LIVE UPDATE from the Moving Schools Project:
Please check out the first video footage from the ‘Moving Schools‘ project showing the volunteer site visit to the MTC Medical Training Centre and the CDC School dorms. Please watch and share!
Burmese and Karen History/Culture project
On Thursday we met up with the volunteers to see their presentations on the Burmese and Karen History/Culture project. The teams split into their groups and went over each others work.
The first to present was the Green group, their timeline was set from 1951 – 1970 and they found out many key events such as, Burma was granted independence from Britain in 1948 and details about the ‘Four Cuts Operation’ of 1970 when the army targeted people supporting the guerrilla rebels by cutting food, information, recruitment and financial support. The team also looked into the topics of religion and art. The team focused on the mixture of Christianity and Buddhism within the Karen and were also aware that there is a large number of Muslims living with Burma. Within the topic of art they discussed the strong Buddhist influences in their sculpture and painting and also spoke of the architecture which they believed was strongly influenced by Indian culture.
The next group presented what they had discovered during the period from 1971 – 1990 and the topics of music and language. The group discussed how in December of 1974 the biggest anti-government demonstration to date was held and also spoke of the 8888 Uprising in 1988, which was started by students in Yangon and spread throughout the country. The group also looked into the music and language of the Burmese and Karen people. The team found out about the ‘Saung Gauk’ a type of Burmese harp, ‘Hne’ a type of oboe, ‘Mi Gyaun’ a crocodile zither and the ‘Myanma Saiwai’ a type of drum. They also discovered that there are around 100 languages with a variety of different dialects. In the Karen language alone they found about the Sgaw, Pwo and Pa’o. It was great to see the teams enthusiasm for the work they had carried out.
The final team looked into the history of 1991 – present day and found that there were many key moments in history that happened during this time period from Aung San Suu Kyi being placed under house arrest in 1989 to making her first trip outside Burma to Thailand visiting Mae Sot on 2nd June. Political leader, Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989. The team also looked into the location of the Karen and Burmese people finding that more than 250,000 Karen reside in Western Thailand. They also found that most Karen lived in the Karen State in Eastern Myanmar.
They discussed how since 2005, more than 50,000 Karen refugees have been resettled in Western countries such as USA and Canada. The teams second topic was fashion, where the group drew images of the clothing typically worn and found out about ‘Thanakha’ which is a Myanmar tradition of face painting which is used as sunblock and to cool the skin. They also found out that red was a very important colour in the clothing of the Karen and that women wear garments with covered shoulders until they are married.
The volunteers seemed to really enjoy the project which gave them a bit of background about the people who they will be building a school for over the upcoming weeks.
In the afternoon, we arranged a tour of the Mae Tao Clinic for the group to allow them an understanding of the great work the clinic carries out every day. People of all ethnicity’s and religions are welcome at the clinic. Its origins go back to the student pro-democracy movement in Burma in 1988 and the brutal repression by the Burmese regime of that movement. The fleeing students who needed medical attention were attended in a small house in Mae Sot.The group were to discover that 8 babies had already been born that day and that this was a common occurrence. Today, it serves a target population of approximately 150,000 on the Thai-Burma border.
After the tour of the Mae Tao clinic the volunteers got back on their bikes to cycle out of town to see the MTC School dormitories which were designed by Albert and Jan, local architects for the clinic. We were very lucky to have a tour of the dorms by Jan who took us through the adobe brick structures which are cool all day and the new dorms which were constructed in 2 weeks made by locally sourced materials.
Slowly after our tour by Jan the heavens opened and the volunteers and the Building Trust team took cover in one of the bamboo dorms. Thankfully after a few hours of playing games and chatting we managed to catch a lift back into town leaving our bikes to pick up another day.