Dear Friend of Shan Refugees,
With your help, Schools for Shan Refugees had a good 2019! And your generous donations are making it possible for us to maintain the same level of service to Shan migrants and refugees in 2020.
In 2019 we supported three schools with a total of 74 students and gave scholarships to 74 students. We will be doing the same in 2020.
(Photo below courtesy of Yvonne Garcia, SSR board liason: Yvonne and board member Josh Kletschka with students at Poon Yaing agricultural camp, attending a Shan New Year’s gift giving event in Chiang Mai this January.)
Following are a few photos of classrooms and teachers.
In above photos, head teachers Hseng Merng, top, and Ying Kawn Tai, bottom, teach their respective classes.
With guidance from the SSR board, our Schools for Shan Refugees education program in Thailand uses all local staff to teach and administer the program. Most teachers are either graduates of the School for Shan State Nationalities training program, which was started by then-seventeen-year-old Shan activist Charm Tong, shown here with Bernice Johnson.
Some teachers have lived in the camps where they now teach and/or administer our scholarship program. See below for more.
Poung Poung (right) lived in Poon Yaing agricultural camp where we held classes for five years. She was not allowed to study during that time, because she had to care for her younger siblings. When they became self-sufficient, she started school and completed twelve years of schooling in just four years. She is now teaching young Shan students at our migrant schools, while studying for her GED so she can apply for university scholarships.
(Photo: with twin girls in the camp where she grew up.)
Teacher Nong Harn grew up in migrant camp Karn Kanook I, where we have a school and where she now teaches.
One of her students had difficulty learning. He compared himself to other students and became discouraged and no longer attended classes.
Teacher Sai Bee (right) lives with his mother at a construction site. He is studying for his GED, so he can apply for university scholarships. Construction site housing is generally very humble, having fewer amenities than migrant worker camps.
Head teacher, Ying, at right, is in the middle of
this dynamic teaching trio. Ying’s parents died young, so she and her sister helped each other through school until Ying graduated with a degree in English Communications from Payap University
and started teaching for SYP, where she enthralls her students, who are among the most engaged young people I have ever seen.
Teacher Ae Ying is at the left side of this photo.
This is what she said when I asked her why she liked to teach Shan children. “When I was little, it was really hard for me to get an education … I grew up in a migrant community working in Chiang Mai and life was not easy. I received my education from learning centers in Chiang Mai. Now I have graduated from Payap University with a degree in English Communication. I want to share those opportunities with others because I believe that education improves our lives.”
Teacher Jing Boon, at right in photo above, grew up and studied with our school at Poon Yaing agricultural camp and is studying now at Rajhaphat University. She teaches the Shan and English languages and says she likes to teach Shan to the students because even though they don’t live in Shan State they should know their “mother language.”
Mickey Awn, with her parents in photo at right, studied at our agricultural migrant school, graduated and got further training; then she became a migrant school teacher.
She thought she could do more to help her people by becoming a nurse, so she got scholarships and studied at Chiang Mai University. She is shown here with her diploma. We are all proud of her!
Our male head teacher Hseng Merng, in the photo
at right, joined a Buddhist monastery when he was very young and studied there, but he had to leave to work with an uncle. He decided life was too difficult and finally got back into a state school against his mother’s objections, who thought he was too old. This is what he said about those years.
“I had only 2.6 years there [at the school]. I practiced a lot and went from a normal student to class president to team leader to school representative. It changed my mind set and my life. I wanted to continue my education even though it was so hard.” For three years he applied to get into SSSNY before he was accepted. (See Bernice and Charm Tong, top page 3.) He was “absolutely happy” at that time, he said. “I was the one who got a chance to change my world. I will be the one to give a chance to the children. I have worked with Shan Youth Power since 2008, and now I am the migrant school coordinator.”
Your donations have helped both youngsters and older students like Hseng Merng achieve their goals!
Bernice Johnson, Vice President Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc.
If you wish to keep the coffers filled for these young people, you make a donation through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org
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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