Jan work tour [14.Jan.2008]
Excitement builds as the January and February work teams are getting set to leave for Thailand. The concrete is being poured for the migrant school construction, plywood is on ordered for the desk construction and the teaching teams are preparing materials for their teaching program. The team members have done an excellent job of raising funds for our projects. Thank you to all our contributors. We will keep you posted during the work tour.
Flood of new migrant workers [17.Jan.2008]
The economic crisis in Burma has forced more migrant workers many illegal to enter Thailand recently, according to labor rights groups.Moe Swe, the head of the Yaung Chi O Workers Association based in Thailand, said more Burmese are entering Thailand through Mae Sot in Tak Province in northwestern Thailand.There is no way to determine how many illegal entries have occurred, he said, but anecdotal evidence suggests a marked increase.About 200 Burmese enter Thailand legally each day through the Mae Sot border bridge. We can say more migrant workers are coming because we can see the factory workers, Moe Swe said. Now most of workers are new people and many of them are from Rangoon. The Burmese workers who were here before are mostly going to Bangkok to find other jobs.Most Burmese migrants in Mae Sot work in knitting and garment factories where they earn a daily wage of 35 baht (US $1.05) to 80 baht.Illegal migrants in Mae Sot frequently pay smugglers to take them to Bangkok, for fees ranging from 8,000 baht ($241) to 15,000 baht. Likewise, many new Burmese migrant workers are believed to be entering Thailand through Kanchanaburi Province about 110 km west of Bangkok and by sea to locations in southern Thailand. San Hla, a labor right worker with the Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development program, said Burmese also enter Thailand illegally by sea in boats which take about four hours to arrive in Kuraburi District in Phang Nga Province of southern Thailand. Bu Poe, a young mother who is now looking for a job in Bangkok, has entered Thailand illegally three times. In her fist trip, she came with five friends. They hid in the forest in Sankhlaburi District in Kanchanburi Province before going to Bangkok. They were smuggled into Bangkok in a car, hiding under a plastic covering. We almost stopped breathing it was so hot, she said. In her second trip, she came with a female friend hidden in the trunk of a car. On her third trip, she arrived with 14 other migrants all laying down in a tight space in a truck covered by a plastic sheet. For now, I will not go back to Burma until my baby is grown, because the journey is very difficult, she said. According to Bu Poe, most illegal migrants pay around 11,000 baht ($332) to 13,000 baht ($392) to be smuggled from Kanchanaburi into Bangkok. It is not uncommon for migrant workers to be killed or seriously injured as they attempt to enter Thailan. Many boats are not sea worthy. In December, Thai marine police discovered 22 bodies of Burmese migrant workers in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand. However, new Burmese migrant workers will continue to come to Thailand in hope of a job and a legal work permit, Moe Swe said.According to one labor rights group, there are an estimated 1 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. About 500,000 are legally registered.
Jan 08 tour Day 1 [29.Jan.2008]
We are into our second day of our Jan. 08 tour to Thailand. We have 14 members on our team which are divided into three teams. The ladies are on an interactive teaching program. They are doing a puppet show as an introduction and then divide into smaller groups. One has a craft in which they make sock puppets, another is a singing group. In this group the children also teach Karen songs to teachers. The other group plays outdoor games with the children. The second group is building a Migrant School. The November team started with two class rooms. Our current group is building another two classrooms and the Feb. group will complete the structure with the last two classes. The school will accommodate around 100 students. The funds for the classrooms that we are currently building have been donated by the folks from the River Church in Edmonton. The final classrooms are paid for by the Feb. team fund raising efforts. We appreciate all of the people who make it possible these projects become a reality. The third team is building 100 desks in our rented work shop in Mae Sot. Please check our website to see pictures of our teams in action. One of the benefits of taking people into this area is to see the response of each of the travelers. Paw Ray told us that Tuesday was World Children's Day. There will be two thousand migrant children at Hsa Thoo Lei. One our men asked if he could buy the ice cream for the event. Another is interested in setting up a scholarship program so some of the students can attend a university in India. I took a group to Mae La Camp yesterday to deliver some supplies and to make arrangements for our Friday visit. This was the first visit to a refugee camp for all of them. After returning they shared with me the feeling the experience had left them with. They couldn't understand why the world would allow people to be in this state of hopelessness for all these years. Another asked about the future of all the children. I don't have the answers, but hopefully if enough people see and hear something can be done. I will send more updates as the week progresses. Thank you for be a part of our experience as we help the migrant children in Mae Sot and area.
