The political situation in Burma has changed little.
Under pressure from the international community and after comments by Aung San Suu Kyi, the government agreed to stop attacking the Kachin ethnic group—so they said. Reports from Kachin State are that fighting continues. Ethnic groups are asking President Thein Sein to cut funds for the military to stop the killing and abuse.
Several groups Rohingya people from Arakan State have tried to get escape persecution by traveling to Malaysia. Yesterday there were reports that the Thai Army had been colluding with traffickers in Burma to transport workers to Malaysia. Mizzima News reported that more than 949 Rohingya had been held first in southern Thailand before being trafficked to Malaysia.
In Shan State, beatings and rapes continue.
On a more personal level, the Shan children we have assisted continue to thrive. The PiMok Migrant School, which we supported for six years, closed this past winter because the construction workers who lived there had worked themselves out of jobs, having built lovely homes on all of the surrounding land. They and their children have now moved to other worksites, and we started a new migrant school in another construction camp with the money allocated for PiMok. The workers in the new camp are very concerned about their children’s educations, and chose a site for the school first, then built their bamboo huts around it. The new school is a simple platform supported by bamboo poles and with a thatched roof, as are other migrant schools. Here is a photo of some workers’ homes. The workers and their children are thrilled with their new school. A six-year-old Shan boy who attends the school scored 100% on both his Math and English tests last quarter.
I visited the school together with friend Diane, whose Unitarian Church in Victoria Canada, supported the school in 2012. She brought chocolate candy to the students, and I brought them wool stockings knitted by Erika of Sweden and teddy bears knitted by Irish and English ladies. The children were thrilled. The girl with the very wide smile is trying on her stockings into which Erica had knitted a separate “finger” for their big toes. The Shan beauty in red is awaiting her gifts.
Cuddled into the crook of Diane’s arm is the Shan boy who got perfect scores in his Math and English tests. In another photo I am with Ying, the former agricultural camp student we supported with scholarships, who is now a teacher.
Before visiting View School, I had attended the 2012 graduation ceremony for SSSNY, the school where I taught English in 2002 and 2003. The beautiful young man in this photo was also an agricultural camp student whom we supported with small scholarships. He came up to me after the ceremony, pressed his hand to his heart, and said, “My dream, teacher.” (The year before he had told me it was his dream to attend that school.) Then he asked to have his photo taken with me. I could not have asked for a better gift!
Many parents of these beautiful young people are illiterate, but thanks to your generosity, their children often become teachers. The young man at the left is now serving a teaching internship at a Thai school.
Thank you for helping Shan refugees to help themselves!
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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