This has been one of the highlights of my life coming back to Ranong shared Alice, a volunteer and teacher from Malaysia.
She was one of the first teachers when the Marist’s began a school for Burmese Migrants in Ranong and was delighted to see how the school had grown and to enjoy meeting her past students all grown up.
To celebrate 10 years of the Marist Mission in Ranong, two days of celebrations were organised to thank all the community, staff, funders and volunteers.
Day one of the two day celebration involved volunteers, Sisters and Marist Fathers gathering with the Catholic Bishop of Suraththani, priests, and local supporters from the Thai and Burmese community to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass.
Bishop Joseph Prathan reflected in his homily during the celebration Mass how proud he is of the work the Marists have developed in support of the poor Burmese in his Diocese.
He declared: “I am looking forward to returning to celebrate 20 years of the Marists in Ranong!”
Special prayers and thanks were offered for all the friends and funders, without whom we could not have begun or continued the work.
Andrew, a volunteer from New Zealand and now working in Singapore, beamed with joy and delight in having photos with past graduates of the Burmese Migrant Education Programme and the Australian Catholic University Online Diploma Programme.
Many of his past students have become teachers, health workers and are now serving their Burmese Migrant Community.
Many staff and returning volunteers shared memories of when the first Marists arrived in Ranong and working together but in different locations around the town to serve Burmese in Learning Centre, HIV AIDS Health Work and a Community Centre for Burmese Migrant Workers.
Over the two days of celebrations, there were opportunities for sharing, eating and enjoying dances and songs performed by the 200 students in the 3 Education Programmes.
Fr Gil Casio, the Marist Priest leader of the HIV Aids Health Project and team enjoyed welcoming and sitting among many of their patients.
Normally visited daily in their homes, the 10 year celebration gave them an opportunity to come and enjoy celebrating with their wider community with tears of joy and smiles.
Fr Frank Bird, a Marist Priest now working in the Mission reflected that it was such a beautiful sight to see over 500 Burmese Families along with supporters from Burmese Learning Centres enjoying the celebration in a huge tent put up for the celebration.
“In the midst of a very poor community with many hardships, to see our students dressed in traditional Burmese clothing, performing both traditional and contemporary dances and songs with such joy and pride in front of their parents will be such a great memory to have of our 10 year celebration.
“I could clearly see the link. Education brings confidence. Confidence produces beautiful smiles. And the smiles revealed a sense of dignity and pride. Their talents and culture were celebrated in front of their parents. I will never forget this.
Sister Martha, representing the RNDM sisters from Myanmar, who are partners with the Marist Priests and whose two Burmese sisters work in the Health and Education Programmes, shared words of thanks to the Marist Fathers “Thank you for your wonderful generosity in serving the migrants with love and joy.
You indeed have given life to those who are desperately in need particularly through the ministries of Education and Health.”
Fr Kevin, the current Director of the Marist project shared “I am delighted that the Marist Asia Foundation has been able to empower the voiceless and marginalised Burmese Migrants through Education and Health Programmes here in Ranong and Thailand.
We look forward to the next 10 years bringing compassion, learning and service to our Burmese Migrant Families in great need.