The rainy season is upon us. We were all getting a little panicky leading up to it. A lot of the houses are in bad shape. Due to limited funding, ETB has had to be selective and repair houses only for the children that are going to school. We want to keep the students dry during the school year.
We’ve managed to get 14 houses rebuilt. Many others in the community have been paying for their own supplies, like plastic sheets and roofing. In May we got some help from visiting donors who bought poles and building supplies.
As an organization, ETB starts at the bottom and works its way up, starting with assistance to the most vulnerable, including children and elderly community members. Among our sponsored Children’s Development Centre students, several need full support: help with daily breakfasts, house repairs, and emergency rice assistance throughout the year.
We focus on getting kids into school with the dedication to making sure they’re supported as best we can. Not just paying the fees, but helping these families with things as they come up throughout the school year: housing repairs, emergency food, homework help, shoes, bags, school supplies, breakfast assistance.
This year, we have 21 students sponsored and attending CDC. There are more students who wanted to attend CDC but the school is very full. We also helped get three students into nearby Good Morning School thanks to funding from Aussie Friends of Eyes to Burma.
Our CDC students all went for their exams at the end of the last term. At the top of their classes were Phyo Phyo, Ei Ei, Dyae Sone, and Wai Yan. Over half of our sponsored students did very well. Those who didn’t do as well struggled because they weren’t doing their homework regularly. One of the big things we want to do this year is to approach the teachers at CDC and invite them to provide homework help at our community center on-site two or three nights a week.
Overall, the students are all doing very well. Their English is good, but we need to get them into more Thai lessons. We’re really working hard to help students build life skills. If they have Burmese, English and Thai, they’ll have more than I do! They’ll have a better chance outside the garbage dump.
This is a generational change, a long-term process, where we’re helping these children gain an education and experiences to expand opportunities off the garbage dump. The students who are part of our sponsorship program are so happy and empowered as a result of this support.
School sign-ups were a busy time mid-May. Students need to arrive for registration wearing a uniform, with their hair dyed black and cut short. Some students’ parents dye their children’s hair for them; others we take to a local hair dresser. There are three days of sign up. Thanks to a donation from Wendy of Canada we have enough school bags, and we went and bought more school uniforms after students took their placement exams and completed registration.
The dump is now run by a recycling center from Bangkok. The city is involved as well, knowing that it’s important to update the garbage dump. There is going to be a modern recycling center set up over the next several years. They approached ETB, saying they’d been watching us for six months and really appreciated the work we do.
They want to keep the work force together and lend some support. To start, they told ETB they wanted to help supply water. They have a large water tower on site that they said ETB and the community could utilize. What we’ve done is supply the materials for community members to run small pipes from the tower to as many parts of the community as possible. Right now the water is for washing and cooking. We ran tests in January with the help of Solidarite International to find out about potability. The tests came back saying it was potable, but community members noticed a smell to the water so we’re going to get it tested again.
For those areas that we couldn’t reach pipes to, we deliver water to them.
But, this is only half the community. We had to help re-settle 20 families from one area to another area because they’d been asked to move by the land owner. We spent a few weeks helping them move to the new location, which the factory secured for them to live on. We hope this situation will be better for them.
Transportation is one of the most important things we provide. We still only have the one truck, which like me, is getting pretty old. It recently went into the shop for its annual overhaul. We put on side bars and now we need to get a top for it for the rainy season, to keep passengers dry.
The truck is getting worn out. We use it for everything: clinic runs, trips to the market, errands, taking students to and from school.
We hope to buy a second truck, a small Ford or Toyota, to use as a bus for the community.
Dyae Sone’s mom is in the TB clinic and we’re helping take care of her. The clinic is 15 miles from the dump.
We’re helping a young woman who has a baby with a broken leg. Mae Tao Clinic got the baby into the hospital for surgery. Now he’s back at MTC and we’re helping the mother and grandmother with transportation and food.
A personal health note: In February, I had to have a pacemaker put in. The procedure was done in Chiang Mai and I go there periodically for check-ups. I feel more energetic now.
We’re also helping to support Ei Ei and her little sister. Her mother is sick and we want to help Ei Ei stay in school and get her little sister a regular meal every day as well as helping the family meet other basic needs. We do the same for two other CDC students. It costs us a bag of rice a month, $15 a month, which we supply in 5 kilo sacks every several days per family. Not all the families need this kind of assistance. But some do and it’s part of helping from the bottom up. This approach is really successful.
Finally, a lot of the initial expenses we’ve had over the past years have been eliminated or reduced. Many families are able to afford their own rice and work tools, which ETB buys from local merchants and sells at cost, subsidizing in some cases.
The fact that we’ve managed to get the work tools to the community and improved the general conditions means they’ve gotten stronger and are earning more money. When their health is better, their income improves. They’re becoming more independent and gaining dignity by paying for their own necessities. They’ve got the tools and security of ETB, that if they get sick, they’ll be looked after. If their house falls down, they’ll get help, like with transportation to get the building materials which they can now afford for themselves in many cases.
Some of these families are going to have a difficult time when the new factory starts up. We’re already talking about getting them back to Burma, exploring what that would look like and if it’s possible. If some of these families, with their children with better educations, go back to Burma, the students now have skills in English, Burmese, Thai, computers. They’d be at the top of the work force.
The community members are thinking for themselves. We’re getting there. It’s your input that’s helped, not just financial help. Everything you’ve contributed has created this. Thank you.