GNCI responds to the needs of the landfill families [ 2.Feb.2008]
One of the most shocking experiences each of us experience on our work tour is the situation at the Mae Sot dump. There are over 50 families making a living from the small income they derive for rummaging thorough landfill. They sell plastic and other recyclables for a few Baht. Their homes are built right on top of the huge pile of smelly refuse. We purchased rice, oil and vegetables for the entire community. It was only a short term solution, but judging by the smiles on their unwashed faces, it was worth it! The work portion of our tour is almost complete. The desks are built and the Migrant School construction needs only a few final touches. The desk delivery as well as the ribbon cutting will happen on Monday with the farewell barbeque to finish the final day. The tour group visited an orphanage in Mae La Refugee Camp yesterday. The unusual January rain that fell made climbing the steep slopes in the camp quite difficult. We purchased several cases of Ma Ma noodles which they had requested earlier in the week. This will be a welcomed change from the regular diet of rice. After the camp tour, we spent the night in a near by Karen village. We were welcomed by three ladies who cooked a delicious Karen meal for us as well as our guide, Thoo Na. This morning we traveled to a primitive village to drop off supplies of clothing and flip flops. We pasted by one hut and notice a crying mother holding a sick child. The child had red spots and had a high fever. We asked if they would like to join us to a hospital with in an hour of the village. She said she would not be comfortable leaving with us. My guess is that she had never been in a car before. We canceled the waterfall excursion and left for the clinic with a close up photo of the mother and child. The two doctors said it was measles. They were suggesting that the child may be in grave danger because of the very congested chest. We were asked bring the mother and child to the hospital. I asked if we could bring some medication in the event that she would come with us. After arriving at the village the head villager said that it was not necessary for her to got to the clinic. We brought out the meds, but another lady sat at the entrance of the hut and said that she could not take them because of their animistic belief system. They thought that the evil spirits had brought this on and that nature would take care of it. We could hear the mother crying inside, but could do nothing about it. Another young man was sitting at a distance and said his wife was also sick and would like to the medication that was denied to the first lady. Two other children in a near by hut were also very sick. It broke our heart to leave them, but we tried our best. Each day brings us to unexpected experiences and a new appreciation for our good life at home. It has been great to see the travelers respond impulsively to the needs that are presented to us each day. Thank you to each of you for helping us make this possible!
The Forgotten World (the bitter sweet) [14.Feb.2008]
February 12th Mae Sot Today was a day of incredible emotions for our team. The first part of the day, the larger part of the work team went to work with vigour, building the desks for the school. The construction boys and the teaching team headed out to a rural school. The teaching team met with yet another wonderful group of children, some shyly smiling, some afraid to meet your gaze, but all respectful and eager to take part in the activities. A real highlight for the singing group came when a suggestion was made that the children sing a Karen song for us. Talk about sing like angels! Those children sang with a soulful ness that brought out goose bumps. We thought that they would like an opportunity to ask questions about Canada and our lives there. One girl in particular asked us question after question with such intellect and curiosity. Her final question to us was, Is there a war in Canada? When we responded that there hadn't been war in Canada in much more than a hundred years, every child in that class room breathed out a sigh of longing. The group of us knew that today was the day to take the clothing, supplies as well as a huge supply of cabbages, cucumbers, oil and 100-pound bags of rice to the migrant families who live at the garbage dump. Nothing could have prepared us for what took place. As we drove along the littered road leading to the dump it seemed not unlike the road leading to the dump in Prince Albert. Suddenly, in the distance we spotted the massive mound of garbage, and unbelievably we could see the huts almost flapping in the breeze. As we approached the school building we could see the clusters of people standing waiting for us. The two vans pulled in and we started hauling boxes, suitcases filled with clothes, toothbrushes, shampoo, and all the food into the school. The school was a really just a single room, concrete floor, with a few openings to let in air and light. And the name of the school, mounted above the doorway-Blue Sky School. As we organized the food and supplies the excitement mounted among the people