Meet Our Students (26): Kar’s Story

My parents could not afford our school fees in Burma but didn’t want us to end up working without education in early age. I still remember vividly some friends of mine in the village had to drop out of education after primary school. I am very lucky that I was given a chance to study but I don’t want to take it for granted. I’d like to go back to my village in the future, sharing my knowledge with the next generation who are deprived of access to education.

 

My name is Kar[1]. I was born in October 2004 in a small village in Karen state[2], Burma. I have 4 siblings, 2 brothers and 2 sisters; Of them, I am the fourth. Currently, 3 of my siblings attend school. My brother and I are live in Children’s Development Centre (CDC) boarding house and study at CDC school.[3] My youngest sister lives with my parents and studies in Burma.

When I was 12 years old after I finished grade 3, my parents sent me to Thailand in order to continue studying. Two of my older brothers were already in Thailand, attending school. My parents could not afford our school fees in Burma but didn’t want us to end up working without education in early age. They are subsistence farmers, growing crops or vegetables. An entire harvest was for the family but for sales and with almost zero income, it was impossible to make ends meet with a big family.

The first place I arrived in Thailand was one of the refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border, Umpiem camp[4]. There were boarding houses and schools with free tuition, providing children from Burma with safe house and education. My two older brothers were attending school there and living in one of the boarding houses, Bamboo Children House which was supervised by Mae Tao Clinic. My eldest brother already finished his study and started an internship at a local NGO in Mae Sot[5], Thailand. Another older brother and I were still in the school but we were transferred to a school in Mae Sot, CDC school, last year as the boarding house in the camp was closed.

Playground at Children’s Development Centre

Boarding House

I have been living in the CDC boarding house over one year. Having many friends here is my favourite part. But more than that I can go to school, which is the most important thing to me. We become a group leader in turn that helps me a lot to build my leadership, management and teamwork skills. Moreover, I was able to build the ownership of the boarding house by doing given tasks as a group, such as cooking, watering and protecting plants, cleaning, etc.

Children playing at Children’s Development Centre during the break

My Education

I am currently in grade 6. My favourite subject is English. I like it because I think it is very useful at work or for further education in the future, and it excites me that I can talk to foreigners in English.

My dream

I want to become a teacher in the future. I want to share my knowledge with children who are deprived of education. When you see my village, there is a limited access to education; there is only one primary school. Majority of villagers start working in the fields after the primary school because it is costly to receive higher education, which villagers can never afford. If my parents didn’t want me to study in Thailand, I would have been working in the fields right now.

I still remember vividly some friends of mine in the village had to drop out of education after primary school. I am very lucky that I was given a chance to study here. But I don’t want to take it for granted. I’d like to go back to my village in the future, sharing my knowledge with the next generation and giving them access to education.

Dry Food Program

Education, accommodation and food, everything is provided here. I would like to thank all donors who have given us access to education and opportunity to dream about our future.

 

(We conduct interviews with our students in accordance with the MTC Child Protection Policy. Interviews are conducted by our responsible Child Protection staff who are trained.)

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Poor economic conditions and the lack of educational facilities are forcing students to leave their hometowns in Burma, and seek education and protection along the Thai-Burma border. Boarding houses ensure children access to education and protection. The Dry Food Programme provides food rations to 1,952 children and staff at 23 boarding houses in migrant communities (Thailand) and 15 boarding houses in IDP areas (Burma) managed by the Karen Women Organisation (KWO). The programme provides boarding house children with basic food provisions every month. Children living in the boarding house are protected from child labour and trafficking.

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[1] For student’s privacy, we used an alias.

[2] Karen State is a state of Burma. It is bordered by Thailand to the east. Majority of refugees and migrants along the Thai-Burma border are from Karen State.

[3] CDC school: While Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) began as a humble health service delivery organisation, it has evolved into an umbrella social services network for refugees, migrant workers and other displaced Burmese. As a focal point of these activities, we find that child protection is a rapidly growing area of need. The Children’s Development Centre (CDC) has continued to provide education to displaced children from Burma. In the academic year 2017-2018, 880 students are enrolled.

[4] Umpiem Mai camp has a population of more than 10,600 people. The camp was formed in late 1999 when two former refugee sites were relocated to near a Hmong village called Umpiem in Phop Phra district of Tak Province.  [The Border Consortium: http://www.theborderconsortium.org/where-we-work/camps-in-thailand/umpiem-mai/]

[5] Mae Sot is a city in western Thailand that shares a border with Burma to the west. It is notable as a trade hub and for its substantial population of Burmese migrants and refugees. Mae Tao Clinic is located in Mae Sot [Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mae_Sot]

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