Responsibilities of a Child

Childhood should be filled with carefree innocence, but many migrant children are often given responsibilities far beyond their years. For this grade 3 student at Champion Learning Centre, her responsibility includes the care of her 2 year old sister. Teachers were concerned when the grade 3 student had been absent from school for a number of consecutive days. She has a serious heart condition which requires a long operation in Chiang Mai (hopefully to be occurring soon) and teachers were worried she was having medical problems. When she eventually came to school, she told the teachers that her mother now had a job at a factory. With no one to look after her 2 year old sister, this became her responsibility, meaning she had to stay home. Worried for her education the teachers decided that she could bring her sister to school if it meant that she could come herself. For the last couple of weeks, her little sister has been coming to grade 3. She sits on the desk beside her big sister, or can often be found sleeping curled up on the bench. At lunchtime she lovingly feeds her baby sister and makes sure she is well looked after. Unfortunately this is not a perfect solution, as she is often distracted from her schooling by having to look after her sister, but it is currently the best option available. Teachers at Champion are very understanding of the difficulties students face at home and strive to make school an enjoyable and safe place to laugh and learn.

Questions for a Volunteer (Lauren)

Can you please briefly tell us about yourself?

My name is Lauren Ivery, I am a 23 year old primary school teacher from Australia. I have a Bachelor degree in Primary Education, a Graduate Certificate in TESOL and a desire for new experiences.

Where did you hear about BMWEC?

A few years ago I heard about the social problems in Mae Sot from a friend at university who was studying international issues. When I did more research about the area online, I found the BMWEC website. This is where I found most of my information about the organization and the contact information. Before my friend told me about the situation in Burma and the implications for Mae Sot, I had never heard of BMWEC or the problems facing migrant people on the Thai-Burmese border.

What do you know about BMWEC?

BMWEC is an organization which provides free education to migrant students. It is a community based organization, which means it is run by local people. This is something which really attracted my interest initially, and when I read more about the number of schools under BMWEC administration, I was even more interested. With 25 schools I knew that there would be an opportunity for me to work in a few schools, gaining new experiences and sharing my teaching ideas with a number of teachers.

Why did you want to volunteer with BMWEC?

This is my second time volunteering with BMWEC, so this trip I am here because I had an absolutely wonderful experience my first trip and wanted to work with migrant children again. When I came in 2010, it was because I had heard about the situation in Burma and wanted to contribute in some small way. I also was interested in spending a significant amount of time immersed in another culture, to gain new experiences and perspectives. Also, as a teacher I have a set of skills which I knew would be valuable in this area. I was still completing my Bachelor degree when I came here in 2010, so I also wanted some additional experience working with students from Non- English Speaking Backgrounds.

How do you find the living conditions in Mae Sot?

Initially I was unsure of the living situation in Mae Sot. I imagined it was a very small town and didn’t know what services would be available (such as hospitals, ATM’s, and transportation). When I came in 2010 I was pleasantly surprised by how big Mae Sot was and found that it had everything I needed. You can hire a bicycle to easily get around, everything is relatively close by and fortunately there are very few hills. There are many options for long and short term living arrangements and many are relatively inexpensive. Overall living in Mae Sot can be very comfortable and there is always plenty to do and see.

Do you have any plans to work with BMWEC in future?

I certainly am not ruling out another trip to Mae Sot to volunteer with BMWEC. So far I have had such wonderful experiences that I would happily come again if I have the opportunity.

Do you think that BMWEC is a good place to share your knowledge and experience?

I definitely believe that volunteering with BMWEC is an invaluable opportunity to gain new experiences and skill sets. It also is wonderful to experience a new culture and to work and share ideas with people from different backgrounds and situations. I am often very inspired by the people I meet here; they have faced many challenges which seem unimaginable to me but yet they are so resilient, strong and happy. If you are willing to work collaboratively and work hard, then you will give and gain so much from being in Mae Sot.

What message would you like to leave for BMWEC?

Thank you for welcoming me into your community and for allowing me to teach in your schools. Thank you for your kindness and for the friendships I have formed. It has been a privilege working with you and hopefully it won’t be the last time. Your commitment to improving the lives and education of migrant children is unwavering and I hope you can continue providing for migrant students until the situation improves.