waiting. The very second we gave the go ahead they streamed in, babies in their arms, toddlers and children of all ages, mothers and fathers. We were shocked by the filthiness of many of these people. It was almost a competition for the clothing and various hair clips and barrettes, and we could't help but think that these girls were not so different than our daughters, just wanting to be pretty. It seemed mere moments and the school was emptied of all we had brought. Everything was gone, including the cardboard boxes we carried in holding the supplies. Many of us took a walk through the dump to have a look at this place in which these most unfortunate people make their homes. The horror of their lives really struck home as we walked through the dump. How could this happen to human beings? The stench, the filth, the skinny dogs wallowing like pigs in the muck almost more than could be comprehended. One hut stood out there in the middle of such desolation . A mother, father and two small children lived there. The garbage had been cleared away, and although blankets and tarps served as walls, what little they had was neatly stacked and stored, the parents and both children were clean and shiny. How that could be accomplished while literally living in a garbage dump is a miracle in itself. As we drove back to our hotel, the silence in the van attested to our state of mind. That evening we headed over to the orphanage. We felt like visiting royalty as we walked into the gym. Special seats had been set out for us at the front facing the rows of seats for the students and teachers. We were treated to a concert with those beautiful young voices that we would have paid to hear. Between songs several students told us their stories. They were not easy stories to hear. A little girl wept as she told us about her home being burned and her parents ,well who knows, she simply couldn't finish the tale. A young boy who was forced to become a porter for the army, job duties included carrying bullets for the soldiers. Some shared their hopes and dreams for the future, bright students hoping against hope that he will be able to his education and go on to university. His situation seems bleak, but I know 15 people who will do what they can to help him.
The Unforgetable Journey [17.Feb.2008]
February 16-17 Today the group packed our backpacks for an overnight trip to visit the hill people an hours drive north of Mae Sot. The countryside as you drive north is incredible. Palm trees, banana and bougainvillea cover the countryside. In the back of the 4 wheel drive sit all the kids on the trip, none older than 19, having a great time, carefree, just as all kids that age should be. Also in the back are our three interpreters, all young men, happy to be with us, but surely somewhat concerned as we passed through 2 checkpoints on our way. But no worries today, probably due to the fact that they travelled with us. We pulled into Mae La refugee camp. This camp is located in a most spectacular setting. High mountains covered with a mass of thatch roof huts numbering in the thousands. This camp has been in existence for 20 years and is home to some 50,000 Karen. We walked to a home for disabled Karen, most blind, some missing limbs. These men were injured by land mines and other acts of war. These were not old men but young-two young children sat beside a man, he must have been their father. The men agreed to sing for us. They gathered in the semi darkness of the home. They sang in Karen but the sorrow that is their lives required no translation. Our interpreters also sang for them, I believe it brought a ray of sunlight into their day. Each of us bought one or two of their small crafts before leaving. The young man who helped care for them told us that our purchases helped them feel worthwhile. So little effort on our part. One of our young interpreters was particularly happy to be along as his young wife and infant child live here and visits with them are rare. He insisted that we all come to meet them and although I believe we took this young lady by complete surprise she greeted us with charm. The baby, however, was not quite so happy to find her home invaded by so many foreign white faces. We continued on our way, arriving at a the tiny village where we would spend the night. Dropping our packs in the wooden home we loaded back into the trucks to take the breath taking drive to view a waterfall. Some may call what we travelled on a road-not me. This doesn't even fit the goat track category. I have a new appreciation for 4 wheel drive. Bridges built of bamboo, huge stones, frequent washouts all on a dirt trail clinging to a mountain side barely wide enough for our vehicles. I may not have been behind the wheel but I drove ever meter of that track! I could have screamed but didn't want to startle our capable driver. The waterfall was worth it! Cascading down in two main chutes, forming a pool at the bottom that was deep enough to easily wade, the mist and cool spray was refreshing and delighted all of us. We all screamed and laughed with the sheer exhilaration of it. Soon it was time to move on, and not a moment too soon as darkness