Dear Friends of Shan Refugees:
There was a shocking incident in Burma after I wrote to you last week: Prominent Muslim lawyer, Ko Ni, was killed by a hit man at the Rangoon Airport. Ko Ni was an advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy. He had been pushing for ways to change the constitution so that the military would play a lesser role in the government than is allocated to them now (25% of the parliamentary seats). https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/world/asia/myanmar-ko-ni-lawyer-constitution-military.html? _r=0
Aung San Suu Kyi has remained silent on the murder, which makes one wonder whether she, too, fears for her life.
In Thailand: Our efforts to keep the Shan children, who live in the hills, warm on cold winter days. When someone gives me cash and says, “Use it wherever you need it,” that money goes to the clothing fund. (All other donations are used for education.) Here is a report on this year’s project, which we held on Christmas
Day, after a delicious meal of Shan noodles prepared by the teachers.
My friend, Linda DiMichaelle, of the UK visited me for three weeks. (See photo above.) She brought a large suitcase full of scarves, gloves, and hats with her, as well as money her UK friends had donated to buy more.
The teachers and Linda and I (though I wasn’t much good) went to Warorot Market on the Ping River and bought 100 sets of pajamas/sweat suits in assorted sizes and 20 blankets for the older children. I had just recovered from a bout of bronchitis, so I pooped out early and drank coffee, sitting by the river, while Linda and three of the teachers (Poung Poung, Jing Boon, and Kham On) continued shopping. Word spreads quickly when clothing will be distributed, and there were many more children than we had anticipated. I am the white blob in the background at top, wondering whether we had enough warm things. (We did not.)
We started (as always) with the little children, because I think they suffer most from the cold. I read the anxious look on their faces as wondering, “Is there enough for me?” Yes, we had enough for all the little ones, but ran out with the thirteen-year-olds, who were gracious about playing paper, rock, scissors for the last blanket.
Many thanks to all of you who helped to keep these Shan children warm during the chilly winter months. They are grateful and so are we!
Bernice Johnson, Director Schools for Shan Refugees
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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