2015 Annual Report

Compassion in Action.

Thanks to all our friends and supporters. In our Annual Report for 2015 we share our achievements. Click on some of the photos to read some of the stories and highlights.

We had a record number of teenagers begin secondary school, all of our preschool graduates will start school and we continued quality support of Burmese Migrants living with HIV AIDS.

A preview of the report is below. You can view the full report and share a link with your friends to support us at this link https://magic.piktochart.com/output/12624585-maf-annual-report-2015 

 

The 2015 Marist Asia Foundation Annual Report is available in a pdf file here

They taught me about the simplicity and joy of life

Teacher Monica, a ‘Kiwi’ from Australia volunteered over the summer break and shares her experience of two months in Ranong.

Books from BrisbaneEarly December 2015 I began my volunteering adventure. I flew to Bangkok in Thailand and then on to Ranong where I taught Burmese migrants during my summer holiday. My cousin is Frank Bird who is a Catholic priest, based in Ranong with the Marist team so that was my connection with this mission community.

I am Head of Religious Education at St Paul’s School, a large coeducational private P-12 Anglican school in north Brisbane. My experiences in Ranong both teaching and living were vastly different from those experienced in Brisbane, Australia.

Undoubtedly the highlight of my time in Ranong was teaching English to the Burmese migrant students and tutoring the twelve university students. I was overwhelmed by the students’ total dedication and motivation to learning, their respectfulness and sheer happiness.

Education is a jewel to them and they relish the opportunities to learn English. Despite coming from very poor backgrounds by Australian standards, the students were impeccably dressed and groomed each day, and smiled throughout the day.

I was impressed with the Marist philosophy in Ranong: “We educate, we care and we serve”. The priests and sisters at Marist Asia Foundation were unequivocally committed to their mission statement. They educated the students, cared for those who were ill with HIV and served the Burmese migrant community in Ranong: Catholic priests and sisters teaching those who were mainly Buddhist, and not directly mentioning God. How amazing is that!

While living in Ranong certainly presented me with many challenges and took me completely out of my comfort zone, I survived well. I had a tap and a bucket for my shower; I had to purchase my drinking water in large containers; I biked to school through crazy traffic; I was surrounded by poverty and I could speak neither Thai nor Burmese which made shopping challenging!  (I quickly learnt some key words and phrases in both these languages!)

monica groupHowever the students at Marist Asia Foundation were extremely appreciative of my time and energy. They showed utmost respect towards me and treated me like a goddess! They taught me so much about the simplicity and joy of life which is absent from many school children in Australia. The students have little in terms of money and resources, yet they have everything that is often missing from developed countries.

Many of the students at the school are sponsored by generous people in New Zealand and Australia. There are many demands on our money through various charities. However I can guarantee that sponsoring a Burmese migrant child is a most worthwhile donation.

Contact Fr Frank Bird for details how your small change can make a BIG DIFFERENCE: 70 cents a day, $5 a week, $20 a month gives a child an education on the Thailand/Myanmar border.

The following words in New Zealand Maori, summarise the impact the Marist Mission in Ranong had for me. The Burmese students showed me a new face of love peace and friendship which are the translation of the phrases below.

Te Aroha, Te Whakapono me, Te Rangimarie, Tatou Tatou e

Monica Keating

click here for information about volunteering with the Marist Mission in Ranong

10 Years of Compassion in Action

This has been one of the highlights of my life coming back to Ranong shared Alice, a volunteer and teacher from Malaysia.

She was one of the first teachers when the Marist’s began a school for Burmese Migrants in Ranong and was delighted to see how the school had grown and to enjoy meeting her past students all grown up.

To celebrate 10 years of the Marist Mission in Ranong, two days of celebrations were organised to thank all the community, staff, funders and volunteers.

DSC_0124 websmallerDay one of the two day celebration involved volunteers, Sisters and Marist Fathers gathering with the Catholic Bishop of Suraththani, priests, and local supporters from the Thai and Burmese community to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass.

