Dear friends of Shan refugees:
Politics and racism have created great injustices in Burma (Myanmar) this year. Persecution of the Shan, Kachin, and Karen ethnic groups by the Burmese military has increased. And military actions against the Rohingya (Muslim) ethnic group have resulted in what “United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres….has described as ethnic cleansing.” Four hundred thirty thousand Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh this year, where they are also unwanted and where they live in abysmal conditions.
If you wish to read further about what is going on in Burma, here are a few websites:
At the same time, the Thai government has cracked down on Shan migrant workers, some of whom have been working without permits. Many have returned to their homes in Burma. The children of those who remain, and whom we have supported for the past years, continue to do exceptionally well.
We are particularly proud of our young Shan teachers, who do excellent work and are dearly loved by their students.
Poung Poung grew up in an agricultural workers’ camp. We had a school in that camp for a while, but she was not allowed to study. She had to take care of her younger siblings, while her parents worked. When she was finally allowed to go to school, she completed twelve years of schooling in just four years. She now teaches at our schools and is studying for the GED, so she can attend university. Here is a photo of her with a few of her students after class.
Teacher Ae Ying says: “When I was in the sixth grade in school, my mother passed away. After my mother passed away, I did my best to stay in school. However, it was so hard because of our financial situation, so I left school in seventh grade and followed my father to Thailand. While living in Thailand for many years as a migrant worker, I did not have a chance to go to school because I had to work to support my family.” Ae Ying got some training with Shan Youth Power, the group I helped my former students start in 2002. Then she started teaching in our migrant camp school. She now attends Payap University in Chiang Mai as well as teaching in our schools. Here is a photo with some of her students.
Two of our teachers call themselves “Ying,” which means “young woman” in Shan. One of the Yings says her name is “just Ying,” and that is the young woman of whom I now speak. Ying grew up in an agricultural workers’ camp and came to my attention when she was a young girl, when one of our teachers told me she excelled in English and that she had written a “perfect” English essay. She got scholarships from us so she could attend high school; received some training with the Shan Youth Power group and taught at our migrant schools for some years. Then she studied for the GED and was accepted into a Nurses’ Training Program at Chiang Mai University. She recently received her nurse’s “cap and pin” which allows her to study and practice on the hospital wards at the same time. She no longer has time to teach, but is supported by the Shan teachers who attended her award ceremony.
Ying Kawn Tai, the second Ying in our program, is one of our head teachers. Like Ae Ying, Ying Kawn Tai was orphaned at an early age.
She worked as a teacher for us in order to make money for university tuition, and is now our only teacher with a university degree. Here she is at work (above) and in a second photo with our male male head teacher, Myo Aung. They are passionate about helping Shan children get an education.
How to help the teachers help the children:
- Cost to attend a migrant camp school for one year: $140.00 per student.
- Cost for uniforms and books for primary students in a Thai school: $30.00 per student. (Most of our students also attend Thai schools during the day.)
- Scholarships for high school and vocational school students are in the amounts of 2,000 baht, 4,000 baht, 6,000 baht and 8,000 baht, depending primarily upon the distance students must travel. Presently, there are approximately 34 Thai baht in one US dollar, so in US dollars they range from about $60.00, to $118.00, $176.00, to $235.00 per student.
If you have been wanting to help the Shan, but haven’t done so yet this year, you may send a check to:
Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc. 2928 Dean Parkway, 3A Minneapolis, MN 55416
Or you can donate through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org
Many thanks for your support over the years.
Bernice Johnson, President Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc.
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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