Brighter Futures – MAF Annual Report 2017

Thanks to all our friends and supporters. We share our Marist Asia Foundation 2017 Annual Report. It’s filled with photos and links to more stories about the past year and what we’ve been doing here in Ranong on the Thai Burma Border with Education, Health and Migrant Support Programmes.

With your generosity we’ve been able to support over 200 Burmese Migrants with Education bringing them a much brighter future.

You’ve lifted up the lives of over 80 Migrants who experience despair and abandonment because they have HIV AIDS with education, support and medical advice.

Migrant Workers have been able to take steps to achieve their dreams of better work and brighter futures for themselves and their families beyond the slavery of fish and charcoal factories.

Click to download 2017 Marist Asia Foundation Annual Report or view the interactive version below.

It is not enough to sit and hope. You have to work in order to realize your hopes.

After 10 years of service in Ranong, on March 15, 2018 we said a special thank you and farewell to Fr Kevin for all his dedication and service as a Marist in supporting the Marist Mission in Ranong with Marist Asia Foundation. Here are his words shared at his farewell ceremony. 

Many thanks for this time and opportunity to say goodbye and express my deep gratitude to each one of you.

Daw Aung San Su Kyi  once said,

It is not enough to sit and hope. You have to work in order to realize your hopes.”

13 years ago the Marist community arrived in Ranong. For the first few months the Marists did not do anything except try to listen to the needs and especially the hopes of the Myanmar migrants in Ranong.  Two things emerged clearly; the great need for education and the needs of those living and dying with HIV-AIDS.

There were plenty of needs and challenges but also a lot of hopes from children, mothers and fathers.

In one parents’ meeting, a mother stood up and said.  “I work very hard mainly cutting the head of the fish.  I want my child to be educated. I him to work holding a pen and not holding a knife cutting the head of the fish”.

One HIV-AIDS patient said to Fr John Larsen that without the Marist I am dead already 5 months ago.

I have witnessed so many changes over the past 11 years.  Our students have become our teachers and staff.

It is great to see our graduates being the young teachers in many different Learning Centres in Ranong.

We are more confident to wear our uniform with Marist Asia Foundation on it.  We are more confident to say I work with Marist Asia Foundation after the government has approved us as a Foundation.

We have 38 ACU Online graduates serving different communities in Thailand and Myanmar.

7 or 8 years ago almost every two weeks, AIDS patients died.  But it is very different now.  The patients live longer and healthier.

We don’t just sit and hope.  We work very hard.  Thank you for your hard work Education team and health team Admin team.  All of us.

I hope we will be more united, one heart and one mind as we continue responding to the needs of the vulnerable, marginalized and excluded in Ranong.

I hope we will be a shining sign of Hope and Compassion.

I have mixed feelings.  I am sad to say goodbye to you and to Ranong.  Ranong has been my home for 11 years.  You are also my extended family for 11 years.  We have many memories and stories we share.

I am also happy to go.  It is time to move on. It is time for me to start a new chapter my life.  I am happy to go because I believe that MAF is in better shape and we have a more solid team.  MAF will be a better organization, more effective and more efficient in responding to the needs of the migrants in Ranong and beyond.

Many thanks everyone.  Special thanks to the Marist Community and the RNDM sisters community.  Special thanks also to our volunteers.

Thank you very much.

Growing Hope – ACU University Online Diploma Programme

Tutoring the Online University Class – Teacher Katie

This year I have had the privilege of being the tutor for the Australian Catholic University online Diploma programme in Ranong, Thailand. This programme provides tertiary level education for migrants on the Thai/Myanmar border in two locations: Ranong and Mae Sot.

In Ranong, we have 16 students who will study everything from Management and Development Studies to Global History and World Health over an 18-month period. Most of the study is completed online with a tutor helping to ‘unpack’ the concepts and explain difficult vocabulary. Some courses also have a face-to-face component with lecturers travelling from Australia to spend time with the students.

Most of our students have been through the BMSP secondary education programme at the Marist Asia Foundation. Their parents work in Ranong in a range of industries and work very hard so that their children can benefit from a good education. The students have already overcome many personal and family challenges to reach this level of study.

So what’s it like, coming from New Zealand, to work with these students? Imagine working in a classroom full of engaged, smiling, friendly and fun, studious, and ‘ready to learn’ young people. And, like any good teaching experience, the learning is reciprocal. Not only am I learning about Myanmar language and culture, I’m learning about management, leadership, and resilience in the face of challenging situations.

