GHRE-FED
Community Health Visit to Koh Kho Khao

During my first week volunteering with the FED I joined the Health Team on a community visit to a remote Burmese community on the island of Koh Kho Khao. The drive into the depths of the rubber plantation can only be described as a rollercoaster, along several miles of rough and rutted road wide enough for only one vehicle. On the one unfortunate occasion we did meet an oncoming vehicle we engaged each other in a complicated dance of forward, backward and side-to-side movements until we negotiated our way past! We eventually found our way to the community who were nestled deep into the plantation.

As we arrived, a group of men were playing a game of net takraw in which players use their feet, knees or heads to pass a woven rattan ball over a volleyball net. Children were running about outside and the women were inside preparing the space for the Health Team to make their presentation. We unloaded the truck and had some refreshments before the Health Team began the presentation. Around 25 people in total, men women and children, gathered in the room to listen to Health intern Min-Min talk to them about hygiene, basic healthcare and Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever is a threat for those living without easy access to healthcare and can be fatal if not treated properly. Even just a basic understanding of symptoms and treatments will help people identify when someone is infected much faster, aiding their recovery significantly. Even though the presentation was in Burmese, I was still able to pick up the gist of what was being discussed from motions and gestures. And from the pictures on the presentation poster! The health talk was followed by a discussion about the different ways of presenting oneself in society.  We all stood in a circle and demonstrated different ways of standing, such as with your arms folded or your hands behind your back, and discussed the impression that each stance would make on an observer. Again, my limited Burmese language skills didn’t seem to limit my understanding of what was going on too much! When all the talking was done, the Health Team conducted medical checkups, taking blood pressures, checking heart rates and recording peoples’ weights. For the most-part everyone seemed in good health but for those who were suffering from minor ailments, medicines were distributed and recommendations for treatments and further preventions were made.

The visit was fascinating for me as it is so hard to believe that there are many communities living without the most basic knowledge about hygiene and healthcare. The work that the Health Team do in spreading important healthcare information and providing medical checkups is vital as these communities may not have any other way of accessing these things. While these basic rights might be taken for granted in the developed world, they make such a huge difference to the quality of life for these remote communities.

Lotti Fraser

Note from the Field - Anna Mazurek

I am a freelance photographer based in Austin, Texas. I have volunteered with the Foundation for Education and Development for the past two years. I have provided photography for their fundraising efforts and website. In 2012, I spent a week in October documenting the lives of two Burmese families who work at rubber plantations and fisheries. Both families have children who attend the school run by FED. I returned for two weeks in July/August 2013 to continue the project and produce a video documentary about the families. In addition, I also photographed staff members, women’s empowerment meetings and school activities.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with FED. Everyone was very helpful with providing logistics, translation assistance and access to the subjects. I also felt like part of a family. Po Po (FED Director) invited me and the other volunteers over to her home for a traditional dinner one night. We also had a big group dinner with the staff another night as well. The staff opened their lives with us and shared their stories. I have a greater understanding of Burmese culture and the struggle of migrants. FED began to feel like a second home. I hope to return again to continue helping with their projects.

The beach town of Khao Lak is also great. It’s very small and has a nice atmosphere. It’s also very cheap and easy to reach via bus from Bangkok or Phuket. I lived on $15 USD/day while I was volunteering. There was a great Burmese restaurant in walking distance from my guesthouse that we ate at every night. I miss it so much!

Fisherman Aung Soe struggles to support his wife and five children on a 3,500-3,000 baht ($110-95 USD)/month. Fourteen years ago, he left Burma in search of better economic conditions in Thailand. Like most migrant workers, Soe works as a fisherman.

His 13-year-old daughter, Zin Mi Mi Soe, attends a school for Burmese migrants, where she studies Burmese, Thai and English. The school provides a sorng-taa-ou bus system for students consisting of several pickup trucks with facing rows of seats in the back. Due to a shortage of trucks, she must wait an hour after school to catch the second round buses to take her home to her village 30 minutes away.

Win Yu and Sang Yu left Burma for Thailand over 20 years ago in search of better economic conditions. Even with a work permit, they struggle to support their three children on a monthly salary of 5,000 Baht ($156 USD). They both work 12-hour nightly shifts at a rubber plantation. Their salary fluctuates based on the amount of rubber produced, which is dictated by the weather.

The oldest son, Myoe Oo Twen, lost three fingers in one of the rolling machines at the rubber plantation where his parents work. After his accident, his parent’s stopped brining the children to work, and Myoe would watch the other children at night. Due to financial problems, he was forced to quit school earlier this year to work with his parents. His injury makes it difficult for him to work. “At my work site, I feel that I am not the same as other people because I don’t have a complete hand,” he explains.

Roll Cameras

As we have come to learn Htoo Chit has created a wide wake in his path doing great things for many individuals and the Burmese community as a whole.  Apparently we are not the only ones to recognize this as today a Burmese film crew arrived to begin filming a movie based on Htoo Chit’s life.

