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Myanmar Orphanage & Ayeyarwady visit Septembre 2016

Greetings friends.

 

Once again this year we had an ‘exotic' trip. About an hour out from Moulamyine town, as darkness was falling, our train travelling at a speed of about 15 miles per hour went off the tracks in the middle of the rice plains. We felt like we were in an old movie set, as we hired strong men to help us with our heavy luggage (suitcases of books etc…) and lead us along the tracks in single file in the dark, with everyone sharing their fear of snakes. After a long walk we arrived at a remote unused station. Thank goodness for cell phones. A kind fellow passenger called the orphanage for us, so all we had to do was wait a couple of hours for them to find us. 

 

 

We paid a brief visit to the orphanage as they had all waited up for our arrival. As always we were given the warmest welcome and it felt fantastic to be back again.

At the same time, we saw their disappointment when they noticed that Nina was not with us. They had grown to consider her as their 'exotic older sister’. 

 

 

During our stay we once again, played games, read books and went on outings with the children. We learnt about the ones who had left to work in the town or return to their village of origin to work with relatives.

 

 New younger ones had also come throughout the year. While we were there 2 little orphan girls arrived aged 3 & 5. They were so ill at ease at the beginning, refusing food and crying quite a lot. But by day 2 their hunger had given in to crisps & biscuits and their spirit to friendship & games. It was lovely to see.

 

There are now about 12 children in secondary school and we have included a group photo.

 

The oldest girl is doing very well and is hoping to be able to continue her studies next year at the local university. We continue to be very satisfied by the way this project is going. 

 

 

Last April our nephew while traveling throughout South-East Asia went to spend some time with them. They loved the experience as did Benjamin. So if any of you are backpacking in this part of the world, you might enjoy a visit to Myanmar and a detour to Moulamyine. It is a great way for the children to learn about other cultures and have an opportunity to speak a little english. 

 

 

Last year the Sayadaw told us that he had  started to build from bamboo a temporary primary school in a very remote location in the Delta region. (This is the part of Myanmar where all the children at the orphanage came from). We agreed  to give our support to this project by providing the funding for the 2 teachers needed. This is a slightly different project as the children are not orphans but these villages have no schools. This year we went to visit. Between Raoul and another driver it took 16 hours of hair-raising driving to reach the area. We slept that night in a monastery as there are no public lodgings in this rice plain. 'Very Basic' is the easiest way to describe the experience of sleeping on a bed of hard planks …. :-) …All for a good cause.

 

Early in the morning we journeyed on by canoe and a long walk into the flooded rice plains to the school that was built equidistant from 3 villages. The whole population of the area was terribly poor and we could only imagine how rough it must be living in these swamp like conditions on a continuous basis.  

 

 While we were at the school the women came in from their work in the rice fields. A small ceremony was held with them as well as some monks, village head-men and the 2 teachers.

Official papers were signed at this time, to authorize the building of a more permanent structure. And as well as the teaching, the children will be given a lunch every day.

 

In the afternoon we visited twin orphans, 3 months old and 2 older babies who are being raised by a foster family, funded by the orphanage. At age 3 they will join the other children in Moulamyine. 

 

Everybody we met showed us so much thanks and respect, we were overwhelmed.

That evening we set off back to the road and our long onward journey. It was a very moving experience and we are very glad to have been able to see it first hand. 

In conclusion, we have now expanded our endeavors to include this project as well as the orphanage. We are very grateful to all the support everyone has shown us.

 

Many many thanks from,

Mary Pat & Raoul, Sayadaw, the teachers and the children

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Day 1

Greetings. This year I have taken the responsibility of updating the blog on behalf of my parents. For those who don't know me, I am Nina. My parents invited me along to Myanmar as their graduation present. Within each chapter of this blog I aim to share with you my very first visit to the orphanage in Mawlamyine. 

When I say my parents wanted to throw me in the deep end, this is a very light way of putting things. The adventure began with a ten hour train journey from Yangon. It was very atmospheric with lots of people getting on and off selling traditional snacks. Due to its very slow pace, it was easy for the vendors to accomplish this. I shared a seat with a resident mouse and a few more of his friends around the carriage. The windows were massive on either side and the most stunning scenery caught your eye and made you forget reality. However upon approaching the villages you couldn't help but notice the damage caused by the flooding to the houses built solely out of straw.

