Tuesday, March 17, 2009

'Muskoka School' Walls, Windows and Doors take Shape!

Posted now are photos of the Ta Trav school construction from March 10th and March 12th. Rattana, the ‘Muskoka School’ Project Manager from The Trailblazer Foundation
( www.trailblazerfoundation.org )
reports that the construction is 40-50% complete. It is anticipated that in June the entire project should be complete! This will hopefully include the proposed addition of a second 2-stall toilet.
Last week, Trailblazer’s Scott and Chris Coates had a meeting with But Kari, Angkor Thom District Chief, to discuss options on when the inauguration could occur. Kari said that the school must be completely finished before the inauguration could be held. He also noted that May was a busy month with elections, so the inauguration cannot be planned then. It would have to be either the end of April or later in the year. It could well be that the inauguration will take place near the end of the year, in which case members from the Trailblazer Foundation and myself could be in attendance!
The photos are truly amazing, aren’t they!? You can see more of them at: http://picasaweb.google.com/schoolsforcambodia
I’ll be heading back to Siem Reap on March 30th, which will leave me with three days in which to make a final visit to the ‘Muskoka School’ Site.

Also, I'll be checking up on a new project that Ronnie Yimsut and I are working on. Be sure to visit the new Blog for this project at: http://thebikebankproject.blogspot.com/
Since the beginning of March, I’ve been busy teaching English classes here in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. I’m teaching 10 students at the Kayan Women’s Organization. In this class there are also 3 Pao ethnic boys. The Kayan and Pao ethnic minorities are included in the group of ethnic groups that comprise 10%, or less of the population of Burma.
The Kayan women are characteristically known as the long-necked women of Burma which elongate their necks with the practice of adding metal coils to the neck. My Kayan students do not participate in this practice, in fact, they are here on the border, taking various courses in women’s leadership training, IT courses and human and women’s rights courses. They reside in a safe house here while taking their training, and eventually will take their knowledge back into Burma to teach others.

During the day, I also teach a three-hour English class at The All Burma IT Students’ Union (ABITSU - www.abitsu.org ). I taught at this Burmese organization for 2 months last winter, and am happy to be back to teach their new group of students. ‘Project Enlighten’ ( www.projectenlighten.org ) is proud to be supporting the IT courses for over 10 of their students. As a team member of ‘Project Enlighten’, I was here in May working with ABITSU in getting emergency relief aid into Burma via Burmese registered citizens. Trucks were loaded up here and aid was distributed to over 44,000. ‘Project Enlighten’ was one of many western organizations here during that time, which worked with Burmese organizations to get aid into Burma.
The present situation inside Burma is still one that sees most of the population living in dire poverty and suppression inflicted upon them by an irrepressible military dictatorship. The military uses children and people in forced labor. The junta periodically raids innocent villages and destroys them. The education system is sub-standard. There is no adequate health care for the general population. The military spends over 80% of the national budget on itself. The military is holding over 2,000 political prisoners, some who are sentenced to over 150 years in prison. Honorary Canadian Citizen and Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest despite cries from around the world for her release. She is due to be released in May, but it is very unlikely that she will be.

Many Burmese risk their lives daily to escape these harsh brutalities by crossing illegally into the countries of Thailand and India, where they live their lives in limbo either in the jungles, or in a safe house or refugee camp on the borders. It is these people that I come here to try and help, as education is a key to the future for many of these refugees.