Provide Education for 470 Burmese Migrant Children

by Foundation for Education and Development (GHRE)
Vetted

2015 was an exciting year as Burma first democratic elections in decades yielded a landslide victory for Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Su Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Hope for the future has never been brighter for the citizens of Burma. Consquently, FED has seized opportunities to serve and defend the rights of Burmese people at home.

In 2015 FED began supporting the education recovery efforts and took a leading role in the peace and reconciliation movements of rural Kayah State - a land in northeast Burma torn by civil war for much of the past 60 years. Even with this progress, the road to recovery for Burma, a nation consumed by conflict, rights violations, and poverty will take time. FED has not lost sight of this and its founding mission to serve the Burmese migrant community of Thailand. Currently Thailand’s economy provides employment opportunities to an estimated 4 million Burmese migrants, roughly 10% of Thailand’s workforce. Migrant labor drives the Thai fishing, construction, and agriculture industries where migrants fill low-level jobs deemed undesirable by Thais.

The Thai Military regime that took power in May 2014 remains entrenched as the governing body of the nation and continues to receive international pressure to return to democracy as well as address the remaining human trafficking and modern day slavery crisis within its borders. In 2015 FED’s Migrant Development program launched a 3-year project specifically targeting the human trafficking and exploitation issues in the Thai seafood and fishing industry. Our team works tirelessly to address this problem, rescuing numerous victims of trafficking and helping them recover and reintegrate into society.

The FED Education program, our cornerstone and passion, continues to impact over 470 migrant children and their families, by providing the opportunity to receive a quality education in a safe environment. Without FED, these children have few educational opportunities and would likely fall victim to child labor exploitation at very young ages. Educating these children will ensure the next generation of Burmese children become the teachers, doctors, businessmen and leaders the country so desperately needs.

In 2016 FED has ambitious goals to develop and promote new opportunities for our children to advance their education beyond 8th grade through vocational training and the Thai non-formal education system.

During this time of change and unpredictability within the region, FED prides itself in remaining a constant and persistent voice for Burmese people, defending their rights both at home and abroad.

Migrant Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand
Migrant Workers in Mae Sot, Thailand
Happy children at FED School!
Happy children at FED School!

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Rohingya mother and child
Rohingya mother and child

We are excited to share 2015 was yet another successful and rewarding year at FED as we provided over 400 Burmese migrant children in southern Thailand an opportunity to access their right to education through our two learning centers. Without these learning centers, our children would not have the opportunity to go to school and would more than likely fall victim to child labor in Thailand's fishing, rubber, and construction industries. Support from friends like you make this all possible. THANK YOU--Your contributions do make a difference!

Feature Story: Educating the region's most persecuted children

by Kieran and Hannah, FED Interns 2015

For decades Burmese military regimes and Buddhist extremists have systematically led an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethinic minority group from Rakhine state in western Burma. In recent years violent clashes have left thousands of Rohingya dead and tens of thousands more displaced into refugee camps. Unwanted and unrecognized as citizens in Burma, thousands of Rohingya have fled the violence in wooden and often unreliable ships arranged by corrupt brokers in hopes of finding new lives abroad in countries such as Malaysia. However, in many instances these boats are lost at sea or land in Thailand where the Rohingya are either sent back to Burma or held in detention centers where any hope of a new life and freedom is all but lost.

In mid-2015, a group of 51 Rohingya women and children arrived in the Khao Lak area of Southern Thailand after fleeing ethnic persecution in Burma. Separated from their husbands and fathers, who were sent to detention centres, they were placed in a shelter run by the Thai government. Since that time, FED has been working with the shelter to offer services for the women and children while they await resettlement.

Soon after their arrival in the shelter, FED arranged to enrol the Rohingya children at the Unified Learning Center, our elementary school for Burmese migrants. Many of the children had never attended school before and we were excited to offer them the opportunity, however a number of challenges became clear almost immediately. First of all, because of their lack of education, many of the Rohingya children were at an academic level far below other students of the same age. We were faced with the difficult decision of where to place the students; would it be better to have them in classrooms that matched their skills, or would the embarrassment of working with much younger students negatively affect their ability to learn? More importantly, except for English class all of the courses are taught in Burmese, which most of the children do not speak.

Since the students were most engaged in their English class, and since English skills are very valuable given their uncertain futures, FED has began teaching special classes to the Rohingya children in the afternoons. In doing so, the children can continue to integrate with the other Burmese students in the mornings and at lunch, while having the opportunity to learn English with their Rohingya peers in a more comfortable environment in the afternoon. We are excited to report that the children are incredibly eager students, and have made great progress since the special classes began in early June.