 

Upon arrival we each hopped on a motorbike and arrived to our guesthouse. The excitement grew as we rushed to the orphanage to say hello. I was not expecting at all to be greeted with such warmth. The children rushed out and hugged all of us with such affection. The look of joy on their faces was all I needed to immediately feel at ease.

The head monk runs the orphanage and he speaks absolutely no English but his laughter and big smile needed no translation. I got introduced and everyone was so welcoming.

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Day 2

'Mingalarbar' , my very first Burmese word, hello. With a whole day in front of us I am excited to get to know all the children. We arrive early at the orphanage to meet up. Within the compound there are 2 two-storey buildings. Having started out with just one small building for everyone, their living conditions have improved greatly. Now all the boys have their own section and the head monk has his own small area to live in. 



Although I cannot really speak much to the head monk you can't help but feel so much admiration towards a man who dedicated his life to helping children left in this world with no family. With the support you provide he has been able to take in more little children and this year the amount has risen to 47. We have a sort of mutual respect for each other and I can see that over the years there is a very strong bond that has developed between him and my parents.

Anyway back to my day 2 entry. I finally manage to learn some of their names which are so long! The children hold our hands everywhere we go and we all feel like a big family. The happiness of these children is extraordinary and it makes you want to give them the world. They refer to me as 'Sister Nina' and it just melts my heart to have so much love thrown at me. 

We went for a day trip visiting temples and a world famous meditation centre (if you are interested let me know ;-) ). I am not sure if the laughter of the children was well received but it didn't seem to phase them. It was so much fun and the children love getting the chance to get out and about. After a long day of adventure we head home.
 

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In the evening time we play lots of games with all the children and the room quickly becomes a huge playground. The language barrier does not seem to be a problem at all as they are quick learners and everyone wants a turn. A skipping game I teach them is the most successful as its a reason to jump and scream. 
 

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Day 3

Everyday I learn a bit more about the Buddhist culture. As much as the urge to help in our way is strong and we see things through a western approach, it is so important to respect and understand their lifestyle.

The three of us wake up very early so that I can see the early morning alms. The Sayadaw leads the children as they walk, oldest first, carrying their alms bowls in front of them. The people in the town wait for them and place cooked food, fruit and flowers in the bowls. It is incredible to think that this is what they rely on for food. There is something so beautiful about the selfless and generous manner in which the people of Mawlamyine support the monastery

Dawn time on the streets is very atmospheric. As there are monks and nuns from all the monastries doing alms collection also. It was interesting to see that in the case of the nuns, the food they are given is raw.

 

Today is a beach day! This is the first year they are allowed to go swimming and we splash around for hours. The head monk sits by the shore reading his newspaper and it is so amazing how free spirited he is taking pleasure in seeing the children have fun. 

After the swimming, Raoul organizes for the children to have a turn horseback riding along the beach. It is such a special moment as their faces brighten up with the thrill of adventure. At the end of the day, exhaustion hits everyone and all 17 of us pile into the big jeep with Raoul as the driver for the one hour journey back home. 


At all times Min Min a friend my parents made during their first times to Mawlamyine accompanies us to translate as his English is quite good. During the long journeys we ask him lots of questions to ask the head monk to understand a bit more about their way of life. 

When we arrive back to the orphanage we are greeted by all the other children who have such a happy way about them! You almost want to just hug them all. It's their turn to get a break from school and they walk us through the town back to the guesthouse causing lots of mischief along the way and drawing the attention of all the passers by.

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Day 4

At times it almost seems unjust to write my experiences down in words, as the magic of such moments is indescribable.

The friendship between us and the children grows every day as we all get used to each other. We try to teach them English as best we can which somehow always turns into laughter as they look at us with curious eyes trying to decipher what in the world we could be saying.  

The children are healthier and beautiful and they love to eat! 

