“Being a good child and student is a gift that I can give in gratitude to the people who supported my education,” says Maw Meh, a 9-year-old Standard 3 student in the refugee Camp of Ban Mai Nai Soi, Mae Hong Son, Thailand.
Her parents lived in Kayah state when they were young: her father was only 11 years old and the mother was 10 years old when they had to flee their village to escape from Burmese soldiers who had burnt their houses and looted all their possessions. In 1996 they arrived in camp Ban Nai Soi, near the Myanmar border, without anything, and were given limited rations and tents for shelter. Fighting was still taking place between Karenni soldiers and Burmese soldiers along the border that time, and sometimes they had to escape outside the camp to a nearby Thai village. This continued for two years until different NGOs and other humanitarian groups came to help them by regularizing the camp situation, and life became better.
Both parents studied in the camp schools under the Karenni Education Department (KnED) supported by JRS. The father finished standard 6 and the mother Standard 7 because they had to help support their families. Both parents are Karenni Catholics, and when they married, they were gifted with three children, of whom Maw Meh is the second. Her other siblings are 11 and 4 years old. Presently, the parents are still struggling to make a living, especially that more and more rations are cut and other services reduced. To better their situation and to support their children’s needs in school, the parents take turns in working in the nearby village, taking advantage of an agreement between the camp committee and the Thai authorities. This agreement allows them to go out from the camp during the day, as long as they come back by evening. No matter how much they wanted a higher salary, they also consider the importance of their presence and taking care of their children. Out of their little income they were able to buy a piglet, which the whole family takes turn in rearing.
Without being asked Maw Meh has taken the initiative to get water from a nearby hill. The parents proudly describe their daughter as responsible, smart and clever, who studies independently, and always gets high marks in exams, bringing her to the group of the top 3 in the class. Maw Meh said that she is happy to be in school because she has many friends and she likes her teachers: they teach well and give her class group discussion activities in which she actively participates. She likes having homework because she can study more after school and learn more. Her dream is to become a nurse when she grows up, because she likes to take care of the sick, especially old people. For her they are the ones who need more help as will her parents will when they get old. She loves them very much and she wants to repay the care and love that her parents are giving her. She hopes that during the time they need such care, she is already a nurse. She ended by saying “ Being a good child and student is a gift that I can give in gratitude to the people who supported my education… I want my parents and teachers to be happy with me.”
Her parents believe in the importance of education and therefore support Maw Meh’s dream. They will try their best to help her realize it. They said, “We want her to become a good person and volunteer to serve the community. With our situation now and the uncertain future, we don’t know … but we just pray that God will take care of her. We are just happy that in the camp there is good education. Students now are more active and the schools are more alive. For this we thank JRS, KnED and the donors for supporting camp education. With the little resources we have we try our best to support the school by attending the PTA meetings, being present in the activities and help in the construction/ repair of the schools.”