May 11, 2012

euronews names FED top three for Migrant Children

May 7, 2012 euronews.com

Thailand: Hope for Burmese children There are an estimated two million Burmese migrants in Thailand but only a quarter of them are officially registered. According to the International Organisation for Migration, 200,000 of them are children. They come to Thailand to escape political persecution or to find better paid work.

Since 2005 The Foundation for Education and Development has been running an education project for Burmese children in Thailand. It costs seven dollars a month to send a child to this school, and the fees also cover transport and lunch.

As well as Thai, the children learn English, maths, science and social sciences. In 2006, the Thai government allowed around 100 young Burmese children to enrol at state schools but it was not easy.

Who knows how long these children will stay in Thailand? It could be weeks, months or even years. But with programmes like these, at least some of them will get an education.

School’s Open!

Phang Nga Province, May 9, 2012: Over 350 people gathered today in Khao Lak to celebrate the opening of the United Learning Center- a center dedicated to educating the children of Burmese migrant workers here in Thailand. The school will serve the needs of over 300 children ages 4-17 with the goal of integrating them into the Thai community. 

Two of the new students reported that the new facilities swept them off their feet. 

Kindness of strangers

May 5, 2012 (or 5/5/55, 2555, in the Buddhist calendar - - very auspicious)

Just returning from the blessing of the house of the Learning Center’s Director; Burmese monks offered prayers for peace and harmony and the community celebrated with a traditional Burmese breakfast……yum.

On the way home, we passed a fruit vendor that had stopped to offer an elephant two pineapples.

Exchanging wide smiles with the driver as we passed, we shared the spirit and feel lucky to be enjoying the love of the people around us.

Of course we stopped to take some elephant close-ups and even posed with the amazing creature.

Just another morning on our lovely adventure.

T&E

April 25, 2012
Who thought building a playground would be so much fun or would take such an interesting path?  We are in week two of our time with FED and every day we continue to appreciate the rich mix of people gathered together with the common purpose of improving the lives of Burmese migrant workers here in Thailand.  
Today started with a visit to a rubber plantation; when we arrived the women were congregated in the meeting space with a facilitator from FED’s WEDA (Woman Empowerment and Development Association) program.   We were greeted by the patient patriarch, Kin Maung Oo, of the small community (about four families) who answered our many questions and gave us a comprehensive tour of the facilities and plantation.  During our tour he was very positive about his relationship with the plantation owner and explained the 40 / 60 split of proceeds from the sale of rubber harvested (40% to the community / 60% to the owner).  We also learned about the healthcare services available to him with Thai work permits (he showed us his) and the challenges of a plantation that due to aging trees, produces less rubber.
As we were loading up to leave, Kin Maung Oo stepped into the entrance of a small building and began speaking loudly.  We heard younger voices responding and after some animated “back and forth” between the parties, three adolescent boys emerged and jumped into the back of the truck with us.  Ah, how I remember my father stirring my brother and me to get out of the house!
We arrived at the new learning center and met with the designer of the playground, Tah Wah. The company he works for, Child’s Dream, had arranged to work directly with the local Burmese community to construct the project.  Our three new pals from the rubber plantation tumbled out of the truck and took instruction, picking up grinders and taking the rough edges off the newly installed playground equipment.  We all pitched in and just as we were in full swing the sky opened with a huge downpour.  All the adults (five) picked up the tools and ran into the building; all the children (twelve) placed their tools under shelter then ran into the center of the school yard to play a spirited game of soccer in the heavy rain.  What a sight!   But at the end we were able to construct some amazing things and made sure to test every one out…
Who thought building a playground would be so much fun or would take such an interesting path?  
Tim Walch and Edmund Sulzman

April 25, 2012

Who thought building a playground would be so much fun or would take such an interesting path?  We are in week two of our time with FED and every day we continue to appreciate the rich mix of people gathered together with the common purpose of improving the lives of Burmese migrant workers here in Thailand. 

Today started with a visit to a rubber plantation; when we arrived the women were congregated in the meeting space with a facilitator from FED’s WEDA (Woman Empowerment and Development Association) program.   We were greeted by the patient patriarch, Kin Maung Oo, of the small community (about four families) who answered our many questions and gave us a comprehensive tour of the facilities and plantation.  During our tour he was very positive about his relationship with the plantation owner and explained the 40 / 60 split of proceeds from the sale of rubber harvested (40% to the community / 60% to the owner).  We also learned about the healthcare services available to him with Thai work permits (he showed us his) and the challenges of a plantation that due to aging trees, produces less rubber.

As we were loading up to leave, Kin Maung Oo stepped into the entrance of a small building and began speaking loudly.  We heard younger voices responding and after some animated “back and forth” between the parties, three adolescent boys emerged and jumped into the back of the truck with us.  Ah, how I remember my father stirring my brother and me to get out of the house!