Bishop Joseph Prathan reflected in his homily during the celebration Mass how proud he is of the work the Marists have developed in support of the poor Burmese in his Diocese.

He declared: “I am looking forward to returning to celebrate 20 years of the Marists in Ranong!”

Special prayers and thanks were offered for all the friends and funders, without whom we could not have begun or continued the work.

Andrew, a volunteer from New Zealand and now working in Singapore, beamed with joy and delight in having photos with past graduates of the Burmese Migrant Education Programme and the Australian Catholic University Online Diploma Programme.

Many of his past students have become teachers, health workers and are now serving their Burmese Migrant Community.

Many staff and returning volunteers shared memories of when the first Marists arrived in Ranong and working together but in different locations around the town to serve Burmese in Learning Centre, HIV AIDS Health Work and a Community Centre for Burmese Migrant Workers.

DSC_0302 websmallerOver the two days of celebrations, there were opportunities for sharing, eating and enjoying dances and songs performed by the 200 students in the 3 Education Programmes.

Fr Gil Casio, the Marist Priest leader of the HIV Aids Health Project and team enjoyed welcoming and sitting among many of their patients.

Normally visited daily in their homes, the 10 year celebration gave them an opportunity to come and enjoy celebrating with their wider community with tears of joy and smiles.

Fr Frank Bird, a Marist Priest now working in the Mission reflected that it was such a beautiful sight to see over 500 Burmese Families along with supporters from Burmese Learning Centres enjoying the celebration in a huge tent put up for the celebration.

“In the midst of a very poor community with many hardships, to see our students dressed in traditional Burmese clothing, performing both traditional and contemporary dances and songs with such joy and pride in front of their parents will be such a great memory to have of our 10 year celebration.

“I could clearly see the link. Education brings confidence. Confidence produces beautiful smiles. And the smiles revealed a sense of dignity and pride. Their talents and culture were celebrated in front of their parents. I will never forget this.

Sister Martha, representing the RNDM sisters from Myanmar, who are partners with the Marist Priests and whose two Burmese sisters work in the Health and Education Programmes, shared words of thanks to the Marist Fathers “Thank you for your wonderful generosity in serving the migrants with love and joy.

You indeed have given life to those who are desperately in need particularly through the ministries of Education and Health.”

Fr Kevin, the current Director of the Marist project shared “I am delighted that the Marist Asia Foundation has been able to empower the voiceless and marginalised Burmese Migrants through Education and Health Programmes here in Ranong and Thailand.

We look forward to the next 10 years bringing compassion, learning and service to our Burmese Migrant Families in great need.

I have to be their mother because my parents are not with us

2015YEAR3ThazinWinI am Let Let Win.  I am from Myanmar but I have never been to my country.  I was born and grew up in Ranong, Thailand.  I am now 16 years old.  My parents come from Southern Myanmar.

I am the eldest among the four siblings.  I take care of my two younger sisters and one brother because my parents are away from Ranong.  My parents work in another city as carpenters in building construction. I have to take care of my younger siblings. I have to be their mother because my parents are not with us.

They left me and other siblings in the family with a friend in Ranong.  I have been away from my parents since I was seven years old. It is difficult to be away from my parents.  I miss them a lot.  I only meet them once a year for one day or a few days. I hope we can live together as family. 

I want to be in school.  I want to study and learn more. Before my parents asked me to leave school so that I can work and be able to support more finance to my family.  They told if I don’t leave school my younger sister has to leave school because of financial problem.  I told my parents that we should go to school and I will have part time job to have more income.  During school holidays, I work in restaurant as waiter and cleaner.

I want to be an actress but I know it is not possible.  But I really want to get a better and higher education so that I can get a better job.  Then I can help my younger siblings and my parents. I study with Marist Asia Foundation to get better and higher education. 

I want to study and finish ACU Online Diploma programme.  I want my parents to be happy and proud of my educational achievement.  I want to show to my parents the photos of my graduation, sign of success and achievement.