I do believe I have had some of the best days of my life with these children. The simple things in life really do count and contributing to their happiness is everything. The head monk decides on a waterfall outing for today. The immense beauty of the surroundings as well as the laughter in the air is so magical.

First of all we all sit down for a meal. I sit with the children and slowly I understand their jokes and I join in the fun. When the food is too spicy for them they make the silliest faces. Next we change into swimming clothes and go for the most refreshing swim in a pool at the bottom of the waterfall. The children love the water!

 

We then climb the mountain barefoot and stop along the way to visit hermit monks living all alone in secluded areas. The setting is unreal and you somehow understand why they choose to live in such a remote area untouched by mankind. I have never seen anything like it! The children love every minute of the adventure. It is a treat for them as they are never able to go anywhere not within walking distance. 

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Day 5

This morning we brought all the children's books and educational games to add some fun to the teaching process. The teachers also get involved as we explained all the rules so that they can continue to use all the materials once we leave. The children are very eager to learn and try very hard. Thanks to your contributions they have full-time permanent teachers. Although they are still a bit uneasy speaking English I was amazed at how fluent they are reading it. With the continued support you give, by next year there will definitely be a great improvement as they portray such enthusiasm. We have also requested that they put into place optional English evening classes for the students who want to progress faster. They have also been able to build an additional classroom upstairs in the newly built second building.

 

After a morning of reciting the alphabet and playing games we head out for an afternoon walk up a hill to an amazing temple with incredible views of the town. This outing was on foot so we were able to take all the children who wanted to come along. Raoul, MP and I headed out with 25 kids all running around on their little legs. I can assure you the whole town watched us troop through the streets and up the hill. The eldest girl was our tour guide and she took such pride in showing us around. 

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Day 6

Last day with the children and my heart is very heavy. Today’s excursion involved visiting two caves. They were really impressive and off the beaten track as no one really knows about them. Even the head monk hadn’t seen them before so it was an extraordinary discovery for everyone.

We returned to the orphanage very early today so that we could spend the rest of the afternoon with all the children. We played endless games, all of us dreading the end of the day.

It was a very emotional moment having to say our goodbyes but at least we know that they are living a very healthy lifestyle with a solid education system put into place. We continue to insist on more English hours, especially for some of the children who are getting really good at it, as it would really make a huge difference to their job opportunities later on.

And finally, the latest achievement of the Sayadaw is the opening of a new school in a very rural village in the Delta region. It is not an orphanage but open to all and attended by 50 children who without this school could never learn to read and write. The Sayadaw has proposed that we get involved in this project also. So my parents will be including a visit there on next year's trip.

 

And to end this years blog I would like to once again extend a very big thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project! It has made a huge change in the lives of these little children and it is truly an admirable thing when one is willing to help someone less fortunate. 

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Myanmar Orphanage 2014

Dear friends.

 

We are just back from our fifth visit to the orphanage at Pylone Chantha in Myanmar.

 

 

Every year as we walk down the approaching lane, we are a little nervous about how this year's visit will turn out. But as we go in, we immediately get that lovely warm feeling, seeing a surge of happy smiles appear on the children's faces as soon as they see us. They run over to us and we are ladden down with so many hugs. We are brought up stairs accompanied by all the children to the Sayadaw's room. At first we are all a little shy but then with our few words of Burmese, their basic english and lots of smiles, we once again feel like family. We are shown around proudly as they have done some work to the place by adding a new floor. It is so basic, only concrete and with a roof so low, that you can touch the ceiling with your hand. But they are happy, as there is a little more space for every one.

This year we spent 9 days with them. We could see that all 36 children are being well cared for.  They are all growing up strong and all going to school. They live as one family and take care of each other.

 

During our visit they were given the use of a jeep by a local business man. With Raoul as the driver we organised 3 day-long excursions. We crammed as many children as possible into the jeep and brought them to the sea for the first time, which was so exhilirating. We explored temples located in caves and on hill tops with lots of wild monkeys, and stopped in places where they had children activites.  On two occasions along the journeys we stopped to visit solitary monks who live a secluded life in the forest. One of them showed us tricks he had taught his cat. (See video for reference) They did not speak english but the peaceful energy from them is quite memorable still to this day.