We arrived at the new learning center and met with the designer of the playground, Tah Wah. The company he works for, Child’s Dream, had arranged to work directly with the local Burmese community to construct the project.  Our three new pals from the rubber plantation tumbled out of the truck and took instruction, picking up grinders and taking the rough edges off the newly installed playground equipment.  We all pitched in and just as we were in full swing the sky opened with a huge downpour.  All the adults (five) picked up the tools and ran into the building; all the children (twelve) placed their tools under shelter then ran into the center of the school yard to play a spirited game of soccer in the heavy rain.  What a sight!   But at the end we were able to construct some amazing things and made sure to test every one out…

Who thought building a playground would be so much fun or would take such an interesting path?  

Tim Walch and Edmund Sulzman

International World AIDS Day Event- Phang Nga

December 1st, 2011 was a GREAT day!  It began with an one hour drive to the town of Pang Nga at 6am, before the sun was awake.  We arrived at a field with a stage and tents.  Each tent was reserve for one of the eight NGO’s participating in/sponsoring the day’s events.  After setting up the FED booth with hand made HIV/AIDS posters and FED banners, we were driven to a nearby Thai school to “walk.”

It was 8am, the time at which all students sing the national anthem.  Trucks with students from different schools (both Thai and Burmese) unloaded and the students lined up.  I finally realize that this “walk” was like a parade/fundraising walk that happen in the states…such as the Revlon Run/Walk or AIDS Walk, but in full force!  Students held banners and hand made posters, dressed up as condoms, and wore hats adorned with blown up condoms.  The long line was lead by a marching band and the sections were conjoined by Thai dancers.  The students cheered as they passed out pamphlets and condoms to onlookers.

As we arrived on the field, the festivities began.  Youth groups from around the area performed various dances and the NGO’s hosted informational booths, handing out condoms and providing activities for the students.  The activities included answering questions, in relation to HIV/AIDS, for prizes and painting shirts to spread awareness.

It is amazing to see mobilization in action, especially when the mobilizers are children bringing together a community for a “HEALTHY THAILAND.”  This isn’t anything I expected when I first signed on to work with FED…what a great surprise!

FOR PICTURES, CLICK HERE

-Christina LeRubio, Volunteer (Los Angeles, California- USA)

A Day at the Phuket Zoo

On Saturday, December 3, 2011, a group of the students, approximately 50, headed to the Phuket zoo.  Since I don’t get to work with the kids the often, I jumped at the opportunity to tag along as a chaperon.  As we drove up, after a 3 hour ride, the children excitedly jumped off the bus to enter the gates of the zoo.

We ventured through the small zoo and headed to the three different animal shows: Crocodile, Elephant and Monkey shows.  The trainers poked at the animals to aggravate them and show their notoriously vicious chomp.  When the show was over, we headed to the elephant show.  The show brought a smile to my face, but not as big as the smile on the children’s face.  The elephants played instrument, painted a picture, played basketball and gave some of the audience members massages…it amazing how smart these animals are!  Our last show of the day was the monkey show. Throughout the show, you could tell the trainers really loved the monkeys, stroking and kissing them.  The children sat in aww as the monkey did trick after trick.

The ride back home didn’t feel as long as the ride there.  The three of us decided to ride back on the bus.  As I entered the bus, thinking of the cool air coming from the AC running through the bus, my Westernized bubble burst.  The disco painted bus was lined with fans on the roof.  However, there was entertainment!  The children were entertained by the numerous music videos playing during the ride.  Since some of them don’t get out of their immediate area often, some of them couldn’t keep their eyes off of the scenery that was scrolling by outside.  Others were exhausted from the day’s excitement that they passed out.

-Christina LeRubio, Volunteer (Los Angeles, California- USA)

Sketchbook Project with Learning Center Students

Last Friday and Saturday, September 30th and October 1st, 30 students from Tonkamin and Parkweep learning centers braved torrential rains to join FED staff and volunteers at the Youth Outreach Center. The students began with some exercises and games to get to know each other, and then they made drawings of their houses, favorite food, favorite animal, and families. All of the activities the students participated in on Friday helped them brainstorm what they would draw in their sketchbooks on Saturday.

Students drawing diagrams

The above photo is of students drawing their “brainstorm diagrams” to prepare for making their sketchbooks on Saturday.

In the picture below students draw in their sketchbooks and decorate them with stickers and glitter.

kids' sketchbooks

The sketchbooks are part of a project undertaken by a group of schools in the UK. The students in these schools are exchanging sketchbooks of their own making for sketchbooks made by students in Southeast Asia. Many schools are exchanging sketchbooks with students in India and the sketchbooks created by FED learning center students will be the only sketchbooks representing Burmese students. The sketchbooks will then be displayed in the UK in an exhibit aimed to raise awareness about the differences between the lives of children living in the UK and those living in Southeast Asia. The exhibit aims to draw attention to the lives of students like those at FED’s learning centers, promoting an interest in the issues that face Burmese migrants among individuals living in the UK.

making sketchbooks