falls early and we must make time to deliver blankets to the village that had suffered with measles and had been visited by the January group. We were relieved to see that the baby who had been so ill had completely recovered. We completed the drive in darkness. At the village, named Tadpole in Karen, we set up our mats and mosquito nets while dinner was prepared below. Our dinner was served on the floor, Karen style, with the light of a single fixture. It was a simple meal with good company and lots of laughter, what more could you ask for. It doesn't get much better than this! After our dinner, the villagers came to have a good look at us and show us their traditional woven clothing and blankets. Each of us bought something and we ensured that each individual made a sale that night. Their traditional musical instrument soon appeared. The man who played this very unusual guitar like instrument played well, but to our surprise his friends cackled away, teasing him about the love song he sang. Picture the hecklers from the Muppet Show and you will have a fairly accurate idea of what we saw. Off to bed we went, 14 of us, the youngest 16 the oldest, perhaps 60 or so, tucked into pink and yellow mosquito nets and giggling like school kids. I know the roosters were crowing when the single light went out; they may have taken a 20 minute rest break, and then got right into in again. Some of our team members felt the need to add to the chorus. The silence of nature was not around that night. Early the next morning we awoke to a fresh day. Our view as we washed our faces was of morning mist and a couple of very large water buffalo. I had to pinch myself! Down the road just a few miles our lead vehicle abruptly braked and pulled over. There just across the road a farmer and his 2 sons worked while their two elephants grazed. We crossed over to meet them. Soon everyone who wanted to had been able to climb up and sit on the elephant. We noticed that this elephant had been injured and were dismayed to learn that not only people are hurt by landmines. We pulled back into Mae La camp. As we walked through this warren of huts, narrow walkways, hard baked mud trails we noticed the micro economy that had evolved. Little stores sold vegetables, spices and meat. We climbed steeply up to visit the orphanage run by Pastor Arthur and his wife. We were greeted with warmth and asked to sit and wait for a short time while the Pastor was located. During our wait we had a look through the girls dormitory. Thirty one girls live in a dorm, all one room, clothes neatly stacked or hung and sleeping mats and blankets hung high from the ceiling. The girls were ironing their clothes with a very antique looking iron heated with charcoal. Everything and everyone clean and tidy. All this in a large hut, built on stilts with a thatch roof. Soon we were seated at a table drinking sweet coffee and chatting with Pastor Arthurs wife. This very beautiful woman seemed so serene. She told us that they had been up all night due to threats that the DKBA were on their way to burn the camp down, capture all the leaders and do unthinkable things to the women and children. So real is this threat that they had been prepared the entire night to flee on a moments notice. They led us up to the church. The choir of children sang their hearts out for us. We took a photo of Pastor Arthur, his wife and children. She asked us to pray for them when we looked at the photo. We will.
The comfort of Quilts [ 3.Mar.2008]
Luc April, Gwyneth Topping and myself, Joe Remai had the privilege of delivering 26 quilts to the orphanage funded by Dr. Cynthia Maung, Mae Tao Clinic (www.maetaoclinic.org) . The orphans in the pictures either have no family or their remaining family is in prison or in hiding. They are left at the clinic or treated at the clinic and then move into the clinic orphanage until a more permanent home can be found similar to the one Global Neighbours runs. The children were absolutely delighted to receive the quilts. They clutched them to their body once they realized they were actually receiving a gift they could keep for themselves. Each one not only had a huge smile for us but also bowed their head and gave us a traditional Thai/Karen thank you. We showed them pictures of some of the Prince Albert Quilters, who had donated the quilts and through the translators did our best to explain how the work was done. As we left the children were all folding their quilts to go on the mat they sleep on. We just wanted to gather up the children and bring them home with us to Canada where they would be safe and loved. As you can tell by the date the February work crew are safely back in Canada. As we dive back into our Canadian lives our Thailand adventure seems almost like a dream. However, as I hear members of our group telling stories to other folks the theme of l will never complain about anything ever again or Canada is the best country in the world ,or we have to help those smart, smiling children resonates through out the stories. Dave, Heather and the directors of Global Neighbours have made a huge difference in the lives of the kids and we can help too!