 

Although it remains very basic, we are still very happy the way the place is run and with the improvements they have managed to make, especially regarding the sleeping facilities for the boys and girls. We can notice a definate improvement in the appearance of the children, due to a better diet. They still have the same 3 teachers who are very dedicated and loving to the children and quite a few of them are now attending the local high school.

 

We would like to thank you all for your continued support that will help the future of these orphans in need.



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Myanmar Orphanage Update August 2013

It is now five years since we came upon and decided to support Pylone Chantha orphanage and primary school, run by two monks.

Although it is still remains very basic, we are very happy with the improvements and stability that has been achieved.

This year, thanks to all the contributions we received, when we visited, they were very proud to be able to show us that they had finally taken down the rotten old leaking roof over the sleeping area, done an extension and installed a new roof.

See photos for reference.


Our first priority remains the children's education. With four full time teachers, the primary school now provides proper education and can follow the national curriculum. It also welcomes children from the surrounding area.

There are still around 36 orphans in residence. Over the year, some left and some new little ones arrived. Although it originated as a monastry with only boys, due to the necessity, after Hurricane Nargis five years ago, they also took in little girls. Despite this being untraditional, we insisted that they continue to take in little girls as well as little boys.

This year seven of the children graduated from the primary school and are now going to an outside national secondary school.

Overall, we still really love the place. They are very humble in their lifestyle and happy. Now the children have become at ease with us. They are very affectionate. They always sit right beside us and hold our hands. We play english educational games with them and help them discover all the new books and flash card games we brought with us, to encourage them to learn english.

This year for the first time, we took six of them out one afternoon for a walk through the town. Since they do that walk daily for their alms collection, they are very well known and everybody wanted to know what they were doing with us. We could feel that they were so proud to have us as their friends.

The Sayadaw (Head Monk) and the children would like to express their gratitude to everyone who has helped their cause. They still get no other funding from any official source.

In April, we will once again be holding our annual fundraising dinner at Hibernia, and we also welcome any donations throughout the year, if you would like to take part in this project.

Mary Pat and Raoul


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the beginning





In October 2009 Raoul & I travelled throughout Myanmar. One day while exploring we came upon this little compound full of children. They beckoned us in with sign language and we were brought to meet the Head-Monk. After a long wait, an english speaker was found and we could communicate. We discovered that the Abbott had started this primary school and home for orphans after Hurricane Nargis hit the Delta region of Myanmar in 2008. It was very apparent that they were hard-up financially as they explained that they survived with daily food donations and not much else. We decided that we wanted to help them and so we held a 'Special Burmese fundraising dinner' at Hibernia in April 2010 to launch our project. We also put a notice in our Art Gallery explaining our project so any 'Friends of Hibernia' could participate with a donation if they wished

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our return

In September 2010 we returned to Myanmar with the money we had raised. Our first task was to change the donated money into Burmese Kyats. There is no regular banking system in Myanmar, so at Yangon's central market we searched out a moneychanger. Since the largest currency note at the time had a value of approximately 1$, we ended up with a large sack of money! By that evening we were on the bus traveling south.

With no telephone at the orphanage, our un-anounced arrival was a surprise and it was heart-wrenching to see how excited every-one was to see us return. Once again we found ourselves in the Abbott's room.
We tried to explain about the donation/sack of money we had for them but the language barrier made communicating impossible. So we made our exit, decided to make friends with our motorbike taxi man who could speak Basic English and returned with him as our interpreter.
During our time in Moulmein, we went daily to the orphanage for them to get to know us better and for us to acquaint ourselves with their customs, lifestyle & schooling. We saw the rudimentary conditions and knew that we did not need to ask for an explanation of how they would spend the donated money. There were too many ways to choose from.

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The Children







During the Anguilla tourist season 2010/11, we continued to receive donations and in June we returned for the second time. It was so satisfying to see that they were making progress, the children looked healthier.

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Daily Life

Every day we would spend time there. One morning we arose at the crack of dawn to accompany the children on their daily walk throughout the town to collect their day's food.

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