Our students are learning about ‘critical thinking’ or seeing different sides of a problem or situation. They are learning to ask questions and challenge the information presented in the course material. They are learning to think about the ‘pros and cons’ of each idea or theory and what their own response might be after reading the research. One week we watched a short film about the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. This challenged them to think beyond their pre-conceived ideas about citizenship to the reality of peoples’ experience, but also that for every problem there are two or more sides to consider.

This month we had a visit from a past student of the ACU programme. She now works at an international bank in Yangon, Myanmar and shared confidently in Burmese and English about her experiences after completing her studies. She stressed the importance of ‘life-long learning’ and shared about the competitive nature of the job-market in Myanmar. Her language and interpersonal skills (not just her academic record) had secured her a good job.

That’s our hope for all our students then, that they will be ‘workplace’ ready with academic knowledge (competency), social skills (chemistry), and life skills (character). We also hope they will give back to their community in some way, either here in Thailand or in Myanmar and make the most of the opportunity they have been given.

As for me, I’m enjoying this opportunity I have been given. Thank you Marist Asia Foundation and the Australian Catholic University for your commitment to this special project.

A Marist finds strength in God and in his community

Br Ben is a Marist Seminarian who came to Ranong on his pastoral experience placement while studying to be a Marist Priest in Rome. Marist Asia Foundation enjoys welcoming young Marists for their mission experience each year for 3 months. Below is Br Ben’s volunteer reflection. 

Before going out for a pastoral experience I always try to balance between getting to know something about the ministry so I know what to expect and at the same time not to have too many expectations as that can negatively affect the experience.

I knew that Ranong was a mission run my Marists on the Thai- Myanmar border that started around 10 years ago and that there had been many Marists and volunteers from all over the world who had worked and are still working there.

I knew that they looked after the needs of AIDS patients and that they had a school where they taught the Migrant children.
But this was only the beginning.

 I knew that teaching in a foreign country would have its challenges. Thailand had different education standards, curriculum and different pedagogies. But I soon realised that the main challenge is language.

Teaching English to those who don’t speak it on a regular basis is a challenge as it demands a lot of patience, both from the teachers and the students.  At times it was frustrating for me and the students, they wanted to learn and couldn’t and I wanted to teach but couldn’t. 

However, at the same time there were some “moments to remember” It was normally when the student or I made a mistake and the class had a giggle. It was normally me and this really strengthened our relationship as we were slowly letting out guard down and letting the other see us for who we really are. 

This allowed me to develop my relationship with the students outside the classroom as well. Playing volleyball with the students, talking to them in the hallways,, waving to them around the school and around Ranong helped to get rid of shyness and encourage them to speak freely both inside and outside the classroom .

 Working with the health team had its own set of challenges. Each patient had a different story of how they ended up in Ranong.

Some were more heart wrenching than others but they all were victims of social and political injustice and had no means of changing their circumstances without outside help.

This is where the Marist Asia Foundation Health team comes in and assists the patients with a variety of issues based on their needs.

Some needed to get their documents in order before they could be helped by the local health system, while others needed extra health checks, not covered by the system. Others just needed a translator to communicate with the medical staff.

A Marist finds strength in his relationship with God and his community. Ranong would have to be the youngest Marist community that I lived in to date.

With a superior under 50 and all the other members under 50 as well it was a joyful and energetic community. This was strengthened by the community meditation prayer and mass every day.

 I’m grateful for my time in Ranong and for all that I learnt during my short stay. I had many experiences I will never forget and each of them will help a different aspect of my formation as a Marist.

I will continue to pray for all those at the Marist Asia Foundation and pray that I see you soon.

A lunch box without food

Kyar Phyu is living with her parents in Ranong. She lives among other Burmese Migrants not far from the Marist Centre.  The road to her house is very rough and has many holes. The driver who picks her up everyday needs to drive carefully and slowly.

She lives in a small house in the area of a charcoal warehouse. Kyar Phyu’s father works there. In the big warehouse area there are many houses for Burmese. Their homes are small and hot.

Many Burmese rent very small rooms in Ranong. They are small with only one light in the middle of the house. There is only one bed room with all the members living together and they share expenses.

In the family there are 5 people 2 adults and 3 children in small house. The house is dark and not clean. The family pay 1000 baht per month for their house but the income is only from her father.

The mother looks after another 2 young babies, but she is not healthy. Her father doesn’t have a permanent job and depends on someones need. So the family frequently moves according to the father’s job.

On the first day of school Kyar Phyu was happy and had a big smile, she always focuses on studying. She couldn’t hold the pencil properly but she tried really hard to write or draw to follow the teacher instructions.

Everyday Kyar Phyu brings a lunch box but with very little food in it. Sometimes the food is not enough for her and the teachers watch her and will share food with her from her friends.

It is a beautiful sight to see little children happy to share their lunchbox when they notice someone does not have enough food.