Teacher Monica, a ‘Kiwi’ from Australia volunteered over the summer break and shares her experience of two months in Ranong.
Early December 2015 I began my volunteering adventure. I flew to Bangkok in Thailand and then on to Ranong where I taught Burmese migrants during my summer holiday. My cousin is Frank Bird who is a Catholic priest, based in Ranong with the Marist team so that was my connection with this mission community.
I am Head of Religious Education at St Paul’s School, a large coeducational private P-12 Anglican school in north Brisbane. My experiences in Ranong both teaching and living were vastly different from those experienced in Brisbane, Australia.
Undoubtedly the highlight of my time in Ranong was teaching English to the Burmese migrant students and tutoring the twelve university students. I was overwhelmed by the students’ total dedication and motivation to learning, their respectfulness and sheer happiness.
Education is a jewel to them and they relish the opportunities to learn English. Despite coming from very poor backgrounds by Australian standards, the students were impeccably dressed and groomed each day, and smiled throughout the day.
I was impressed with the Marist philosophy in Ranong: “We educate, we care and we serve”. The priests and sisters at Marist Asia Foundation were unequivocally committed to their mission statement. They educated the students, cared for those who were ill with HIV and served the Burmese migrant community in Ranong: Catholic priests and sisters teaching those who were mainly Buddhist, and not directly mentioning God. How amazing is that!
While living in Ranong certainly presented me with many challenges and took me completely out of my comfort zone, I survived well. I had a tap and a bucket for my shower; I had to purchase my drinking water in large containers; I biked to school through crazy traffic; I was surrounded by poverty and I could speak neither Thai nor Burmese which made shopping challenging! (I quickly learnt some key words and phrases in both these languages!)
However the students at Marist Asia Foundation were extremely appreciative of my time and energy. They showed utmost respect towards me and treated me like a goddess! They taught me so much about the simplicity and joy of life which is absent from many school children in Australia. The students have little in terms of money and resources, yet they have everything that is often missing from developed countries.
Many of the students at the school are sponsored by generous people in New Zealand and Australia. There are many demands on our money through various charities. However I can guarantee that sponsoring a Burmese migrant child is a most worthwhile donation.
Contact Fr Frank Bird for details how your small change can make a BIG DIFFERENCE: 70 cents a day, $5 a week, $20 a month gives a child an education on the Thailand/Myanmar border.
The following words in New Zealand Maori, summarise the impact the Marist Mission in Ranong had for me. The Burmese students showed me a new face of love peace and friendship which are the translation of the phrases below.
Te Aroha, Te Whakapono me, Te Rangimarie, Tatou Tatou e