One reads a lot in the news about the human rights issue in Myanmar (Burma).
Myanmar’s population of 48-50 million includes 15 major ethnic groups, one of which is the Karens, that many accuse the Burmese military rulers of attempting to ethnically cleanse.
An estimated 120,000 refugees from Burma, mostly Karen, live in refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. These refugees struggle to survive against discrimination and the odds of finding livelihood in a new land.
Family Care Foundation helped Central Thailand Mission with a grant to supply a clean water system for deprived Karen villagers in a settlement for Internationally Displaced Persons (IDP) in northwestern Thailand.
The grant also provided for the establishment of a self-sustaining fish farm, as well as providing educational materials for a school for the children of these Burmese refugees.
Previously, the only sources of water for the inhabitants of the thatched huts carved out of the wilderness were the nearby river and the surrounding hills. The river has been used for washing, bathing and other needs. For cooking and drinking water, the villagers had to trudge up the hills, bringing back water in buckets and other containers. Now they feel "spoiled", one commented. A housewife named Myang says, “Some of us now have water right at our doorsteps.”
The water from the hills is channeled into tall tanks, which then – by the force of gravity – flows into pipes into the village. No pumps, no filters – just the use of simple, natural forces.
A line of bright blue PVC pipes snake their way through the village. There we see what the villagers hail as the biggest miracle yet – water running down from the hills, through the pipes and right into their village. Thanks to a grant from FCF, their pipe dream did come to pass.
We have also been slowly investing in their simple village school. It is their attempt to provide basic education for their children. When it rains, classes are discontinued as rain pours in through the leafy roof. To get a proper roof will require funding and we hope we will be able to assist them in the near future.
The village clinic is in the same Spartan state, from where they provide first aid and medical assistance or advice. If the problem is too serious, they have to transport the patient by boat to the other side of the river.
The needs are innumerable but these hardy folk have long lived in difficult conditions, for years even in the homeland of Myanmar where they were denied any assistance and suffered hardship under the ruling regime. For them now, it’s simply a matter of survival – in safety.
For our part, we hope to initiate self-sustaining projects which will help the villages develop into healthy, self-sufficient communities.