April update [10.Apr.2008]
I would like to fill you in on the activities of Global Neighbors over the past several months as well as upcoming projects. We have completed three work tours in 2008. We did back to back tours with the January and February groups this year, with a total of 32 team members. I just returned from Thailand after spend a week with 32 grade 11 students from White Rock, British Columbia. It was great to see the kids respond to the needs of the migrant children and their families in the Mae Sot area. Check the website for new pictures. We are in the process of purchasing a site for the new Upgrading and Training Centre. Once the students have completed their English Immersion Program and a year of upgrading, we will be offering an online degree program. This program will better equip the schools with fully trained teachers as well as assist the students with their leadership capacity. We will be working along side World Education in this venture. The site is only a block from the existing orphanage and learning centre. There is a partially completed structure that is included in the sale. We are building another Charity House this summer. The basement is dug and the basement will be started shortly. Thanks you in advance to all the trades and suppliers! We will also be having a garage sale in the spring. I will send you further updates to fill you in on the details. Thank you for your support and encouragement.
Two Schools Destroyed [ 4.May.2008]
Recent rain and wind storm hit the Mae Sot Thailand area destroying Hway K Loke and Good Morning schools as well as damaging other buildings being used by these schools. Local migrants also suffered damages to their homes. Global Neighbors Canada has sent 30,000 baht to help rebuild Good Morning School. The schools need to be rebuilt before the beginning of the new school year in June.
Nargis Cyclone hits Burma (Myanmar) [12.May.2008]
Nargis Cyclone has devastated the people of Burma. Thousands are all ready dead; many more thousands will die without immediate help. Global Neighbors, (charity # 826649873RR0001) a Saskatchewan based charity whose work on the Thai-Burma border is well known in Prince Albert and area, is moving rapidly to provide aid. We are fortunate that we have established contacts within Burma. In the next few weeks these people will be invaluable in helping us to provide clean water, food and medical aid to those in dire need. Charitable receipts will be provided for all donations over $10. Donations may be made at Conexus Credit Union or mailed directly to: Global Neighbors CanadaNargis Relief Fund Box 2985 Prince Albert SK S6V 7M4
Planning upcoming trips [10.Jun.2008]
Dates for the November work tour have been set . It will be Thursday November 6 to Thursday November 20, 2008. Payment for the November trip must be in by August 15, 2008. Dates for 2009 trips will be Thursday January 29 to Thursday February 12. The following trip will be Thursday February 12 to Thursday February 26. Anyone interested please contact GNCI.
Building house in Prince Albert for resale as a fundraiser [12.Jun.2008]
Chris and Sharron Knudsen of Jovin Homes have allowed us to build this house under their company name and warranty as well as providing us with all the permits required. Thanks also for the concrete front steps you donated! What a big help! With the cooperation of our suppliers and trade's people we will be able to complete the house and defer all payments due till the house sells. Dmyterko Enterprises have done this with the land we built on as well as the excavating, backfilling and the sand needed. Darren Dmyterko has donated all his labor to form and pour the concrete for the footings, basement walls, and garage grade beam. Scott Bridge who has been on multiple work trips with us to Thailand has donated all his labor to frame the pony walls and sheet the floor .Trevor Simpson has donated all his labor to frame the walls of the house and garage and erect and sheet the roof. This is the work completed as of June 12/08. Econo Lumber is very instrumental in making this a reality by selling the building materials at cost and waiting for the house to sell before being paid. It is also important to note that so far all these people worked on our house 2 years ago to make it a great success. Thank you very much once again! Thanks to Joe Knoke for helping us clean up at the house. Wes Freemont and crew have come through again as they did 2 years ago and donated all their labor to shingle the roof. Thanks a lot! As of September 14, 2008 the house has been insulated of which all of it was donated by Chuck Miller owner of Hubel Insulating. Gottfried Gentek and his crew have boarded the house and applied one coat of mud. Steelcraft Doors has installed the overhead garage door. Manny Logan and his crew have started work on the mechanical. Luc Robin owner of TC Electric is donating his labor and some material on the electrical. Again all these trades have worked on our previous house 2 years ago. Luc Robin has also travelled to Thailand with us in Feb 06 and is planning to join us in Feb 08 with his wife Bev. Ray Vandale again has donated his labor and that of his crew to pour the concrete for the garage floor and the basement floor. Justin Beaulac and his man are near completing the siding on the exterior of the house. Justin is a young contractor and has donated half his labor. Good job Justin, you are a great help. Thanks to Gwyneth and Gord Topping for helping cleaning the jobsite. Brian Gauthier donated his time to completely frame the basement. Thanks to all!
