protecting vulnerable children

street kids bannerMigrant Children are extremely vulnerable.  A Mother or Father dies and children are left abandoned. Children sit at home alone while Parents work extremely long hours. Fishermen are forced to work up to 6 months at sea leaving Mothers and children vulnerable.

This breeds a desperate environment. Children begin work as soon as their bodies are big enough. Prostitution. Child trafficking. Child labour in factories.

Every month our staff uncover the sadness of vulnerable children. A mother lies dying of HIV AIDS and three children are visited in a smelly small concrete room. Electricity and water have been cut off for weeks. Grandparents have abandoned their daughter. Who will care for them.  An 11 year old girl stares at us with large and pain filled eyes considering the future. She feels responsible for her two little brothers. Where is Dad. Grandma. Uncle. Aunty. Will they be sent to a Buddhist Monastery orphanage…..

Even young teenagers sent across the border to Thailand from Myanmar / Burma because of family poverty are sensitive enough to realise they are a financial burden on Uncles or Aunties. Fr Frank in working with students for the past two years shares a recent experience of reading essays and listening to teenagers.

“The pressure rises as Burmese Migrant children become teenagers”. “Its distressing personally to listen to their stories and see their tears.” “Just when education begins to open up hearts and minds to desire to be doctors and nurses, community workers and teachers, the choking reality of poverty and desperation of families imprisons them. Real poverty takes away basic choices.”

Families need to see food on the table today.

One very bright student shared his reason for finishing school. “My family has financial problems. When I said to my Dad ‘I want to go to school and study in the University Online Programme with Marist Mission Ranong’ my Dad told me: “education won’t feed you”. I didn’t know what to say to my Dad.”

Research reveals clear evidence that a primary school education gives significant basic skills for life. But each year of secondary education lifts the earning ability of an individual by 10%. This can be the breakthrough needed to lift families from recurring poverty. 4 Years of secondary education in developing countries can be the vital ingredient to break the poverty cycle.

Staff at the Marist Mission are aware of the challenging context in Ranong when only 20% of children are actually starting school and 90% of these migrant children leave education at age 12.

Its a delicate balance of giving families a ‘hand up’ not a ‘hand out’. We often share with parents to please come and share with us when they cannot pay their monthly school fee or school bus fee. Sometimes they wait unknowingly why they haven’t received wages. A visit to the doctor uses the little savings they had. Sometimes the little concrete room, the water, electricity, food… all the basic costs are simply more than parents earn some months.

Teachers here have all heard Burmese students introducing themselves to volunteers and visitors. And when asked about the challenges they face, they share bravely almost every family struggles. A phrase heard frequently is simple: The money in does not cover what goes out. Its basic maths. Even the most caring Mum or Dad cannot easily overcome this problem as a Migrant.

_MG_1504Visitors and volunteers when taken into the community and behind the main streets soon realise there are very few luxuries in Migrant worker homes. You will just see a few mats, some clothes stacked neatly against a wall, a gas cooker and a large frying pan or pot.

At a recent parent meeting an Uncle shares privately his apology for taking his two nieces out of school and sending them to work. The family was sad to see the sadness of the girls being taken out of education and made to work long hours. But he shares with the beginning of tears in his eyes. If we have to pay for more school fees or books I’m sad that we cannot manage it. We would have to send them home to Myanmar. He asks if he can receive some help to return them to education. My wife and I don’t have good health. We are trying our best.

An elderly grandmother cries as she walks away from a school information day. Having decided to care for two young orphaned children she cries as she cannot find the $12 monthly school fee and the $12 bus fee.

A Health Team worker for Marist Asia HIV Health Programme shares a beautiful story upon visiting this grandmother. When we shared we could find a ‘friend and sponsor’ to support these two orphans the cries return but this time with tears of joy. The young girl danced around the room. The boy sat with the biggest smile.

Teachers share how deeply moving it is to work with Migrant Children. ‘Its such a deep joy seeing children coming to school’. ‘I love the sound of a school playground. Its not really noise, its the sound of joy. A safe place. Fun. Friends. Food.’ When you are a migrant you don’t take these things for granted.

Marist Asia Foundation’s education programmes are really part of a long term project. We lift children from being Vulnerable to be Valued. Then they get a Vision for themselves and their Future. They also aim at Virtue. Its very strong in young Burmese to live their Buddhist belief, to live a good life and do the right thing.

With all 5 Education Programmes here at the Marist Mission in Ranong we aim to turn the situation around.  Education can actually move children from being vulnerable to valuable members and leaders of their community.

At a recent Parent meeting where our 9 University Online Diploma students sharedIMG_2672 their stories and answered questions what was so obvious was their passion for learning and their inner confidence.

They too shared a heart for vulnerable children and wanted them to receive what they had been given. Education.

As 2015 begins Marist Mission Education Programmes need to find 200 friends and supporters to give ‘Small Change to make a Big Difference’.

Would you like to support a student at Marist Mission in Ranong?

Join with us in becoming one of 200 friends to give $22 a month, (70 cents a day) or $240 a year.

click here to receive Bank Account Details and learn how to become a friend and supporter of  “Small Change, Big Difference”

(if you are donating from New Zealand the Marist Mission Ranong Project is a registered Charity and your donation can receive a tax rebate).

If you would like to learn more information as to how your parish, school or business could partner with us and support Burmese Migrant Children and Families please contact Fr Frank: francisbird@gmail.com