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.

Found in the corner of the fish factory

Ko A Nya was found late last year in a fish factory living in the corner with a mat on the rough concrete.

The mosquito net was his ‘home’. Fish factory workers gave him some food. The Fish Factory owner allowed him to stay in the corner knowing that he was homeless.

He had arrived in Ranong as a Burmese Migrant with no documents.

Previous connections with other NGO’s wanted him to return to Myanmar. He would escape from them and tried to live alone.

After a time in hospital because of HIV and TB, the hospital referred him to Marist Asia Foundation.

We tried to locate some cheap accommodation. Eventually we found a cheap place to stay near the Marist Community so we could provide some basic support for needs and medication.

His wife had left him upon knowing his HIV status. He was left sick and abandoned and now has no contact with his wife and 2 children. He had been in Thailand for 20 years. Without documents he is unsafe.

Marist Asia Foundation helped him to get legal documents and a health card. He has gradually become well enough to begin doing some odd jobs. He smiles as he sweeps the pavement and helps with painting.

With a welcoming community, health support he feels his dignity and self worth is being restored. He has hope now for his future.

I always feel homesick

My name is Nandar Oo. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I am happy because I am teaching at a Migrant Learning Centre. I am also studying with Marist Asia Foundation and Australian Catholic University ‘University Online Diploma Programme’

I do not have a chance to live with my parents. I live in Ranong with my uncle’s family. I always feel homesick and when I see some of my friends live with their family, I would like to live like them.

When I feel sad, I want encouragement from my parents. Although I face many challenges and difficulties in my life, my dream is always deep in my heart because I believe education can change my life.

When I was young I had to leave school. I can’t continue school for two years because of my family financial problem.

Fortunately, my cousin came to the village with her mother. I could study again with her because of her mothers support for my education. Every day I walked from my village to another village for three miles. But after I passed grade six, I had to leave again. I really wanted to continue my education, but no one can support me for my education.

In my family, only my father could work on the farm. My mother was not in good health and she had heart disease. Sometimes we didn’t have any food to eat and my family was very poor. I worked on another farm for three years so that I could help my father by my work.

In 2009, I left my family when I was 13 years old and went to Thailand with my grandparents. I came for work in Thailand however, my uncle did not allow me to work and he wants me to continue my education.

One day he found a good school for me. It is Marist Asia Foundation school. I had to leave school again because of my family financial problem. I went to Koh Phi Phi Island for work. I worked in the restaurant at night and every night I worked ten hours per day.

While I was working there I felt afraid because of many people with drugs. Fortunately, my uncle called me back to Ranong. My uncle and his wife asked me ” Do you want to continue to study again? I said ” Yes, I want to study again.

After finished study I was very happy because it is my dream come true to be a teacher. I worked as a volunteer at two Burmese Migrant Learning Centres.

Now I know how much education is important for my life. I have experienced many challenges and difficulties between the relationships with people.

I have experienced discrimination between educated people and uneducated people. I saw most of my students out of school who worked hard in the factory to support their family. Some of my students did not take food for lunch.

I feel pity and I always share food with them and encourage them. I really want to be a teacher for my future.

I often look at the four corners of the house alone

I am Naing Lin, 17 years old. I live as a Burmese migrant in Ranong, Thailand. I am studying at Marist Asia Foundation in Ranong.

When I was young, I did not live with my parents, I just lived with my father’s sister. My aunt taught me many things like how to behave well. But most of the time, she yells at me.

I remember going to school crying because it was not all well at home. At night, I often look at the four corners of the house, alone and missing my family which really makes me feel lonely.

I felt like no one is with me. I wondered why I can’t be with my parents but even up to now I still didn’t know why I have to be separated from them when I was younger.

I became the happiest because finally my parents came and asked me to live with them. I was very glad because we were finally complete and that I would be able to play with my three younger brothers and never be lonesome anymore.

We had to move to another place. My father’s job was fixing motorcycles. My family depended on our father for our living. However, his health conditions got worse.  We struggled financially to pay for medicine. We had to sell the little property we had to support his medication. Even then, my father died.

After he passed away, I was brought to Ranong. My father had another sister and learned about Marist Asia Foundation. She asked me if I wanted to study and I accepted her offer.

Everything was going fine until my aunt couldn’t continue supporting me anymore. From then on, everything got hard and difficult for me.

But one Burmese family welcomed me to stay with them. I stay with this family up to now. They treat me really nicely. And to at least give back to their kindness, I help in the house with chores and just give just a little amount of money handed by my younger brother who works in a bicycle shop.

Though they never wanted to accept it, I always insist. That’s the least I can do. They always say that welcoming me to their home is the right thing to do to their fellow Burmese.

Because of this new family, my own family, and my dreams, I give my best in my studies. Marist Asia Foundation helps me in many ways.

I not only learn English but I also learn about computer, and other important things. I can also share my talents and passion in music. I felt happy because of this. I also feel that the school will help me reach my dreams. The teachers also understand our feelings and they always give their best in teaching us.

In the future I want to study more so I can have a good job and can help other people especially repay the kindness my younger brother did for me.

He has sacrificed a lot so I can continue on studying. One day, I know, my brothers, my mother and I will be together again and I don’t have to feel this missing piece anymore.

At a young age, I have seen how hard life can be that’s why I believed that education is the best tool to be successful in the near future.

Sharing the Journey – Sharing Migrant Stories

Pope Francis recently launched the ‘Share the Journey’ message supporting Migrants and all those forced to leave their homes, families and country.

Sadly many migrants do not find a welcome home in their host country. Often they face continued discrimination and poverty.

Migrants are not our enemy. We are encouraged to share their journey, listen to their stories, begin an encounter with them.

Marist Asia Foundation in joining with this campaign and sharing a series of stories from our Migrant Students and families. Our hope is simple. Listen. Love. Show Compassion. Click the images below to listen to different stories from our Migrant Community.

To find our more about Share the Journey check out some great reflections and resources for your family, school, parish or small community group.


I learnt how to love people who are neglected

Living in a new culture and environment is always challenging. I am training to be a Marist. I come from Papua New Guinea but have been studying in Rome. I got the opportunity to experience and contribute to the life of the Marist Mission in Ranong.

The life in Ranong is such a unique place when it comes to dealing with different religions and culture. I was so privileged for being part of the community in Ranong for 3 months. It helped me grow in my human life and my Spiritual growth.

I enjoyed working with education for the Burmese migrants and health outreach to those with HIV. We brought hope in the lives of the people that we worked with.

I had a special teaching experience in the Migrant Learning Centers. They have such joy to receive an education. It was great to be a teacher for them and encourage them to persevere in their life.  They actually taught me so much about what life really means. They contributed to my religious formation.

My experience with the health ministry going out visiting sick people with HIV has been one of the unique experiences of my life. It gave me the opportunity to be with them and see them with dignity. I could see our visits brought a smile to their faces.

They formed me to grow in love and respect to every human person. The experience of being with HIV people made me learn how to love people who are neglected by the society. To be like Mary and be a mother to them.  I learnt a lot from them.

I wish to thank the community in Ranong and the Marist Theologate in Rome for giving me this opportunity. I will treasure it a lot because it gave me many opportunities to grow in my formation as a Marist.

Thank you very much to the Ranong community for all the support and help you shared with me in my 3 months with you. It was a wonderful experience.