Home > News > Discovering New Ground

The Higher Education Centre in Mandalay city, Myanmar educates 90 students, and is run by the Columban Fathers. The centre is the only one of its kind to target the poorest and brightest. Photo: Misean Cara.

 

The first ever members’ meeting in South-East Asia was held in July. In combination with a monitoring visit to Myanmar and Thailand, Learning and Development Officer, Liz Kennedy and I travelled to six projects, meeting many missionaries and beneficiaries in each location.

To date, Misean Cara has invested €579,730 of Irish taxpayer’s money in projects in Myanmar and Thailand.

On the outskirts of Mandalay city in Myanmar, we visited the Archdiocesan Higher Education Centre run by the Columban fathers. The centre has 90 students in total. The centre aims to help the “poorest but brightest” Myanmese students to achieve their potential, gain employment and become leaders in both their civil and church communities. The school is the only one of its kind in Myanmar.

The curriculum of the centre includes English, Computer Studies, Human Rights, Music and Catholic Social Teaching. During their studies, students “practice what they learn” by going each week to Buddhist monasteries to teach children who cannot afford to go to school. They also visit an orphanage, and a centre for those affected by HIV and AIDS.

We also visited Sr. Kathleen and Sr. Theresa who are missionary Sisters of St. Columban. Sr. Kathleen works in the parish on inter-faith activities. Sr. Theresa works with the Good Shepherd Sisters, and runs a kindergarten for children affected by HIV and Aids.

Our next stop was to the Mother of Perpetual Help AIDS Centre, located in Nong Bua Lamphu, in the Northeast of Thailand. The Divine Word Missionaries team have developed innovative education and awareness programs, which can be easily replicated on sexually transmitted diseases for young people. The team have designed an interactive, and fun education program for teenagers so that they can better learn to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

Fr. Kevin Medilo attended the Members' Meeting from the Marist Mission in Ranong (MMR), Thailand. The centre supports Burmese migrants, and provides three key programmes for Burmese migrant children - Kindergarten, Secondary Level education, and Child Support. Photo: Misean Cara.

Fr. Kevin Medilo attended the Members’ Meeting from the Marist Mission in Ranong (MMR), Thailand. The centre supports Burmese migrants, and provides three key programmes for Burmese migrant children – Kindergarten, Secondary Level education, and Child Support. Photo: Misean Cara.

We then travelled south to Ranong and Phuket where we met the Marist Fathers, and the Good Shepherd Sisters respectively. Both work with Burmese migrants.

The Marists Fathers set up the Migrant Support Programme, to run a centre for migrant workers from Myanmar, and provide education for children from pre-school level to online University level. The majority of the migrants work in the local fishing industry. Some have been affected by trafficking. The Marists also provide education opportunities for 200 Burmese students unable to enter the Formal Thai Secondary Education system. They also provide support for 70 people living with HIV and Aids through home visitations, and most significantly by providing translation services to migrants in hospital. Many migrants cannot access health services in Thailand due to the language barrier.

In Phuket, the Good Shepherd Sisters offer outreach education, medical and social services to victims of human trafficking, HIV and AIDS. They educate over 150 students in the Misean Cara funded school. They also provide vocational training, and income generation support for 40 migrant women.

In Bangkok, we visited a Viatores Christi project, which increased the capacity of two organisations, the National Catholic Commission on Migration & Partners in Compassion to have greater capacity in child protection and safety, and strong management structures to respond to the ever-changing needs of migrants.

Ambassador Rogers stressed the importance of looking outward for opportunities. "Working in partnership is better than working on your own," he said. Photo: Misean Cara.

Ambassador Rogers stressed the importance of looking outward for opportunities. “Working in partnership is better than working on your own,” he said. Photo: Misean Cara.

Nineteen missionaries from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam attended the two day Members meeting in the Camillian Centre in Bangkok. They welcomed the opportunity to meet Misean Cara staff, and to learn about the different funding schemes. They appreciated the chance to network and share learning with their peers.

His Excellency the Irish Ambassador to Thailand Brendan Rogers opened the meeting. He emphasised the importance of working together to have a greater impact. Those attending the meeting said that they would like to join or set up a network so that they could continue to share their ideas and act with one voice.

During my time in Thailand and Myanmar, I have met so many committed missionaries who get great joy serving people affected by trafficking, HIV and the systemic cycle of poverty. Even though the needs are great, they seem to have an abundance of happiness and energy to help migrants, and those affected by ill health and poverty. They are inspiring people.

Special Report by Project Officer Don Lucey.