Migrant Stories of Hope: Sometimes my mother tells me to stop going to school

My name is Aye Aye San, I am fifteen years old and I was born in Ranong, Thailand. I am in Year 2 of the MAF Burmese Migrant Secondary Education Programme.

When my mother was 3 months pregnant with me my father passed away. After I was born my mother and I moved to a village in Dawei, Myanmar. After 7 years we moved back to Ranong and my mother began work in the fish factory and married my step father who was a fisherman.

My mother has now retired because she has hurt her back and last month my step father developed stomach problems so he has had to stop working for now, we are worried because we are only living off my sister’s income.

My older sister had hopes to get an education and become a teacher but she must work to support my family. She always encourages me to continue studying and working hard so I can have the future that she wanted.

Sometimes my mother tells me to stop going to school and work to earn money instead, we have arguments because I don’t want to leave school and I get very upset. But my sister always believes in my education and works harder for income.

My sister has told me if I focus and do well in my studies that she will try save up to buy a laptop for me. She knows how much it would help me in my school work and she wants to support my education.

I attended Victoria Learning Centre from preschool to Grade 6, during this time I heard about Marist Asia Foundation and I wanted to join. This year I took the entrance test and was able to get in to Year 1, I was so happy to come to this school.

This year I have realized my Thai and English language has improved so much and I think that is very important for my future. I now feel more confident to speak in these different languages to Thai and English speaking people. I have also loved doing practical things at Marist Asia Foundation and different kinds of learning.

I feel like I have matured this year, I have learned how to have good relationships with myself and others. I have also learned a lot about my own culture too and have more respect for Burmese way.

I hope to finish Year 4 at MAF and go onto the ACU programme, but I always worry that I will have to stop studying to work and earn money. I dream to be an air hostess when I finish studying but my mother wants me to be a business woman. If I am able to be an airhostess I think I will be so lucky and happy to travel and see different places around the world.

Sometimes I feel sad but I always try to keep a smile on my face in front of others and try staying happy. I often worry about money and how my family will have enough to pay for rent, documents, school and food.

But I am very grateful to go to school and I would like to say thank you to people who help our school. It is very different from my other school and there are lots of creative things to do. We can also watch videos and see pictures of history and different places on the TV. These things help me learn and I can have more fun while learning. Thank you.

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.

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.