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 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.