With the start of the new school year, we are welcoming some new students, but we are also saying goodbye to others, such as Nang Leng and Sai Khur. Both of them have worked incredibly hard to be able to leave Somwang behind and take the next step continuing their education in a public Thai School. Their teachers and classmates organized a great send-off for the two at the end of the school year. Though we are all really sad to see them go, we are also so incredibly proud of them and wish them nothing but the very best.
Even though Thailand's domestic legislation guarantees that all children, regardless of legal status, have a right to basic education provided by the State, most refugee children are largely unable to access Thai schools due to language barriers. At Somwang, we have thus made it our goal to prepare students with the necessary Thai, English and Math skills to give them the chance to continue their education beyond Somwang by attending public Thai schools. Thus, seeing students move on means that we are fulfilling that goal and that is a great success for us, and for everyone involved, really.
Though the funds that we collect through events and donations are all invested into Somwang School, we have extended our scope and are working with private sponsors in order to give children the necessary financial support to allow them to continue their education once they leave Somwang. It is thanks to a very generous sponsor that Nang Leng and Sai Khur, along with Chai Khwan (who already attended a Thai school last year) are able to keep learning and building a better future for themselves and their families. Thank you so much!
School is back in session, and we couldn't be more excited!
After a month of summer vacation our kids weathered the rain this morning to make it back to Somwang School for the first day of the new school year 2018/19.
Our kids are currently enjoying a well-deserved vacation, which means that another school year at Somwang has come to an end, and a moment to look back on it all presents itself.
It was a big and important year for Somwang School, one filled with laughter, successes and big steps.
Over the course of the year, Somwang was home to an average of 70 children. To keep them healthy and happy, our cook, who is also one of the teachers, cooked about a total of 17000 meals. No easy task!
Helping her take care of the kids, we had 3 more teachers, one of which is Aoi Som, whose story we shared with you earlier this year and which you can reread again here, in case you missed it.
This year marked also the transition of our first student, Chai Khwan, from Somwang to a public Thai school; a proud moment for all that were involved, which you can revisit here.
The school itself also went through some changes and with the help of our valued sponsors, we were able to build a new roof, install our own solar panel, have access to electricity and can now further our student’s education through the use of computers.
Moreover, we visited the school again and held important parent-teacher-sponsor meetings, where we give the students’ families a possibility to voice their concerns, brainstorm new ideas and problem solve together.
Needless to say, we are incredibly grateful for all the continued support we are getting from so many of you, and we can’t wait to see what the new year will have in store for us.
Somwang opens again on April 17th, so stay tuned!
What many of you know is that we recently hired a new teacher.
What many of you don't know, is his story.
4 years ago, Sai Aom, a Shan refugee and the son of our head teacher, Lan Mao, was accepted to study computer engineering at the University of Chiang Mai. As a refugee, it was an incredible chance and a dream come true. However, unable to cover the costs, he was ready to turn down the offer. When we heard about Sai Aom and his ambitious goals, we decided to help and find him a private sponsor who would be able to finance his entire university studies. A kind generous soul and 4 years later,
Sai Aom graduated!
Despite all the doors that were open to him now, Sai Aom's first reaction was to approach us and apply for a teacher position at Somwang School with a simple wish: to give back what he had received.
When we hired him, his first plan was, to use his newly learned engineering skills to help improve th school. He managed to receive solar panels, as well as computers, as a donation from the Thai military and installed the whole systems by himself. With electricity and a new computer lab, we are now even better able to prepare our students with a new skill set to meet the needs of demanding curricula at public schools and quality job opportunities. Hoping that, like their new teacher, they too will one day attend a university.
We are eager to share the exciting news that, after four years, one of our students, 15 year old Chai Khwan has transitioned from Somwang School to Ban Lan School, a local public school in Thailand. This is a transition that we highly encourage at Somwang and one that we specifically prepare our students for by teaching them the necessary English, Thai and Math skills to continue their education beyond the walls of Somwang at a public Thai school. However, we are also aware that such a transition can pose a great financial burden for most families: In Thailand, public schools are only free to Thai nationals and in addition it is required that a students and his family personally pay for uniforms, school supplies and transportation.
Thus, to prevent that families simply recruit their older children to make an extra $3 a day working on the orange plantations, we have committed to assisting our students on their path far beyond Somwang School by financially supporting them with our sponsorship program. To show them and their family how strongly we support them and to give the student an additional incentive to study hard and succeed, we find individual, private sponsors who, through MPG, are willing to support the students in their continued education by covering all school-related expenses.
