The lives of some poor children in Yangon and my life were changed by two amazing people.
In 2012, I went to a poor monastery in Yangon Myanmar to see the work of my friends Ed & Tanja. They had founded and totally fund the “The Bridge of Life” organisation & go wherever children need help. They have built hospitals, psychiatric units, schools, kitchens, playgrounds, night shelters & many other contributions to children in Serbia, Nepal, Thailand & Myanmar.
This time they were building a 2 storey school room, kitchen & nuns' quarters in the Aung Thaikdi Mahamyaing Monastery Yangon. Prior to to this the only school room was small and dark, with few desks and very little supplies. All grades were taught together in the same room by some very kind, generous volunteer teachers & monks. It did not qualify for a government teacher, but nevertheless some village children came to learn whatever they could.
I spent a truly heart warming week there with the children - reading, painting, dancing, singing and playing. I enjoyed communicating with the monks and village people, although very little English was spoken. The children were so hungry to learn and devoured everything I could offer them. As the room was too small we had classes on benches under a big tree. What a wonderfully blessed experience for me!
I got to care very much about their future and after much consultation realised that if the children had some English and could use a computer when they left school they would have a better chance of surviving. Otherwise their future looked very bleak. I wanted to enable them to survive and hopefully thrive.
Now the monastery has a proper schoolroom - thanks to “Bridge of Life” and they have qualified for one government teacher. With the help of volunteers they have a full school curriculum as well as the English & computer skills courses that I introduced. Some boys have been able to continue to middle school , thanks to kind sponsors from overseas.
In the four years I have been involved in the monastery life I am puzzled and amazed that not once have I seen these children fight or be aggressive despite so much trauma that occurred in their lives before arriving at the monastery. So much loving kindness and generosity are practised there. I always leave the monastery in a “bubble of bliss”.
Thank you Ed & Tanja from ‘Bridge of Life” for inviting me to experience another way of Being & Living.
I am happily off to Yangon in a couple of days time to see and work with them all again.
I will give an update when I return.
Sponsoring a child makes a huge difference in their Life.
Many children cannot afford to continue their education through the Govt. middle school. When this happens they leave the monastery & become very vulnerable in the city or return to the fighting areas where they are often enrolled in the various local tribal armies as boy soldiers.
To give these children a chance in Life by obtaining employable skills , some caring people have been sponsoring so far a total of 6 children to continue their education. The monastery continues to house & feed them. During this year in middle school I have seen these children gain so much self confidence, are more joyful & inspire the younger ones. To sponsor a child it only costs approx $250 US per year. This increases a little each year as the grades get higher. Photos are exchanged & reports are sent.
Your cash donations have really helped. We received some very needed cash donations which we used to buy some school needs & uniforms. As well myself & 3 other consistently helpful Yangon ladies had a fun shopping day at the markets to buy the non monks some shorts ,flip flops ,T shirts etc.I was amazed at the patience & excellent behaviour of these boys at the markets. The monastery is doing such a good job of raising these children. Thank you all for your kind donations.
Children from the Samui Center For Learning in Koh Samui Thailand sold enough drinks after school to buy & donate 2 new laptops for the children. This was a wonderful effort for these children When told the monastery children were very moved that strangers from another country cared to do this..thank you!
More Laptops were donated & bought enabling the start of the very basic computer course . We found that doing these lessons as well as English on top of their normal school lessons & monastery life was too much for the yong children. So, we conducted Shein Mynt Aung's special computer course during their school holidays. All 12 students completed the course & we had a very joyful prize giving on May 6th. An article on this event was published in 6 Myanmar newspapers , 1 journal & 1 Govt. publication.
Previously we had an English Course Prize giving.
With some generous donations of funds & computers the children were so excited & amazed as they watched what could happen on a computer...mostly for the first time in their life. U Shein Myint Aung had trained Ko Sai an IT specialist & a university student monk U Zin Zawana to teach the computer skills. The children also had lots of fun with the carefully monitored games on the Ipads, We found some teachers for the English programme including Aye Thanda Khin & it is all underway. It would be really good to get some native English speaking teachers to spend some time teaching the children...they have a Burmese accent to their English!. We would like to buy a large TV screen to make better use of the DVD's we use for the English program when we have funds.
We still need more computers. Preferably laptops in good working order but Ipads & tablets are needed also. We will need a printer & eventually but not too soon join up with the internet for programmes. The children do not keep the computers themselves. They are used only with supervision & at restricted times, to avoid any form of addiction or unsuitable viewing. There is some difficulty getting,more than a few computers through customs at one time & they charge us a high duty, so we are considering buying some in Yangon if possible. However we can still take some each time someone goes to Yangon.
Returning to Yangon & after many meetings with the head monk, teachers , education system people,& also the headmaster of a nearby private school,I realised that if these children had at least basic computer skills & some English, they would have more chance of employment. Perhaps in Myanmar's growing hospitality industry.
Friends of mine Ed &Tanja from Bridge of Life who do amazing building works for children in need put me in touch with Shein Myint Aung a young Burmese Computer programmer who has developed a great programme to teach the basic skills to children.He agreed to train the teachers.
So now I have to find teachers, an English programme & 30 New or used laptops ,Ipads or tablets. Can you help?
In Aung Thaikdi Mahamyaing Monastery,situated in a poor village in Yangon,are little monks,children from surrounding villages unable to afford the Govt. Schooling, as well as orphans & traumatised children from the fighting in Shan State.The monastery does its best to care for & educate these children in difficult surroundings, minimal equipment,limited teaching staff & no computers or internet. Very few progress to middle or high school unless sponsored.Consequently there are undereducated,unskilled children around 11 years old leaving school & many left struggling to survive.
In the week that I spent teaching them & having lots of fun I found them so hungry to learn.They devoured everything I had bought with me & wanted more! Some are particularly smart. It breaks my heart to think that they can end up on the streets, into drugs or prostitution as they don't have the skills that enable them to be employed & support themselves.