Posted June 18, 2010 by Tithiya | 12 Comments
I came to the Ban Nai Soi Community Learning Center to meet Mr Sien. I read about his story and I wanted to meet this man who struggled so hard to get the education he was denied as a young man in Burma. He now finds his redemption by ensuring that the students forgotten by the system, much like he was don’t get deprived.
What I wasn’t expecting was the pint-sized fighter I met who is his twenty one year old daughter.
Rosie is well under five feet tall and is painfully shy. When she walked into the room as I introduced myself to Mr Sien, I assumed she was one of students from the school. She later corrected me when she and I got talking… From Monday to Friday, Rosie’s actually a teacher, fund raising point person and supervisor of the Community Learning Center. On Saturday and Sunday, she’s a student at the University at Mae Hong Son.
Rosie and her mother- Maw took charge of the school after Mr Sien met with a terrible accident almost four years ago. Rosie was barely seventeen then. She recounts the events with a lot of bitterness, “when my father was unable to work, no body came to help us, we were in debt and had no means of paying it off, people would call us and threaten us if we didn’t pay. We did not tell the students but my mother and I could not sleep for weeks.”
She looks pale and drawn by the time she’s done recounting that dark period.
Rosie and Maw took on further loans to pay off the people who were harassing them. Rosie says that she had to grow up very fast in those months. She was barely out of school herself but suddenly she had an entire center to manage, students to feed and debts to pay.
Just when they were on the brink of closure, an American organization called ‘Link Hands for Humanity’ stepped in. A volunteer teacher at the school called Noora, facilitated the aid. Link Hands helped them pay off their debt and even built a concrete road leading up to the school! Sadly, they had to end their commitment to the centre when the recession hit.
Even now, they struggle to give the students a well -rounded education. Rosie wants to build a library for the school and also purchase a truck so they can take the students for trips. Something the students would be delighted with. The Center is in the middle of no where, but that’s what I love about it. What good did city living do any of us anyway.
She says, “When one student graduates here, it changes not just their life, but their family’s too and they can become valuable members of their communities. If the students didn’t finish high school they would end up with menial jobs, find sanctuary in drugs and even bring HIV back to their communities”.
While she spoke, for a moment, I felt a little queasy; hoping she wouldn’t ask me the same questions I was asking her. I have no heroic deeds to share from ‘the time when I was twenty one’! This girl is talking about problems of minority ethnic groups and opportunities for children of refugees in her country.
Fortunately she was very gracious and polite. And I didn’t have to fib a story of trial by fire from my past.
Last evening, we were sitting together in the office and she asked
me if I knew anything about fundraising and finding volunteers. She was too polite to ask for help directly. But this was my opportunity to show my appreciation for her spirit and sincerity. I told her I know a little and told myself that ‘I can google the f*** out of most things’. We worked together well past ten thirty and wrote drafts of emails and made a list of requirements.
It was a very simple list. It read something like this… A library with a few desks and chairs, concrete replacements of bamboo electricity poles, ink cartridges for the printer. A guitar for the students, nets and balls for volleyball and football. A small budget to celebrate the festivals and occasions from all the tribes and communities the students came from, among other things.
A very humble set of requirements in a time of air-conditioned school buses and farewell parties (or proms) for seniors in five star hotels!
She’s a tough cookie this one, and I know she’ll have her way soon enough. I feel compelled to help her; it would be tragic to see her optimism and dedication snuffed out if the school shuts.
What a fabulous young lady. I’m delighted to have met her. And did I mention already they she was the first student of this school? Well she was, her father wanted people to have faith in the establishment. Making it clear to the community that he wouldn’t run a school that wasn’t good enough for his own child.
I hope someday soon I can return and volunteer to teach here. And maybe pay my dues for having been an insincere student.