Dear Friend of Shan Refugees,
What an exciting year 2016 was! Six of my former Shan students, all of whom fifteen years ago voiced the wish to “work for their country,” attended the Panglong Peace Conference in Burma (Myanmar) in September. Their photos sent a little thrill of happiness through me. I am so proud of them!
And it is comforting to know that other former students are also working in Burma, some behind the scenes, to ameliorate the wrongs the Shan have endured over the years. They are working to change the world they live in! I recorded many of their stories in my book, “The Shan: Refugees Without a Camp,” and I remember them with great admiration as I look at their photos. The book is available on Amazon or through me.
These fine young people are working toward their dreams but have not achieved them. There is no peace in Shan State. There has been a second Panglong Peace Conference since the one my former students attended (above), yet just this past November “At least ten people, both police and civilians, have been killed and 29 more injured in the fighting across northern Shan State…more than 2,700 Muse Township residents have been displaced from their homes and have taken shelter in four camps in Muse town, a township officer reported.” http://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/at-least-10-people-killed-in-shan-state.html Military attacks also continue in adjacent Kachin State, and the Rohingya Muslim minority has been run out of the country. There is no peace in Burma.
In late 2016, I went to a graduation ceremony for recent graduates to SSSNY, the school where I taught English in 2002 and 2003—an experience that triggered the initiation of our 501(c)3, Schools for Shan Refugees. The 2016 graduates wrote a song about their disappointment with Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, and who ultimately became the State Counselor for Burma, an equivalent position to that of Prime Minister: “I don’t care about your nationhood or where you were born/ I don’t care who or if you worship/ Can you tell bad from good?/ Open your eyes or give back the prize/ swallow your lies, or give back the prize”…..
The Shan continue to hope for better treatment in Thailand. We try to do our share by giving free basic education to their children in migrant workers’ camps. We now have schools in three camps, simple, bamboo shelters where they study English, Math, and Shan, their native language.
The Schools are below (Top to Bottom): Karn Kanook Two School; View School with Yvonne Garcia monitoring; Karn Kanook One School (school party in session); Last photo: With head teachers & clerk.
In the above photo, (Karn Kanook Two), teachers are planning at the back of the classroom. Class hasn’t started yet, but the treats (fruit) are waiting.
Thank you for supporting these fine young people with your donations of money, time, and love.
Among the several people who donated generously with time and money this year were Yvonne Garcia (below, right) and Lin Dimichaelle, (below, left). The kind folk of Unitarian Universalist Church also worked hard on behalf of the children.
By supporting the education of these young Shan people, by giving them the opportunity to learn to read and write, which many of their parents never had, you are making the world a better place for them.
A brief newsletter about trying to keep the mountain Shan warm in cold weather will follow.
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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