We had such a successful time in Myanmar! It was amazing to see a country that has only been open since March 2011. The formerly “authoritarian and Soviet-style economic management” system that ran the country has been changed and the new government is making slow but steady moves towards a democratically run country.
Andrew and Jo traveled with Dr. Moe to Kamarnut Village near Bago. Dr. Moe has very successfully established a school for children who cannot afford the uniforms necessary to attend the government schools. We met with the headmaster and teachers there and set up a "Light Library" where children can borrow our lights to read and do homework at night.
It absolutely tore at our hearts how little these children had, and how difficult life was for them. However, we were told by one of the teachers how all the children love school, even though they have an average of two to three hours of homework a night.
We explained how our lights work and how they need to be charged, and set up a ‘library check-out’ program for the lights. The lights would be kept at the school during the day so they can be charged in the sun and kept track of. Then, at the end of school, the children can check out a well-charged working light for the evening.
Kamarnut village, Bago township, is north east of Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. Dr. Aung Zaw Moe, helps run a school for the children who are too poor to attend the government schools. One of his associates and friend, Khin Kyaw, who works with the International Federation of Red Cross, showed us around and introduced us to the kids and teachers there. This school has fifty children, with four teachers and volunteers helping with administration. We were able to visit this school and delivery the lights personally, which was such a touching experience. This school is at the end of the road, past the poorest areas of the village. When we arrived the students were all sitting quietly on the floor behind their desks. We were a real shock to all the children!! Some stared, some wouldn't even make eye contact, and others played peek-a-boo with glances. We were reminded by Khin Kyaw, that most of these children had never seen a white person, let alone had to talk or interact with one.
We took motorcycles north into the mountains of Myanmar. We circled north from Hsipaw through Namhsan and out into many tiny mountain villages. We had to be careful because this is the area that is still in conflict, and the presence of the Myanmar army and Rebels were made veryclear. However, we were able to stay out of their way and had great success with our lights. We wished we had another few hundred lights to distribute - even in the very small part that we covered. However, we are making plans to send more up to this area.The villages here have nothing, no electricity, no running water, no luxuries, let alone what we would consider normal living standards. School is still very important to them, and most villages that were of decent size (over 100 people) would have a school that would be for that village and all the smaller villages around.
We left lights at two different village schools in the mountains. This first school we found was located in Chaung Namhsan.
Miss Tin Tin Hla, the headmistress at the first school, spoke a little English and we were able to get the information across using charades and "pictionary". She was so thankful to us it just warmed us through to the core! The school was let out for the day, but there were still quite a few children there and we were able to meet and hang out with some of the little ones for a while. It is amazing how these people with very little were able to gather enough to teach the next generation.
We ended up staying out in the villages in people's homes because there were no hotels or guesthouses within a 50-mile radius. The folks were so sweet, hospitable and welcoming. One of the villages we spent the night in was Ka Yar Gyi, where we stayed in the 'headman's' home. The only person in the village who spoke English was the headmaster of the school. His name is Ko San Maung, and he was pleased to give us a tour of the village and school house