Marist Mission Ranong Education Programmes provide an education for over 200 Burmese Migrant students. But the story begins several years ago with a conversation between Fr John Larsen and Shwe as a young Burmese Muslim Migrant. Here is her story.
There was a girl who left her own land and lived in another country as a migrant since she was three years old. Although her chance for education was very low, her dream for her future was as high as a mountain.
One day some foreigners visited the learning center. She went up to the one of the foreigners and expressed her dream bravely. She told him ‘I want to be a doctor in the future’ without considering her situation and education. She said to him ‘if I become a doctor I will serve my parent, my people and my country. ’That girl was me.
My name is Shwe Zin Thin. I was born on 6 October, 1994 in Myanmar Mawlamyine state. Now I am nineteen. I am a Burmese Muslim. What is a pity is that I do not know what my country looks like. I have been living in Ranong since I was three years old. My parents decided to travel to Ranong for the sake of better economics in 1997. I have one elder sister and brother and one younger brother.
On the first day me and my family arrived in Ranong, my mom told me that my father got a job in a fish factory .The owner gave us a little space in the factory for us to live. My parents built a little room and we lived there.
I can remember that when I reached five years of age, I asked my mom to send me to school. I said my to my mom I wanted to wear student uniform and go to school. I said I wanted to be a student. Suddenly my mom went and found the school for me. Unfortunately, there was no school or learning center for Burmese migrant children yet but my mom found one woman who was teaching a few children in an old tiny shanty shed. My mom sent me to study with her. There was no book, pencil, eraser, pen or whiteboard.
There was also no toilet. People around there just go to the jungle when they want go toilet. There was no light in our class. Me and my friends used slate and slate pencil to write. If I wrote mistake I just spit on the slate and used my finger to erase it. I really enjoyed studying with my friends. But my study was not smooth. I could not study properly.
Since my teacher was an illegal migrant and because she didn’t have the proper documents, she always had to flee and hide when the police came to that area. The police sometimes came to my class and asked about my teacher but I did not answer them. I was afraid my teacher would be arrested by the police. When the police went me and my friends went to the jungle to call my teacher back. My life and education went this way for two years.
After two years, an organization called Jesuit Refugee Service (J.R.S) was looking around Ranong and found us studying. They had a chat with my teacher then they rented a new bigger house for us to study and also offered some uniforms , books, pencils and blackboard. That little class became a legal learning center but it was still very poor. Some migrants started to know and they sent their children there. My mom also sent my younger brother to study there.
Every morning I held my younger brothers hand and we walked to school together. Since the day my little class became a learning center, I started to have an expectation. I told myself ‘I will be a doctor when I grow up and I will repay my parent’s efforts to feed me’. I promised myself to study hard to fulfill my dream. I always tried to be the best in my class.
One day, some foreigners came and visited my learning center. I went and had a chat with one of the foreigners who had a sharp nose, white skin, strange eyes, bald hair shape, heavy and very tall. I introduced myself to him by English. I shared my dream for my future to him. I said to him confidently ‘I want to be a doctor in the future’. I did not know if he paid attention to my words or not. He also introduced himself to me. He could speak Burmese. His name was John. He was from Marist Mission Ranong.
When I was twelve my family moved from the fish factory to a new place which was very far from my learning center. My younger brother and I started to need transportation for school. However, my parents never forgot their responsibilities. They still sent both of us to school. My mom said education is very important for us, if you do not have an education, look at me for example. I have to work hard because I do not have an education.
I really agreed with her. I knew only education could change my life. I kept studying hard in order to fulfill my dream.
One day, my life changed dramatically. Both my elder brother and sister married in the same time with different religious people and left from the family. My mom also started to suffer from mental illness and could not work outside anymore. I could not believe my mom, from a person who was really quiet she changed to a kind of person which I could not accept. She shouted almost every day, she slapt her face, threw every curry that she cooked. She even went outside and beat the women neighbor.
My neighbors expelled our family from that area. I could not do any thing. Only I could do was just blame God why you chose my mom to be like this. I cried every night. In my family only my father was left to work and surely his amount of salary was not enough for us to live. Somedays we did not have food to eat. I could no longer continue to face these terrible things.
I decided to leave from school and find a job. I was thirteen years old during that time so I worried that I would not get a job. Fortunately I got a job at Plaza. I was very happy that I could help my father by the other hand. At the same time I was extremely sad that I had to give up my education. I worked there for one year. After that, I got a job at a drugstore. They earn four thousand bhat per month.
Most of my time was wasted under the sunshine by sending the medicine to clinics on a bicycle. My time for work was from 8:00am to 10pm. There were many challenges. Sometime they used verbal violence on me. Sometimes I fell down from the bicycle due to the overweight of the medicine.
One day, my boss ordered me to buy a coffee. I walked in to the coffee shop and found a person who was precious as a diamond. He was a teacher from Marist Mission Ranong. His name was Ronald. He changed my life drastically. He took me back to education. He gave me an opportunity to study with him and he even asked the director of my previous learning center to give me a job. This time I was really thankful to God.
I went in the learning center in day time and studied with him in evening class. He sent his students home by car after class. In the first class I found that the lesson was very hard. I saw that the others were very good in speaking English. But I never gave up. I looked to them as a model and tried to be as good as them. Teacher Ronald always encouraged me. He also gave me an opportunity to join with the Future Group.
During my class I heard my friend talk about Austrialian Catholic University (A.C.U) Online Programme. First I did not know what that program was for. Later I understood that it was a program for Burmese migrant people. I felt very energized to hear about it. I was really happy that my dream was nearly to become true. I studied with him for two years. I tried my best for study. I improved a lot in terms of knowledge, skill in English and behaviour. It was the best experience of education that I ever had.
After I studied with teacher Ronald, I joined the Bridging Program. Then, as I am a person who wanted to be educated and implement my dream I immediately grabbed the opportunity to study A.C.U. online which Marist Mission offered. I passed the A.C.U. entrance exam. Now I strongly believe that my dream no longer can be a dream it will be real in coming tomorrow. I’m now studying at University through Marist Mission Ranong.
Now I realise that the Marist Priest named John really paid attention to my words.