In addition to offering education, we have recently begun organizing fun social activities. To celebrate the end of Ramadan, we worked with the shelter to coordinate a number of activities for the women and children. Refreshments were brought on the day the fasting ended, and FED donated a new outfit to each child. This week, we took the children on a field trip to the local beach, where they spent the day swimming, playing games, and practicing English.

We hope to continue expanding our programming with the Rohingya, to make their time in Khao Lak a more positive experience, and to equip them with skills that will help them in the future. Our next project will be to offer courses for the women during the day, to teach them skills such as sewing and handicrafts. Our goal is to improve their experience in the shelter by engaging them in activities, and also to provide them with abilities that they may eventually use to generate income. As our ambition for the Rohingya project continues to grow, we urge our supporters to consider making a contribution to this worthy cause. An increase in funding will allow us to continue to provide vital services to the Rohingya in Thailand, and as you can see from the pictures, a little can go a long way. 

Youth Unity Camp

A Student Camp was held on the 23rd and 24th of December at the Thai Navy Base in Thaplamu village. The purpose was to strengthen friendships and unity between Thai and Burmese students in the local area. Twenty students from 2 Thai schools, 30 students from FED Learning Centers and 12 teachers participated in peace building and integration activities as well as learned about the unique and diverse ecological environment of the beautiful Khao Lak area. Events like these are vital ways to bridge the gap between Thais and Burmese creating a more understanding and socially inclusive society for future generations.

A farewell note from Teacher Sophie

Here's to all the amazing people I have met during my time in Thailand. Thanks for making it so difficult to say goodbye. So lucky to have you all in my life. Going to miss all the amazing times I've had here. I've never been happier. I enjoyed every moment of teaching English at FED, the Rohingya shelter, and the Burmese community. Let's hope somebody learned a little more English while I was here. That's all that matters. Now onward to new adventures!

--Teacher Sophie

Thank you Sophie for all your hard work and dedication over the past year and a half! You have had a profound impact on countless lives. Your energy, dedication, and compassion for others will be greatly missed!

Looking for a new native English Teacher

With the departure of Teacher Sophie in January 2016, our English program is without a native English teacher. FED is in search of a new native English teacher to start in May/June of 2016 at the beginning of the new academic year at the ULC. The position is responsible for teaching grades 5-8 as well as the ability to support donor reporting and willingness to participate in numerous cultural extracurricular activities. If you or someone you know has a passion for teaching and are looking for an adventure of a lifetime, please let us know! Inquiries about the position can be made to FED Development Director, Mark, at mark@ghre.org.

Exciting Happenings Ahead in 2016!

As we usher in a new year, we at FED are hard at work developing new ways to provide opportunities for migrant children and youth to advance their education. FED's Education Program and Development Department are hard at work designing a Vocational Education program intended to offer migrant youth a chance to improve their English language, business, IT, and hospitality skills. The tourism industry of Southern Thailand is booming and by equipping our students with these skills we will prepare the next generation with the tools necessary to obtain better jobs which will empower them to help break the poverty cycle that has entrapped migrant families for decades. Stay tuned to find out more about the progress of this project and how you can help in future reports!

 

 

 

 

Migrant Student in the Classroom
Migrant Student in the Classroom
A safe school equals happy children
A safe school equals happy children

Links:

 The students at the ULC had a busy month filled with visitors from all over the world. FED welcomed volunteer groups from the States, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. A group from the University of Bangkok also came down for a couple days to teach English.

This was a great opportunity for students to practice their conversational English skills. For each volunteer group, the ULC students wrote out a set of questions to ask the English speakers. They each interviewed several volunteers, asking about their families, backgrounds, hobbies, and interests. The students were challenged by the different accents of the volunteers and had to learn how to adapt to these changes. They also practiced answering questions about themselves to the volunteers. During their free time, the students spent time with the volunteers, finding every opportunity to interact and practice their English.

After each volunteer group left, the students presented the information about their new English-speaking friends in class. Students compared and contrasted the volunteers’ interests with their own. They learned a lot about the different nationalities of the volunteers and realized that even though they live on the other side of the world, they still have a lot in common.

