January 2016: Suz and Geoff, Part Two

From Suz and Geoff of Aussie Friends of Eyes to Burma

Facebook post on January 27, 2016

suz and geoff final post jan 2016Aussie Friends. We’ve now left Mae Sot and, although a short visit this time, we’re happy we had the opportunity to see how things are going. It’s not all positive, but overall things are progressing well given the current circumstances.

Interesting to note, we’ve never been to northern Thailand in ‘winter’. Initially the weather was pretty nice – warm enough for us not to require a jacket. How quickly things change! It is seriously cold at the moment and this change in the weather has given us a real insight into the challenges faced when the weather is cold – and that’s not even factoring in the rain which has created even more issues.

Whilst we were able to go back to our guesthouse each night and have a hot shower, the people here are not so fortunate. It’s cold water regardless of the time of year. That being said, at least now they have access to water ‘on tap’ with the installation of the new pipelines to areas of the dump that previously was tanked in.

This is all thanks to the new owners of the recycling plant and ETB is very grateful for their assistance here. It takes a huge weight off as there were times when the tanks were empty and we had to wait for the ‘water man’ to truck in more – not so good in hot weather when demand is high.

The new owners have recently approached Fred and opened discussions about moving around 30+ families to another parcel of land the plant owns as they need to develop the area that the families currently reside on. As you can imagine, this created a level of panic within the community, but it looks like negotiations are moving forward positively and the families will be able to relocate in the near future. That being said however, the cost to relocate these families is significant as there is only so much of their current housing that can be re-used. ETB is going to have to dig deep to assist here with bamboo and thatch for roofing – which unfortunately depletes the already limited funding we have for 2016.

With the world currently struggling to cope with global refugee issues, charitable dollars are harder to come by, and our overall funding is down on past years. From our discussions with Fred, assessing the situation for ourselves and knowing the challenges that are about to be faced by ETB, we can see that our plan for increasing the numbers of children into CDC in the new school year may have to be put on hold and the money we brought over this time channelled towards ensuring that the 20 students currently in CDC are able to remain there. This is the most important factor. Ensuring those that are in school can stay in school and continue their education. We’re hoping however that as we get closer to the new school year (June 2016), the situation will improve significantly enough so that we are able to provide an education for more of the kids who wish to start school, but we probably won’t know this until closer to the time.

There are a number of financial challenges pending, one of the major ones at the moment being the significant drop in the global oil price, thus creating a massive reduction in the requirement for recycled plastic. As recycled plastic is a large component of the community’s income, this has affected their ability to support themselves – with most now relying on the lesser requirement for recycled glass and cans to bring in money. This has created further challenges for Fred and ETB, but that’s why we are here in Mae Sot, and we are working to assist those in need as much as possible until their situations improve.

It’s difficult sometimes. Just when you think you’re on top of things and have a plan moving forward, things change, and you find yourself having to reassess to ensure that those most vulnerable are safe, have shelter and food, and access to clean water and medicine. This is the current situation and we must work with it.

These are the challenges ETB face, but they are challenges that can be overcome with time and patience. We’re moving forward and have made huge inroads, but sometimes issues arise that mean we’re not able to concentrate on those programs we were hoping to push forward with – ie education. It will happen though Aussie Friends, we just may find that it’s a little slower than we originally anticipated.

As always, we do appreciate your ongoing support as does Fred. You may not realise it, but you are directly changing lives. We’ve seen it first hand.

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