Global Neighbors Canada needs help to kickstart a micro finance fund. [19.Jul.2008]
What is micro finance? Sometimes called banking for the poor, micro finance is an amazingly simple approach that has been proven to empower very poor people around the world to pull themselves out of poverty
Setting up the fall and winter projects [13.Sep.2008]
Irwin Wiebe and myself are in Thailand to set up the fall and winter projects. We are also giving direction to the contractor who will be completing the teachers residence at Hsa Thoo Lei. The amount of work that is needed in this area is overwhelming. There are so many schools with so many requests. We visited a school yesterday that need salaries for 6 teachers. Others need text books, libraries and new buildings. It is difficult to decide which to do first. I spent time with the children at the orphanage this evening. Many of them were doing home work on a Saturday night. This wouldn't happen at home. The younger children came to show me their note books and were so proud of their accomplishments. It makes all the work feel very worth while!
November 11th, 2008 Activities [11.Nov.2008]
November 11th and 12th are holidays for school kids in Thailand. Today the women in our group spent the morning helping with the painting at the brand new teacherage. We couldn't help but smile to ourselves, Ah Poon and his men seemed quite uncertain as to whether or not we were competent enough to tackle the job. Even though we tried to assure the men, they insisted on giving us a little lesson, and one lady remained with us throughout the morning, calling on the men to provide assistance whenever she felt it was required. The men in the group were hard at work at the work site repairing table tops from Hsaw Thoo Lei. After an early lunch, we headed over to the market to purchase groceries for the 90 families who currently live at the Mae Sot garbage dump. With the help of Moo Koo who is an excellent shopper, we bought 50 kg bags of rice, white radishes, huge green beans, a sac of garlic and a large quantity of cooking oil. This supply, along with some children's clothing and toiletries, were loaded into the truck and van. We headed to the dump. The families lined up outside Sky Blue School, just a handful of meters from the dump. With the help of the school principal the families came to pick up what was allotted to them. Each received three large scoops of rice, probably 3 or 4 pounds, 2 heads of garlic, a bunch of beans, 2 or 3 large white radishes and a portion of oil. A young boy helped us with every aspect of this. He couldn't have been more than 11 or 12 but he lugged in bags of rice, helped divide it up, packaged produce and helped lay out the clothing. He was clean, tidy and polite and a boy that would make any family proud. For many of us, this was a first experience with this level of poverty. Some of us have seen it before, some many times. There cannot be anything that is more heart wrenching than the walk through this collection of tarps that make up the homes in this place. One lady told us that she has lived at the dump for five years. Two families had brand new babies. I cannot imagine bringing a brand new beautiful baby to live at the dump. And what must life have been like in Burma if this was preferable? Later tonight as we ate a meal at a Burmese restaurant, the young man serving us told us that he was a refugee from Burma. He told us that he had been arrested twice for political reasons before he escaped to Thailand. He was a graduate from the University of Rangoon and now is unable to return. His parents still live in there. Just today, he heard the news that one of his friends who choose to remain in Burma had received a sentence of 65 years in prison for speaking out against the ruling military junta. For we Canadians such a life in barely, just barely imaginable. We are so secure, so wealthy and so blessed.