Grade 4 started a new unit about where questions. They received new vocabulary about locations and practiced identifying and spelling them correctly. The students answered the question, “Where is Sophie?” and identified her location according to the pictures.
They also started learning about daily routines. They learned how to identify when they do certain routines. For example, I get dressed in the morning. I come home in the afternoon. I eat dinner in the evening.
The students had fun creating conversations with partners and performing in front of the class. Their favorite part was creating certain actions for each daily routine. Grade 4 has been broken into 3 separate teams. Each team is awarded according to their performance in English class. This has become a great motivation for the students to spend time outside of class studying English.

Grade 5 started a unit on past, present, and future tense verbs. They were given a set of verbs each week, made flashcards, and memorized the past, present, and future tenses. Afterwards, they wrote out sentences with the verbs and performed the sentences in front of the class.
They also had a mini-unit on locations, learning to ask and answer questions, such as, “Where are they? Where is she? Where are you?”
The students will continue to learn more verbs throughout the year and will be asked to memorize the past, present, and futures tenses of each word.

Grade 6 started reading the story of Cinderella. With the help of a narrator and several enthusiastic actors, the students performed the story in class. They practiced their past tense writing by answering questions about what happened in the story. This month, they spent a lot of time with grammar exercises, learning how to ask and answer questions about if and when.
They also continued their unit on The World. They learned to compare and contrast cities, countries, and continents. They identified which cities are in which countries, which countries are in which continents, etc. They also compared the sizes of different countries with each other and identified them on a map.
They started a small unit about global problems, specifically natural disasters. The students were very interested in discussing the current issue of the Myanmar flood. They identified the location of the flood on a map and talked about the issues surrounding the flood. They brainstormed ways they could help the people who were affected by the flood. FED received donations from the students, teachers, staff members, and people of the community for the flood in Myanmar.

The English department received a donation of textbooks from a past English volunteer in Switzerland. The new English textbook, English Vocabulary in Use has been an exceptionally useful teaching tool for the older students in grades 7 to 8. The students enjoy the interactive lessons that come with challenging worksheets and weekly quizzes. The English curriculum will now incorporate more lessons from this new textbook donation.
Grade 7 continued their unit on The World and explored a new chapter about global problems. They compared and contrasted natural disasters vs. man-made problems. They discussed the issues surrounding these problems and how they can reach solutions. With the new vocabulary in the unit, they had enough material to partake in daily classroom discussions.
They discussed the problems that Thailand and Myanmar are currently struggling. During this unit, the students were actually able to spend a lot of time talking about the flood in Myanmar. Students discussed the dangers of flooding and the threats of disease, homelessness, and many other issues. The unit on global problems was primarily discussion-based, which the students enjoyed.

Grade 8 also began using the English Vocabulary in Use as a primary resource for their new unit. Every student has enjoyed learning from this textbook, including those who tend to struggle with focusing in class. It has been an exceptionally useful addition to the class. More copies of this textbook will be requested.
Grade 8 continued the same unit on The World as Grade 7. They also started learning about and discussing current global problems. Similar to grade 7, they were enthusiastic to use this chapter as an opportunity to discuss current problems in the world. They brainstormed solutions to the man-made problems (pollution, homelessness, unemployment, etc). They also spent a lot of time discussing the flood in Myanmar. At the end of the unit, the students were asked to write a list of problems Thailand is facing and how they would find a solution to each one.
The students will write their final unit exam on The World in August, where they will answer questions about global problems and write short answers about solutions.

Rohingya Class
Thanks to the help of two Canadian volunteers, Kieran and Hannah, who arrived in mid-June, Rohingya class has continued to run smoothly. We welcome Rohingya students of all English levels. It is a highly interactive classroom as the levels of English vary tremendously. Kieran and Hannah have helped with lesson planning and carrying out the activities in class.
A highlight of the month was bringing the Rohingya students out on a special excursion to the beach. The students had a great time playing games, singing songs, and swimming together. It was a special time for these students to spend time with their English teachers outside of school.

The Rohingya students have been improving tremendously. Their conversation skills are picking up quickly and they are starting to write on their own. The younger ones have memorized the alphabet and can write their numbers from 1 to 10. Some of the older ones have learned to speak and write out simple sentences. It is encouraging to see this new group of students take on the English language in such an enthusiastic manner. There has been great feedback on this additional English class provided for the Rohingya students. We hope the children will stay in Thailand long enough to equip them with enough basic English training.

