February 2012

Things are starting to go really well – the extra bit of funding has made a difference as I can actually get things done more efficiently. The headmen are becoming more suited to their roles, mainly because we have given them the opportunity to take some charge and organize. It is very hard for the Burmese to take authority and it does take time to understand this, but fortunately the headmen are overcoming this reluctance and starting to work well.

At this point everyone has got the sickle knives to work on the dump, and within the next few days they will all get new headlights. Within a week everyone will get boots. Every night we have discussions with the headmen about the problems, one of which is the fact that the boots don’t last long, so one of the headmen and Song will come with me to the market to look for some better quality boots. I will keep you updated on that. The other thing the discussion has brought up is that the knives need sharpening and the headlights are not well built; the wires break and render them useless. We have come up with building a small workshop to put in a peddle grinding wheel and a soldering iron that will run off a car battery so they can repair the knives and the lights.

We have also listed all the houses that need repair. There are about eighteen of them to date and there may be some more. They are now working on the materials that will be needed, and as soon as that is sorted I will get the goods. There has been a small increase in the number of youngsters with fevers so I am monitoring this. Since I returned from Burma I am pretty much doing the clinic runs every morning. This is for a variety of ailments among adults and youngsters, for teeth, stomach problems, check-ups – fortunately nothing too dramatic. It does make the days really long as there are clinic runs in the morning, shopping midday, and back in the evenings to do the nutrient programs, water checks and meetings with headmen. Thiha’s understanding of the project has helped get the momentum going and it has been really intense as he will be leaving next week, but we have managed to get so much done.

The weather is getting quite hot now and there are at least an extra two to three water fills a month. I may have a solution to slow down the usage of water by supplying everyone with their own 5 gallon container with a tap. That would be the only container they could fill with water rather than the current situation whereby they fill buckets and any available container, which leads to wastage. If we can reduce the waste we can reduce the cost.

One of the new on-going expenses is the batteries for the headlights. I haven’t been able to cost this out as yet, but it does mean the people can work at night and earn more money so the cost is worth it. Ideally, they could reach a position where they could buy the batteries themselves. I have looked at the possibility of recharging batteries using a generator. The only system I can think of is one using solar chargers but I have no contacts for this so I am putting the word out. If anyone has any contacts I would appreciate the help.

The oranges that I was providing on a regular basis are now out of season and I am looking for a viable alternative. Apples are expensive. For the last week we have been very concerned about police raids, which has also been very time-consuming. We have tried to come up with a plan if there is a raid. The word ‘help’ has been introduced into the communication system to let me know if there has been a raid or any emergency situation. It has been a difficult time, but the general feeling is that it may have passed as the police that came up from Bangkok to do the raids have all gone.  We are still looking for ways to get the dump residents some security, and I am working with other organizations to work out what can be done.

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Song handing out oranges.

I’m seeing some medical problems at the moment – stomach ailments and diarrhea, more than normal. I have managed to get some antibiotics to help deal with it, but more importantly where is it coming from? It could be the food so I have done a few rice drops which is helping.

The water tanks need cleaning every so often as there is a lot of dirt in the bottom. I don’t need to deal with that as the dump residents sort it out themselves.

A little bit more good news. There is a school very close to the garbage dump, called ‘Sky Blue.’ There are many donors involved and it has proven impossible to find out who they all are, which has made it very difficult to get any one person to make a decision on anything. Fortunately, one of the donors came to Mae Sot, knew about me and made a point of tracking me down to talk to me. After a week of discussions about what could be done to make improvements, it has been agreed that I will take over the grounds and the gardens of the school. There is a small garden in place, but due to the many donors and disorganization, very little has been done at this time to turn it into a proper vegetable garden. Hopefully, within the next three to four weeks I’ll take over the running of the garden. My plan is to turn it into a sustainable and productive vegetable garden. This will start to solve some of the nutritional problems and also bring in people who work at the garbage dump to tend to the garden. I will keep you updated on the progress.

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The future vegetable garden.

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