It was still fully dark as we left the hotel today, heading for the clinic that is desperately in need of supplies of any kind. The mist hung in the fields and softened the mountains as we drove through the countryside on our way to a small village near the River Moei. On arrival we were warmly greeted. All 12 of us loaded into a small 4X4 truck, most of us in the truck box. In a few minutes later we pulled up to a collection of buildings which where in need of repair. Here we met the chief Medic who had breakfast prepared for us, and what a breakfast it was. Several young women helped serve us. It seemed like the food would never stop coming. Next we toured the hospital. This place would never be called a hospital in Canada. It was barren. The few beds had no mattress, only a plastic cover directly over the wood base and sometimes a thin rattan mat. A trauma patient was being treated as we toured. There was a case of pneumonia, one of cerebral malaria, several sick children and others. All the beds of these patients, male and female, were in one large dormitory style room. Each could watch and hear as the medics treated a man who had been in a serious car accident. The birthing room was basically barren, two simply delivery tables. The operating room was just as barren. For the medical people among us it was shocking. As we finished our tour, a group of at least 20 men were preparing to paint a large room. The paint and tools were all part of the donated supplies. The room was in great need of this work, and workers were plentiful and willing. We carried on to the building where the donated medical supplies were waiting. A large group of young people came along. Although only two of the group spoke English, these young medics and soldiers watched and quickly understood what was required. They sat down and went to work alongside us. We counted huge quantities of pills and medication and separated them into bags. It took over 3 hours. Finally it was done and we watched with pride and satisfaction as 90 back packs were filled with supplies for a medic. This accomplishment is incredible and was made possible by the generosity of many people in Prince Albert. We celebrated with picture taking and a lunch fit for a king. As we loaded into the truck and drove off, with huge smiles and waving on both sides, we felt that we had made new friends. Perhaps we can make the future brighter!
Gold Lake School addition [13.Nov.2008]
November 13th Today both the men and the women headed out to a small school on the edge of Mae Sot The men were to work on an addition to the school, while the women taught near the dormitory building. This little school while in a breathtakingly beautiful location, is extremely humble. The school building itself is in a small hollow close to a pond that was loaded with brilliant blooming water plants. The men got right to work along side the Karen workers. While unloading lumber, one of our team was startled by a large snake who had made himself (herself ?) at home amongst the boards! The teachers helped us gather the children and soon we were all hard at work. Like our first school the children were shy and well behaved. They were enthusiastic about our relay game with the snow suits. We loved to watch them learning to cut out paper to create snowflakes. And the decorating! Everyone knows that no two snowflakes are the same and this held true for these children. They worked hard and created many different and beautiful designs. The treats we handed out at the end of our lessons are always a hit. We left a huge amount of school supplies with this school. These supplies sent from Canada make a difference in the lives of these very poor children.