Grade 8 student
Grade 8 student
Rohingya Student at ULC
Rohingya Student at ULC
Grade 6 Student
Grade 6 Student
Nay
Nay

The Unified Learning Center (ULC) completed its 2014-2015 academic year. Prior to the closing of school, students received an English Resources packet, which includes a comprehensive list of common English words and phrases as well as websites for English speaking practice. The students have an opportunity to attend an optional English class held at the FED office during the school holidays. With the resources at hand, the ULC students can continue studying English whether they return to school or enter the workforce. The students are encouraged to maintain their same study habits both inside and outside the classroom in order to improve their English and find more sustainable employment.

Meet some of our students who unfortunately due to family circumstances might not return to the ULC for the next school year

Nay

This is sixteen-year-old Nay. He recently completed grade 8 at the Unified Learning Center. He is from Mon State, Myanmar and has been in Thailand since 2012. He has a fourteen-year-old sister and four-year-old brother. His father works on a rubber plantation while his mother works at a restaurant.

As the eldest son, Nay assists his father in his work, collecting rubber liquid in the early mornings at around 2 am. When he finishes, he comes to school, where he is the top of his class and the student body leader. During the school holidays, he works at a construction site, washes dishes at a restaurant, and performs general work anywhere necessary.

He has been playing football for about eight years. He has won several football awards, both in Myanmar and in Thailand. He dreams of meeting Cristiano Ronaldo one day. He wants to continue playing football every day in hopes of becoming a professional football coach.
He is also extremely interested in photography, specifically with athletes. He enjoys capturing action shots during football games. He participated in a school program, called, Children on the Move, where he learned to use film and photography as a tool to promote awareness of human rights violations in his community. He also enjoys mathematics and has expressed interest in pursuing engineering classes as a way to help his community.

As one of the top students, he excels tremendously in English class. He assisted Sophie in creating subtitles for a video documentary about Burmese migrants. His favorite unit in English class was the human rights unit, where the students discussed human rights activists, such as Mala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela. They compared sexism vs. racism, equality vs. inequality, human rights vs. human rights violations.

When asked to discuss problems concerning human rights in the community, Nay was the first to voice his concerns. He spoke about the mistreatment of Burmese migrants by Thai employers and about the lower wages Burmese migrants receive. He is passionate about fighting against discrimination in the Burmese migrant community. When asked what he would do if he was the leader of a country, he said that he would strive to provide everyone with a mode of transportation. Whether it be a bicycle, motorbike, or car, he believes that everyone deserves to have transportation as it creates opportunity and easier access to work.

Unfortunately, Nay's mother wants him to quit school and work as a waiter. She has found him a job at a local restaurant, where he has already started training. He cannot work and go to school at the same time, so this means he must drop out of school. He wants to continue studying, but his family needs his financial support immediately.
As an influential leader among the students, Nay goes above and beyond, both inside and outside the classroom. His genuine heart and passion to lead others has inspired his peers and elders, who all see great potential in him. We hope that Nay will continue to develop and inspire others around him.

Cherry
Cherry, sixteen years old, recently completed grade 8 at the Unified Learning Center. She is from Yangon, Myanmar and arrived in Thailand in 2010. She has a younger sister and older brother. Her parents are gardeners at the golf club in Khuk Khak. While enrolled in school, Cherry also worked at a local restaurant to help her family earn a little more income. She wants to continue her education in hopes to attend graduate school in the future. Her parents said if they find a better job, they will let her continue to study. However, if they are unable to find good employment, she must stop her studies and find a full-time job.

Cherry is a natural performer. She loves acting, singing, and dancing. Every time there is a celebration, Cherry jumps at the opportunity to perform her traditional Myanmar dance for the ceremony. She played the part of Little Red Riding Hood in her English class and was the star of the show.

She desires to further her education and become a teacher. She dreams of teaching at underprivileged schools where she can offer her skills to those in need. She is passionate about working with charities and providing education to those who do not have the opportunity to learn.
“I love helping people who live in difficult, impoverished areas.”

Cherry is seen as an older sister for many of the ULC students. She inspires others to learn around her. When there were no grade 8 classes available at the school, Cherry stayed at home and continued to study on her own. She returned to school the following year when grade 8 classes commenced, where she advanced as one of the top students.

Her English has progressed quite rapidly. She has gained confidence in speaking English and even volunteered to give an introduction for the student presentation to over 20 American students. After the presentation, an American teacher who comes every year said that one year ago, Cherry was too timid to speak any English. Now, in just one year, she has become one of the most competent English speakers in the school. It was encouraging for Cherry and the other students to hear about the progress she has made. Hopefully it will inspire others around her to continue studying English.

