In Kachin State, a remote region in the far north of Myanmar, children are fighting. Why? To get an education at any price – despite the armed conflicts (which bring enforced conscription to the villages and displace whole communities), despite the universal availability of cheap drugs (which cause madness and wreak havoc), and despite the attractiveness of work in the mines (for jade or other precious stones). They realise that to change the world the best weapon is education.
A ZONE OF CONFLICTS
The triangle of land which lies between Myanmar’s borders with India and China is a zone of many conflicts, which have their origin in ethnic differences. The Kachin people are fighting for more independence and better management of the natural resources found in their region, which is rich in precious stones, gold, and timber, all of which are coveted by others.
The region also grows large quantities of poppy, an essential raw material in the manufacture of opium. Alongside the ethnic conflicts, there has been a steady increase in the drugs war.
In 2018 alone, there were around 200 armed confrontations in the region, leading to the displacement of more than 100,000 civilians to 172 refugee camps. The response of the international community was a resounding silence. Very few NGOs venture into this remote region. It is very difficult for Kachin children to envisage a future without war or drugs.
OUR BOARDING HOUSES: HAVENS OF PEACE
To this tinderbox of a region, Children of the Mekong brings support for the construction and operation of residential centres for young people. It is an approach that works. Our small boarding houses, located close to schools, give children from the most remote villages the chance to live and study in a calm environment; the boarders get well fed and are able to sleep in safety, shielded from the conflicts and from the danger of enforced conscription. They also attend the extra classes which are essential to success in a region where the teachers have few academic qualifications.
Often run by religious sisters or by the director of the related school, the boarding houses also have a social function, catering for impoverished families, orphans, abandoned children, and so on. Boarding fees are relatively low. But many families still cannot afford them. That is where Children of the Mekong comes in. Sponsorship enables the most impoverished to continue to study.
By sponsoring a boarding house in Myanmar, you will be giving Kachin children the chance to study in peace. A monthly donation of £28 will help meet operating costs – like food, personal hygiene products and other basic essentials – as well as the costs of the staff involved in providing extra classes and educational support. As a result, even the children of parents who have no income at all will be able to board.
When you become a sponsor, you will receive regular updates from these boarding houses on the other side of the world. You will have the opportunity to exchange letters with your sponsored child and get to know them better. Furthermore, you will also be able to follow the sponsored child’s progress and share their joy at being able to get an education.
BarbaraChildren of the Mekong volunteer
“Our objective in running these boarding houses is to ensure that a good education is available to all young people. We make life easier for the parents and improve the quality of the teaching available to their children, for whom daily life is a struggle. Nonetheless, they manage despite everything to keep a smile on their faces – buoyed by their dreams, their delight in getting an education and their ethnic pride. By becoming a sponsor you will be giving them the chance of a better future – something which to them is beyond all price.”
Taking a wider perspective, what the boarding houses and the children that they house bring to the region is the quality that it most lacks: hope. This generation of pupils are highly motivated to bring about change. They are the young people who will show the Kachin and other peoples of Myanmar that another world is possible – one in which the pen is mightier than the sword.