Mae Tao Clinic and Trip to Karen Village [14.Nov.2008]
November 14th Lots of activity this day.First a trip to the market to buy supplies for our excursion to the Karen village and Mae La refugee camp. The market is a bustle of activity at any time and the sights, sounds and smells all add to the experience. Next we visit Mae Tao clinic, a hospital for the Karen. Because most are not Thai citizens, the Karen are not entitled to any care at the Mae Sot hospital. They may be treated there if they can afford to pay, so of course for most it is out of the question. Mae Tao is a hub of activity. Although it is small and ramshackle in appearance, surgery, obstetrics, some eye and dental care is available. Malaria, many diseases complicated by poor diet , infections of all kinds and the inevitable STD's are all treated here. There are many amputations due to landmine injuries. Outside the dental clinic an air compressor was running to power dental instruments. The obstetrics ward delivered 2042 babies last year. It gave us such pleasure to deliver the baby layettes to the new mothers. As we walked through this area we came to a small room where two babies slept. These two perfect and beautiful infants had been left by their mothers for reasons that are sadly obvious, too poor, their futures too uncertain to handle the added pressure of a new child. Pat could not leave one child, so frail and helpless. How unfair the world seems that a child could be left this way. After lunch we loaded into 4 wheel drives for our trip to the Karen village. Just a short one hour or so from Mae Sot, we dropped our bags and headed for the thrill ride of our lives. The ride up and down the jungle covered mountain would not be possible without 4 wheel drive vehicles. The scenery was breathtaking when we were able to take our eyes off the track we drove on. To make matters even a bit more exciting, the road was not well travelled and the jungle pushed in on all sides. When we finally reached the point where we would hike to the waterfall we met a local man with his herd of water buffalo. He offered to guide us the remaining distance. It was a short hike but challenging, as we crossed the creek twice at knee depth, then made the last push up the mountain. And there it was! The waterfall was even bigger than I remember and the recent rainy season had swelled its flow. This dip in the torrent made the drive worth the effort. Back at the village, we dined Karen style on the floor. Our guide Ray Boh was an excellent source of information on Karen culture. The village women came along soon to show their beautiful woven goods. After they left, two or three older men came along to visit. One old fellow, with his red toque pulled over his head, to keep warm, gave an interesting demonstration of starting a fire without matches. Using only bamboo, in about 30 seconds, he had an ember and had lit his pipe. Although we had the chance to try fire making, it was not as easy as it looked. We enjoyed the show and so did his fellow villagers. It was funny to listen to the two Karen men giggling away as they watched. They were keen to stay and visit. A young woman hovered in the darkness of the room too shy to join us, but clearly interested in a chat. She had many questions and it was a pleasure to meet a woman so keen to take part. She left our group briefly to gather a couple of her dresses as she knew we were interested in her outfits. Only single women may wear the long white dress. In these traditional and remote villages the old culture in still practised. One of the men's traditions is to be tattooed from the knee to the waist. No woman would marry a man unless he is tattooed. Apparently it is a passage into manhood. Finally we climbed the stairs to our mats, and tucked our mosquito nets for the night.
The Teachers' Residence Grand Opening [16.Nov.2008]
November 16th Sunday was a joyful day for the teachers and students of Hsaa Thoo Lei and for the team. The new teacher's residence, funded by Global Neighbors, was ready for occupancy. The grand opening celebration included singing by a group of students, a thank you from Dave to the workers for a job well done, a few words from Bill and Teresa regarding the importance of education and the need to value good teachers, a short address from Paw Ray and a blessing from the pastor. Following the ribbon cutting by Heather and Erin, everyone in attendance had an opportunity to tour the building. Many of the teachers at Hsa Thoo Lei have generously given of their time and talents, living in the dormitories with the children or in makeshift bamboo shelters near the school. Some have left their families behind in refugee camps or IDP settlements insides Burma because there was no place for them to live nearby. It is our hope that this new residence will give the teachers who move in an opportunity to be reunited with their spouses and children in homes where they will experience security and comfort. After the celebration we were able to spend a little time with the children. There is so much we would do to make their lives better, but we must always remind ourselves that whatever we do will make a difference, will be an improvement for them.
November 16th Sunday was a joyful day for the teachers and students of Hsa Thoo Lei and for the team.
The new teacher's residence, funded by Global Neighbors, was ready for occupancy. The grand opening celebration included singing by a group of students, a thank you from Dave to the workers for a job well done, a few words from Bill and Teresa regarding the importance of education and the need to value good teachers, a short address from Paw Ray and a blessing from the pastor. Following the ribbon cutting by Heather and Erin, everyone in attendance had an opportunity to tour the building. Many of the teachers at Hsaa Thoo Lei have generously given of their time and talents, living in the dormitories with the children or in makeshift bamboo shelters near the school. Some have left their families behind in refugee camps or IDP settlements insides Burma because there was no place for them to live nearby. It is our hope that this new residence will give the teachers who move in an opportunity to be reunited with their spouses and children in homes where they will experience security and comfort. After the celebration we were able to spend a little time with the children. There is so much we would do to make their lives better, but we must always remind ourselves that whatever we do will make a difference, will be an improvement for them.