I first came to the Marist mission in Ranong in 2007 to work there for 3 weeks by teaching the children of Burmese migrants. Asia is not Europe It was a strong and moving experience. Heat and rain made their presence felt on an Irishman.
The mission had just begun and I was teaching in what was little more than a garage. Physically it was demanding but so satisfying. Imagine teaching those who otherwise would not get an education. They could only wander around the streets before trying to get a job in a fish factory.
Has the mission changed in those 9 years. Incredibly yes. The Marists now have a fabulous new school. It did not drop out of the sky. There was so much hard work done in raising the money to buy the land and then to build the school. I want to say thank you to Misean Cara, the Irish development agency who funded the building.
The Burmese children are graceful and happy with smiling faces. They must belong in many respects to a rich culture. Yet materially they have so little but make the most of what they have.
It is lovely to see children turn into adults. To see a smile grow on the face of a child and settle into the face of an adult is beautiful. To be able to remember them in class and see what they have become is a miracle. In the case of this mission, the time of 9 years is the measure of charming change and I can only think, ‘Thank God I have been able to be a small part of that’.
After my first visit to the Marist mission in Ranong I thought it would be good if that experience could be shared with the students of St. Mary’s College where I work. About 9 students and two teachers come with me. This now is the 8th time we have done this. They love teaching the Burmese children and it’s a mutual feeling. It’s a classic win-win situation.
Thanks to Fr Jimmy, Teachers and the many Irish students who have loved and volunteered with us over the past 9 years. Young Burmese and Thai students grow in such confidence as they experience the love and concern from visitors and volunteers from overseas.
We hope its been a blessing also for students to come to a poor community. As the saying goes ‘may you be ruined for life’! May you be forever changed by your love and service among the poor and forgotten.
Thanks for being part of our Marist work among the poor and forgotten in Asia.