Can you please briefly tell us about yourself?
My name is Allison Ficht, I am a volunteer from the United States. I recently graduated from college and am taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate studies. I studied History and Urban/Environmental Policy in school and have a strong interest in learning about aid, education, and development on the Thai/Burmese border.
Where did you hear about BMWEC?
I heard about BMWEC from a teacher who started coming to Mae Sot 10 years ago and now does fundraising for BMWEC in California. Her passion, dedication, and excitement about the Mae Sot area and the educational advancements being made through efforts by BMWEC were extremely influential and prompted me to contact the organization and see how I could get involved.
What do you know about BMWEC?
BWMEC works to provide free education for migrant students from Burma. They run 25 schools and educate roughly 4,000 students. Not only do they teach and house an incredible number of students, but they provide jobs for teachers and administrators. These opportunities for students and teachers create an environment where students learn from their teachers, and teachers further their abilities through BMWEC-sponsored, free teacher training seminars and workshops.
Why did you want to volunteer with BMWEC?
Shortly after meeting with my contact in California, I looked into the situation in Burma and the way in which it effects children’s education. What I found was that many of these children could not afford or access any type of schooling, and that the oppressive regime often forced children, with or without their families, to illegally cross the border into Thailand. Even after they get here, children are denied many basic human rights; they are trafficked for drugs and sex, and they can also be forced to beg. Migrant schools give them an opportunity to learn in a safe space. I wanted to help ensure that these children receive the best education possible and that more people were aware of the plight of these young kids.
How do you find the living conditions in Mae Sot?
I think Mae Sot is a very pleasant place to stay. The town is quaint but has everything you might need. There are a variety of different living situations, and the cost is relatively cheap. The culture is wonderful, as you are surrounded by Thai, Burmese, Karen, Chinese and a mixture of Western cultures. This manifests itself in the cuisine in Mae Sot, as you can get Thai food, Burmese food, spaghetti, or a bagel! The town is small enough that you can navigate it by bike or motorbike, which are available for rent all over town. Thankfully the town is pretty flat so it makes for a pleasant ride!
Do you have any plans to work with BMWEC in future?
I would love to come back to Mae Sot and work with BMWEC. While so much work has already been done, there is the potential to provide so much more for these children.
Do you think that BMWEC is a good place to share your knowledge and experience?
BMWEC is a great place to exercise your skills and knowledge while learning from others. Teachers and administrators are so committed to helping in any way they can, and their hard work is inspiring. Conversely, the BMWEC team is eager to learn and utilize the skills of their volunteers, welcoming their volunteers and placing them in a situation that will best benefit the students.
What message would you like to leave for BMWEC?
I am so appreciative of how welcoming and warm everyone at BMWEC was. Whether I was in the office or at a school, there was a genuine interest in looking out for the needs of the children. I’ve been so honored to work with BMWEC and wish you all the best in your work!