Dear Friend of Shan Refugees,
As most of you know, there was another military coup in Myanmar/Burma this month. (https://www.nytimes.com/article/ 2021-myanmar-coup.html) The coup makes our services to Shan migrants caught in Thailand even more essential. They dare not return to their country for any reason for fear of being detained permanently without housing or prospect of employment.
Following is a belated update about our education program for Shan children and youth in Thailand.
That country had better luck containing the coronavirus than we have had, perhaps because Thai residents conscientiously wear masks. Nonetheless, during the height of the pandemic, both Thai schools and our migrant schools were closed for three months. In August, we resumed classes and scholarship programs. Now the virus has once again reared its ugly head and the schools are closed till the situation improves, which should be soon.
The photos below show a roomful of View 17 School students and teachers wearing face masks and shields. At the right, head teacher Ying is directing students who are applying for scholarships.
Scholarships are a lifeline for the students.
In the narrative report for the first half of 2020, SYP, our management organization in Thailand, honored Na Pa Lungnum, who has consistently had the highest grades in View 17 School. Na Pa is one of those students we have supported with small scholarships for much of her school life. Here is a thank you letter she wrote to donors:
Dear teacher Bernice and donors, I am writing to thank you for your generous scholarships. I am deeply appreciative of your support.
I was a student at KKN v.17 and graduated from Wattanothaipayap school. Now I am studying at Chulalongkorn University as a first-year college student. I am currently majoring in science with hopes of becoming a researcher. The financial assistance you provided was a great help to me in paying my education expenses. Thank you again for your generosity and support.
I promise you I will work very hard and eventually give something back to others.
Sincerely, Napa Lungnum
Photo of Na Pa wearing banners teachers bestowed on her to reward recent successes. The Shan believe in “giving something back.” I have no doubt that Na Pa will.
Children playing at View School 17:
The girl at the left side of the photo, Nang Yean, was abandoned by her mother, who was mentally ill, and now lives with her aunt in the migrant camp. Her education during her four or five years of her camp residency has been supported by donations.
Below is a photo of head teacher, Hseng Murng, addressing a Math class. Of all the teachers, he is the most concerned with keeping students entertained. As I observed one of his classes, he said, “Math is not fun; I worry about keeping their attention.” But that is what he does. He keeps their attention, class after class. In the following photo, his back is to the camera. Notice the rapt look on students’ faces.
Not only do your donations help provide an education for students in a population that is plagued by drugs and prostitution, but they provide employment for teachers like Hseng Murng, who recently suffered a motorcycle accident head injury and endured a five-hour brain surgery. He is still recovering. Because of your donations, we have been able to pay his salary during this time. Many thanks!
Bernice Koehler Johnson, Vice President, 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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