Start with a smile and open arms

Over the past ten days Global Neighbours and I have visited migrant communities, refugee camps, a number of schools, and of course the students here in Mae Sot furthering their knowledge to take back and share with their communities in Myanmar. I have learned about the fear and distrust these people have of a place they once gladly called home.

2013 December SIAST Work Team

2013 December SIAST Work Team

There is much anger towards the Myanmar government and many broken up families from all the fighting. This fighting caused so many people to flee their land and current lives in search of safety. What they got was not what some would call a home but it’s a place to stay with their families and without war. They left the gun war and are now fighting with the war of poverty. Every day waking up in search of their next meal and in search of some way to get money. Since these people fled they have no citizenship in Thailand, making them unable to get a decent job, also creating difficulty for their children to attend school and health care nearly impossible.

The group attended a clinic that will help these migrant people, they ask for 30 bht, however, if you can’t afford this they will still help you. This clinic was full of amazing inspiring workers who were so dedicated to helping these people. At the clinic you could get anything done from eye surgery, to malaria treatment, and physio for prosthetic limbs. They did everything there, I was amazed to see this because in Canada you have to see a special doctor at a special office for every incident. There are eye doctors, dentists, rehabilitation centers, minor surgery clinics etc., But in the end this clinic that treats everything and anything has to choose because there is no other doctor for these migrant and poor people that have no citizenship.

The truth is it is extremely hard for these people to get a citizenship card. Many of the students in Mae Sot don’t have one, and they are frightened by the police because they could be taken to jail. A couple of the boys told us they had this happen to them. They had to show the police their student card so the police could call their teacher. The teacher then had to bail the boys out for a price. It truly makes you respect your passport and birth certificate after seeing so many people desperately trying to get one so that they too can live in peace.

One of our stops truly hit everyone of us in our hearts. The garbage dump distribution, there was about 110 families living at this dump and we all felt for them. So with open arms and big smiles we gave them enough supplies and food to get by, for a little bit longer. Walking through there I kept asking myself Why? Do they realize the illness they may get? But of course they do, the older ones anyways. Dave reminded me that it feels safe to them, there isn’t any war. I wonder if the children there have seen any different do they know a world that doesn’t involve sorting and searching for things worth keeping. For many of them it’s sad to say the answer is No, they don’t know any other way of life. Some families have lived there for years. I heard a man say he lived there for 15 years.

He showed us his card he paid 350 bht for, that he must present when the police come through. This allows the man not to be forced to leave his homelike many of the other families there. Basically paying rent to live on the rest of the worlds garbage.

So from seeing all these things and much more, I deeply hope for the young generation of these people who are seeking further knowledge ( TPC students, wide horizon etc.) that they soak up all this training and life skills. To return back to a place they once proudly called home with determination, excitement, and new wisdom to pass on to the elders and teach the younger generation. With hopes they will become prosperous in their lives ahead. So that maybe one day Myanmar will live in peace with one another and the people who live there can have freedom and success such as many other people in our great big world.

I knew this trip would be an eye opener but it really has turned my want to help into a need to help. What can I do to help others in our world? Well I have to thank Dave, Heather, Denton, Erin, Coe, and Steph for helping me realize that baby steps count. If you have it in your heart to help start with a smile and open arms. Seize every opportunity to help and be curious to find ways of becoming a positive influence to your community. Always remember the world is bigger than just you, so spread your arms and share your love.

Michelle Ruszkowski