Cherry's favorite part of English class is singing English songs, especially “Let It Go.” She translated, memorized, and performed the song for her fellow peers. She is passionate about teaching and spends a lot of her time tutoring younger students in English. When asked what she would do if she won the lottery, she said that she would give all the money to the ULC so the students have an opportunity to receive a quality education.

Along with Nay, Cherry assisted the english teacher in developing English subtitles for the Burmese video documentary. It was special for Cherry because she translated her father’s words as he was one of the interviewees. Her favorite subject is English because she enjoys learning an internationally-recognized language. By knowing English, doors of opportunity will open for Cherry. Whether she attends university or not, she wants to continue studying English. She has high hopes for the students at the ULC and her future.

Nay editing videos for Children on the Move
Nay editing videos for Children on the Move
Nay leading students on Human Rights March
Nay leading students on Human Rights March
Cherry
Cherry
Cherry performing Burmese traditional dance
Cherry performing Burmese traditional dance
Cherry with Nursery students
Cherry with Nursery students

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English classes include dancing and singing
English classes include dancing and singing

Dear Supporters,

Our students have been busy bees, here is what they have been up to in the past months... Since the month of September our learning center has a full time native English teacher to work with the higher grades (6,7,8). The English classes are based on the Myanmar Basic Education Curriculum, which primarily focuses on reading and writing skills. These students have been exposed to a fair amount of reading and writing, however, their listening and speaking skills are lacking. Sophie (their new teacher) has introduced a new English curriculum based on the textbook, English Made Easy: Learning English through Pictures. This textbook exposes students to basic conversational scenarios through illustrations. Sophie has been using the Myanmar Basic Education Curriculum as a foundation, incorporating the English Made Easy textbook to give students practical conversational scenarios.

Music has also been incorporated into the English curriculum. Basic rhythms and music theory are taught to the kids. Students also attend optional dance and keyboard lessons during lunchtime, where they learn through English instruction.
There are constantly opportunities for the students to converse with their English teacher outside of class. The students have welcomed Sophie into their community by inviting her to football tournaments, weddings, and field trips. They initiate English conversations with her and are proud to show her around Thailand. All in all, the first month of teaching has revealed the students’ desire to learn and speak English proficiently, opening doors of opportunity for their future.

The students at the Unified Learning Center (ULC) spent the first week of October preparing for their subject exams. After writing their exams from October 9th – 15th, the school was closed for a two week holiday. During the holiday, a Civic Education training session was held at the ULC for three days. Teachers from Phang Nga and Ranong participated in the event. Trainers from Mae Sot taught about the importance of teaching civic education, which equips and empowers the students to act as good citizens and participate in their community.

A presentation was given by the English teacher, Sophie, who taught about the contrasting civic education system in South Africa vs. the United States. This gave the Burmese teachers a global perspective on citizens’ rights and how differing countries incorporate civics into their education systems. The teachers at the ULC will be implementing civic education into their lessons, including the English classes. Students will gain a basic understanding of their rights and will be able to identify when their rights are being violated. They will also learn about the importance of being a good citizen and how they can influence their community on a daily basis.

During the month of November, all students were assigned additional English classes during lunch. These classes include English instruction through singing, dancing, and storytelling. The students enjoyed the extra English classes and took advantage of the opportunity to learn English through music.

During December, several volunteers came to visit the students at the learning center. Students were interviewed by the volunteers in English and discussed their goals for the future. Each of the students shared their dream to pursue a higher education. Nay, grade 8, dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. Khin Mo, grade 7, shares her dream of attending fashion design school in London. Zin, grade 6, wants to study education and become an English teacher. With the support of the FED donors, ULC teachers, and other contributors, these dreams will hopefully become a reality in the near future.

Grades 6, 7, and 8 have been preparing for their spelling bee, which will take place in February. The students have each found their own English storybook novel from the learning center library and write 5 – 10 new vocabulary words a day, practicing the spelling of each word. The students also anticipate the arrival of new volunteers in February, where they can perform their English songs in front of a large audience.

Aung playing "Don
Aung playing "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Grade 8 Students
Grade 8 Students
 

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Organization Information

Foundation for Education and Development (GHRE)

Location: Takuapa, Phang Nga - Thailand
Website: http:/​/​www.ghre.org
Project Leader:
Mark Del Greco
Development Director
Phang Nga, Thailand

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