Mae Tao Clinic staff come from all over Burma to recieve medical training so they can help their people. Many of our staff share a special bond with our patients, as often they learned of the Clinic by being patients themselves.
Today the clinic’s staff spans a range of age, experience, and ethnicity. A visitor to the clinic might hear three or four languages being used at any given moment as the staff go about their work. Medics volley in conversation, jumping between Burmese, English and their own ethnic languages. Of course, the original founders of the clinic were from the Karen and Burman ethnic groups, however, this was due mainly to the proximity of the clinic to Karen State, and the linguistic needs of the majority of patients.
Despite the traditionally large contingent of Karen speaking staff, recent years have shown a growing diversity in the languages used in the daily running of the clinic’s operations. An example of this diversity is the clinic’s small community of Arkanese speaking medics from Arakan State in western Burma. In their case, the journey to the clinic was long and treacherous, crossing the entire breadth of the country. If a visitor takes the time to sit under one of the shade trees at the clinic and listen to their story, they will proudly explain that they came to Mae Tao Clinic to receive training, to hope for change in Burma, and that they hope to return someday to help their people. They explain that there are few such opportunities for them to gain the training and experience necessary to assist their people in Arakan State equal to the ones that they receive at the clinic.
While in the clinic, the medics wear uniforms and identification badges and are respected authorities, however, they dare not travel far from the clinic, since most do not have legal status in Thailand. Whilst this is restrictive, the limitations have lead to a lively social scene in and around the clinic. Births, weddings, deaths, and festivals are celebrated within the clinic society, with staff quarters centered around the clinic grounds. When Dr. Cynthia remarks, “This is not only a clinic, it is also a village”, one can see that this applies to both patients and staff.