Dear Friend of Shan Refugees:
If the above photo looks familiar, it is because this is the same group of Shan students—one year later—that appeared in our last newsletter! Each year we give scholarships to children in this agricultural workers’ camp near Chiang Mai, Thailand. Notice that many of the boys in the front row are wearing purplish blue trousers and pale lavender shirts, their school uniforms. Several of the girls are wearing their red and dark blue uniforms. Many of you have supplied these uniforms through your donations and the resultant scholarships. The scholarships are very small, cover just the cost of uniforms, shoes, and—for the older children—bus transportation to school.
In 2015 we were able to provide scholarships for 78 Shan migrant children. We were also able to provide part- time migrant camp schooling for between 50 and 60 children. Many thanks for helping these deserving, hard- working young people!
In 2016, the Thai baht is valued at approximately 35.2 baht per dollar, so our expenses will be less in US dollars. Below are calculations of scholarship costs They vary from 1,000 baht to 8,000 baht per student weighted according to the child’s age, need, and the distance they must travel to attend Thai schools. (Since my calculator has limited capabilities, I am using 35 baht per dollar below.)
Scholarships (annual amounts):
- 1,000 baht = $29.00
- 2,000 baht = $58.00
- 3,000 baht = $87.00
- 4,000 baht = $116.00
- 6,000 baht = $171.00
6 . 8,000 baht = $232.00
Migrant Camp Schools: We support schools in two migrant workers’ camps, but give scholarships to the
neediest students in four workers’ camps.
In 2016, it will cost 238,840 baht per year, or approximately $6,824 US dollars for the two migrant schools. There are about 60 students in the two schools, so it will cost about $114.00 US per year to send a child to a migrant camp school.
Shan Youth Power (SYP), the group that operates our programs in Thailand used to get money from two other large charities, in addition to the money they got from us.Those charities, like most these days, are now looking for projects in Burma (Myanmar). That has not changed the need of those Shan children whose families lost their land to the Burmese military or who could not make enough money to feed their children in Burma and fled to Thailand.
Because SYP is now funded only by our charity, they had to cut expenses. Only the two young men who do the administrative work, as well as teach, are getting paid. (3,000 baht—less than $100 US dollars—per month for nine months of the year.) The five young women teachers, all of whom are now going to school and teaching in other locations, continue to teach at three migrant camp schools, as volunteers. Imagine that: They each have one or two jobs, go to school, and they teach the migrant children free! Below is a photo of our altruistic and talented teachers. (The young man standing at the far right teaches at a different school. Notice that we “tall” subjects stand in the back row!)
So our projects and the students in Thailand thrive, but what about Burma?
- By now you likely know that Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), took most of the parliamentary seats in the recent election. The present constitution does not allow her to become president, but she has vowed act as president through her political party. http:// www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/world/asia/after-victory-in-myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi-quietly-shapes-a- transition.html
- Former and present Shan students are skeptical about whether or not Suu Kyi’s government will improve conditions for the Shan, who have recently been under attack by the Burmese military: http:// www.irrawaddy.org/burma/102237.html
- Another area that does not look promising is the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/19/world/asia/myanmar-election-rohingya-muslims.html
If you wish to donate at any time, you may send a check to me at: Bernice Johnson, Schools for Shan Refugees, 2928DeanParkway,3A,Minneapolis,MN 55416. The only charges we have ever incurred are those levied by the bank. The board pays all other expenses,which means that 99.9% of all donations go directly to the children. You can also donate through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org
Bernice Johnson, Director Schools for Shan Refugees www.shanrefugeeschools.org
Photo below: With board member, Josh Kletschka, at scholarship ceremony in Thailand.
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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