grade, so to complete their education they must travel farther, and bus fares are expensive. Their scholarships were $260 each in 2012. Younger students in this program get scholarships that cost just $20 per year, enough to buy several school uniforms, shoes, and books. (Photos of the younger children were in an earlier newsletter.)
The PiMok migrant school we supported for six years in a migrant construction workers’ camp had to be moved this year because the workers built fine homes around the shacks they lived in until there was no room left for them. See photo of new school at left (desks await repair.) Cost to operate this part-time school for 20 children is approximately $300 per month.
I leave for Thailand November 1st, so if you’ve been planning to donate to Schools for Shan Refugees but haven’t yet done so, it would be helpful if you could donate by October 22 so I can figure out how to allocate money for the 2013 budget and wire it to Thailand. The cost to wire money to Thailand (approximately $36) is more than the cost of a scholarship for a young child, so I try not to do it more than once each year.
Many thanks for your continued support! Education lessens the allure of drugs and prostitution for refugee children.
Dear friends of Shan Refugees:
Conditions in Burma are abysmal. The military is waging open warfare against people protesting the takeover of their country. It is not just the protesters who are in danger: Loi Kaw Wan, an encampment of Shan displaced persons, on the urma/Thai border north of Chaing Mai, has been shelled and residents cannot farm their land for fear of attack.
In the past, we supported six orphans at this site, and I am deeply saddened by the plight of their people. https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-military-artillery-shells-explode-near-shan-idp-camps. Below photo is with young women who lived at this encampment.
You can read more about the military coup here:
The Burmese military blocked internet service for more than a month. When they still had it, a former student wrote simply, "Scared, Teacher."
NEWS FROM THAILAND AND OUR EDUCATION PROGRAMS:
Thailand is having a resurgence of COVID cases, and only 1% of the people have been vaccinated.
Our schools have been closed for some weeks and are tentatively scheduled to reopen in early June. When in session, they accomplish amazing things. Here is some information we gleaned from the last report from Shan Youth Power, SYP, which manages the education
programs, wrote about several outstanding students. She studies as Secondary level, grade at Nawamin Payap High School. Nong Tida always has a passion for working at social work organizing, and leading the students in the community for activities
such as organizing reading books, decorating the school to be clean, leading the students for environment activity, encouraging the community to reduce plastic by collecting the money and buying plates, spoons for using in community, such as birthday party. She always happy to join social activity workshops or camps that are provided by Shan Youth Power. She has a strong heart to help the community and wants to see migrant people have better future.
Nong Tida may not be outstanding in language skills such as English but she is an excellent in social work. In SYP, we are not just developing in academic studies, we guide them to be who they are, to follow their dreams. We believe people have different talents, which means that although we cannot be outstanding in everything, at least we do good for people, for society.
Noung Shwe Kyar is one of the outstanding students from KarnKanook2 Migrant School. She has been studying at Chiang Mai Vocational College as a first-year student in Design, academic year 2020.
Her words: I am one of the students who has received a scholarship from Bernice [ie, Schools for Shan Refugees]. I got scholarship since elementary school until grade-9. I knew about this scholarship from one alumni student who is living in the same camp with me. We learned at Migrant school together. I thought that I had difficult circumstances and my family had very low income. This scholarship can provide for food expenses at school or tuition fee. And volunteer teachers from Shan Youth Power also come to teach at our camp. Therefore, I got the scholarship. The difficult thing I have faced is the cost of passport and visa extension fees. There are 4 people in my family and we all are using passports as well... this year there is an additional blood test and covid-19 test. Due to Covid-19 pandemic many people had lost their jobs and it is hard to find a job.
My mom works as a housecleaner during this period it hard for her to get a job too. Especially, if you are migrant workers. Because some employers are afraid of migrant workers. They think that they will get infection with Covid-19 from migrant workers.
For example, we went to clean in a house but they did not want us to enter the house. As for my father, in the past he had many jobs and it was easy to get a job to work. Now, there is not many jobs like before so, it is hard for him to get a job too. And he has to work to pay for food day to day and no savings. In the past, migrant workers like us wouldn't study until high school. They would only study till middle school then start to work. [Our program is extending the education of Shan youth.]
We are completing a report about our teachers—five of whom were migrant camp students and got scholarships from us, some, like Nong Shwe Kyar, for as many as nine years. I will forward it soon.
In the meantime, we are hoping to keep the schools and scholarship programs afloat. We are ever so grateful to those of you who have donated. That money is in safekeeping until the education programs resume. If you have not donated this year and wish to do so, scholarships range from $30.00 per year for elementary students to $100, $200, and $300 per year for older students, attending vocational schools. Donations can be made through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org OR you may write a check to Schools for Shan Refugees and send it to
Mary Worner , Treasurer
28424 Water Street Road, Underwood, MN 56586
Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Underwood for their continued support in the form of an annual grant. We are grateful. The Shan youth are grateful.
If we remain COVID free into fall, we plan to hold a 3-course Shan dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis. Hold the date: Saturday, October 9!
Bernice Johnson, Vice President Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc.
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