Support a Burmese Migrant Child with an education. 70 cents a day. Click here for information: Small Change – Big Difference 

For more stories from our Burmese Migrants in Ranong click Marist Asia Foundation Stories 2015

postcard from Burma

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Life in the villages is very simple, Bullock and Cart is still common and natural

As a visitor to Myanmar recently, its obvious the Burmese are generous, loving, and hospitable people. They care for their country and their children.

It is shown in their welcomes, water bowel and cup at every gate, the great hardships parents endure to send their children to school.

Despite suffering years of military government neglect there is still a strong resolve for a better life.

If you were to visit Myanmar you would see glimpses of people living in distressing poverty. Bamboo huts on each side of the road. Fragile shelters resting near rice paddy fields. People collecting water to wash. Irregular electricity. Broken roads. Crumbling buildings.

A curious visitor may notice small things in shops. People buy a single sachet of shampoo. A single cigarette. A single biscuit. A small bottle of petrol. There is no spare money. Life is lived day to day.

There is a nation-wide struggle for parents to get their children to school. School uniform. Transport. Tuition fees. These expenses come after food. Life is difficult when you are poor. The government has just officially stated the minimum wage at 3,000 Kyat ($2) but even this is not received by everyone.

Yet ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’. I witnessed a beautiful example of solidarity in central Myanmar with a women’s ‘cup of rice’ project to support poor children get an education. Over 1000 women in over 40 villages save a cup of rice each day and it is transforming communities.

The Mothers 'Cup of Rice' project supports many children's education.

The Mothers ‘Cup of Rice’ project supports many children’s education.

As each mum counts out rice for each member of the family, she also puts her hand into the rice sack and brings out one ‘cup of rice’ for a poor child. This is placed in a bag.

When the Mothers gather they combine together to make a sack of rice. A local family in great need is identified by the group and the sack of rice is sold to them for half the normal price.

This money raised is saved by the women to support children’s education, a course, a learning opportunity, transport needs.

Whereas most groups struggle constantly for funds, currently the Women’s association now has over 250,000 Kyat and responds to needs from the interest earned. A slow but sure impact is being made from a daily ‘cup of rice’ and the women humbly rejoice in their simple efforts together. They have learnt the smallest efforts combined can create change.

As a foreigner visiting Myanmar for the first time, I now know and feel why Burmese become ‘economic refugees’, and journey as migrants into Thailand to find work. There are now an estimated 2.5 million Burmese migrants currently in Thailand. A fact not many in Myanmar knew of.

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Children meeting a foreigner for the first time… ‘look he has different coloured eyes than us’.

There are also times when you are reminded Burma has been ‘closed’ to the world with a military government.

Many areas have been ‘off limits’ to foreigners. Young children curious and frightened to see a foreigner for the first time share with each other ‘look.. he has different coloured eyes from us’.

Women young and old want you to sit and talk about your life and world. You hold a story of the world they do not know beyond the rice fields.

Visiting Myanmar close to the 2015 November elections, every conversation drifted toward hope for change. Better crops and food. Proper roads. Regular electricity. Useable internet. A functioning education system. Improved transport. Simple permission to build (its astonishing to learn that 70% of the country is actually without electricity affecting 35 million people).

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Old Parliament Building in Yangon still abandoned where Aung Sung was killed along with others trying to form the first united government.

The challenges for Myanmar are so vast. Democracy, if allowed, will not bring immediate development. There is 60 years of abuse and corruption to untangle.

Despite a picture of her in almost every house, Aung Sung Su Kyi is currently ruled out of being President of Myanmar because she was married to a foreigner.

Yet she is someone they trust and identify with in contrast to military turned politicians turned government workers turned business men.  She at least is a symbol, heavy with hope, a moral compass for the journey ahead for the country known historically as ‘the golden land’.

Lets keep all the people of Myanmar (Burma) in our prayers for November 8 elections, 2015.

 

If you wish to learn some more information about Aung Sung Su Kyi click to read a past story

If you would like to share in helping the education of Burmese children click to become a friend and supporter for 70 cents a day $20 a month