Here is an except from Andaman Discoveries about what we are trying to accomplish by partnering with the Burmese Learning Center:
“The North Andaman Region of Southern Thailand is home to a large population of Burmese migrant workers who come with the hope of finding a living wage and a better way of life. Burmese children often find themselves living as second class citizens without the money to afford basic fees for enrollment, uniforms, and transportation to school.
Their parents are often poorly educated themselves and fear discrimination, arrest, and even deportation. They are often not able to help their children who have no legal access to the Thai education system. The unfortunate result is that many of them work with their parents as child laborers, to bring much needed income into the family home.
The Burmese Learning Center is equipped to provide education for 80 Burmese migrant children living in the Kuraburi district of Phang Nga Province. Here students receive education from dedicated teachers and visiting volunteers which provides them with hope for a better future. We are changing parents’ perspectives regarding their children’s education by proving that furthering their education makes a difference. By facilitating their integration into secondary Burmese and Thai school systems, we will provide them with better job opportunities in the future.”
So the typical day this week (Wednesday –Friday) we wake up around 6:30 eat breakfast and then drive to the school where we participate in construction all day and do home visits with some of the Burmese people in the community. We are really close to finishing a ton of the construction projects! We have painted all the playground equipment, dug several holes for plants and fence posts, tiled one room and are working on two more rooms, along with redoing the kitchen area. It is so hard and tiring but we manage to have a fun time while doing it. The lunch we are served at the school is definitely interesting and authentic Thai food, like not American Thai food but legit Thai food. For example, we got to eat a whole fish with the eyeballs and all along with a squid soup. Fortunately for those who don’t enjoy that meal (that being the most of us) the ice cream man comes at lunch and we raid him of all his popsicles and drumsticks! Following lunch, more construction goes on, home visits, and sewing lessons at the Buddhist temple all happen. Each of these jobs are so rewarding.
It has been amazing to go into the Burmese peoples homes and have cultural and health visits. They are all extremely willing to listen to us and share stories with us. These people have so little but they are so grateful and willing to listen to any advice we have for them. This includes the women that come to the sewing lessons at the temple. They began by sharing one sewing machine and each took turns sewing pillowcase dresses out of a kit we made for them back home. They all picked up the skill impressively quick and finished the dresses, excited to sew some more! We weren’t expecting this, so we had them take scrap fabric and showed them how to make their own skirt without a kit, and they had lots of fun with that project, too. Since most of them are finished with that, we’ve been showing them how to add embellishments to their clothing using even more scrap fabric. Since the first day, the sewing machine count has increased to three and the amount of talent is astounding.
On Friday, we visited the Friday Market, which was a street full of tents that held different products, ranging anywhere from clothes to food to brooms. They had lots of yummy treats and super cool clothes, but since all the Thai people are short it was somewhat difficult to find clothes that fit.
Saturday and Sunday were our excursions day…probably the most fun ever! On Saturday we went to the Au Koei Beach which was unbelievable. The water was so warm and we were the only ones on the entire beach. We were playing soccer on the beach, collecting shells, going only ankle deep in the water and just having a fun time. Right before we left a HUGE rain storm came and we all got soaking wet but honestly it made it a ton of fun and we are very used to it by now. Following the beach we went to this waterfall that had a pool of water that we all could swim in. It had a tire swing and all the Thai kids were showing us how to use it, and of course after that we all attempted to go off the rope swing as good as the little kids could! On Sunday, our plan was to ride canoes down a river and then take an elephant ride. However, there weren’t enough elephants or canoes for the whole group to go at once, so we split into two and switched off activities. The elephant ride was amazing! It poured the whole time, and it was exactly like ATVing, but on elephants! There were two to three people to an elephant, and the view at the top of the hike was amazing. The canoeing trip was equally awesome. We all got in kayaks and headed down the river, surrounded by 1,000-foot cliffs and rainforests that went on for miles. Halfway through the ride, we stopped and our guides made us a fire in a small cave, where they boiled water and served us hot chocolate served in a bamboo cup. Then we continued on down the river and finished up our trip. We returned to our hotel sopping wet but very happy.
Tomorrow it is back to work but before we know it we will be home. Crazy how fast this trip has gone by. We have experienced so much and still have much to experience! All of us are so grateful for everything back home and are much more appreciative!