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