Needless to say that when we broke the news to Chai Khwan and his mother last Sunday at our Parents Day that we had found a personal sponsor for Chai Khwan, the two of them were overridden with joy and gratitude. There was a mother willing to do everything she could to give her son the education he deserved, to give him a chance at a future different from hers, and to see the fear of not being able to do that lift from her shoulders brought tears to our eyes as well. It definitely makes us remember why we do what we do.
Chai Khwan is now attending 4th grade at Ban Lan School and he is doing great.
We are hoping that many others will follow Chai Khwan's path and that we can help them continue their education beyond the walls of Somwang by providing them with personal sponsors.
We are happy to announce that Somwang finally has a completely new roof! It took some time and was a lot of work, but this roof is going to keep our students and teachers safe from the sun and rain for many years to come. We would like to thank the workers for their great work, as well as you people out there, especially the Rotary Club Luxembourg-Vallées, who made this new roof possible with generous donations.
Let's keep building a better future together!
While being in Thailand over the month of November, we were thinking of ways to involve our students more, how to give them a voice and find a space and medium for them to express themselves. What we have come up with is an amazing project that we are super excited to share with you over the next months. For three days each, we gave 12 students a camera and asked them to take pictures of their lives outside of the school, showing it in the way they perceive it. What resulted are some deeply touching and intimate pictures of finding hope in dire circumstances.
Starting in March, we will introduce one student and his pictures every month on our website and facebook page. So watch out!
Despite the most recent political developments in Myanmar, clashes in Northern Shan State between the Myanmar army and armed ethnic insurgents seem to continue, forcing residents to keep fleeing their villages. Indeed, despite an agreed cease-fire, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) stated at the end of November 2015 that, since October, new fights had erupted and the military had “launched repeated air and ground missile attacks on densely populated civilian areas,” including “fighter aircraft and artillery raining bombs on 6000 civilians” in different townships that harbored shelters for 1,500 displaced villagers. These attacks, that beside shooting, also include other, well-covered up war crimes and human rights violations such as the burning down of villages, abductions and rape of ethnic people, have forced more than 10’000 people from their townships yet again.
Efforts to bring peace to Myanmar have been built on the assumption that the Burmese army is changing, yet instead of devolving powers as announced, the army continues to burn down villages that did not sign the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and forces those that have to disarm and surrender. Thus, even though there is an air of hope with the new government lead by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has made ethnic peace her number one priority, restoring such fractured negotiations won’t be an easy task and “she will have a hard time because her main obstacle is the army” (BBC).
So let’s hope she will succeed.
This was probably one of the most fun and certainly the most colorful day we have had at Somwang so far!
As we had been repainting some of the floors during the last week, we tried to come up with an idea of how to use up the remaining paint to not let it go to waste.
Very soon we figured that the outside facade could use a makeover and thought it would be great to have the school's name painted on there. But that alone wouldn't help us to get rid of the paint...
With the wish to involve the kids in "decorating" their own school we thus finally came up with the perfect idea: have them dip their tiny hands into the paint and cover the outside walls with prints of their hands.
As we ourselves failed repeatedly at staying clean when we painted the rooms, we got a little worried about the kids: we already saw the paint all over their hands, colorfully sprinkled floors, new clothes, makeup and hairstyles. Thus, we figured we could just buy them plain white shirts that could get dirty just in case... But who were we kidding: could you ever expect a kid to wear a white shirt with paint all over his hands and resist the urge to paint himself or his friend?? NO!
And thus the paint party began!!
Needless to say we had a blast! Unfortunately we couldn't prevent the kids arms and bodies from getting all colorful as we soon realized that the paint went through the shirt.. at least that meant they could marvel at their body paint now too. It was so great to see how proud our kids were after they pressed their hand onto the wall and seeing how everybody wanted to get a print on his shirt from everyone just filled our hearts with joy. And of course we participated as well.
Why are we telling you all this? Simple. It was one of the best experiences ever and we were glad to be part of it, and we wanted to give you all a chance to be part of it too.
P.S. only one kid had partially yellow hair at the end of the day and we declared the shirts to be their new "uniform" for Wednesdays.
We are excited to announce that Somwang School finally has its own little library.
Though it is still in its initial phase, we have managed to get a bunch of books in Thai, Shan and English. On the very first day that the library "opened" the kids were super excited and some of them even spent their lunch break reading instead of playing. It was just great to see them so engaged and immersed in the books, either reading by themselves or with their best friend.
We hope that these books will help them to continue to learn and explore the world and all its magical tales and creatures.
As this would not have been possible without the great support from our friends at the Round Table 1 in Luxembourg, we would like to thank them again!
If you wish to help us give these children the childhood and education they deserve, please consider making a donation. Just hit "DONATE" and it will lead your right there.
Thank you all so much!
Our latest news are regularly put together by our executive board to give you the latest updates on our work and progress.