Tag Archives: Myanmar

Educating the Children of Backpack Medics from Myanmar Conflict Zones

By BGR Staff

The oppression and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities by military forces in Myanmar (Burma) has a long and violent history. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an estimated 401,000 people are internally displaced, living in isolated villages or in IDP camps, without access to sufficient medical care.

Since 1999, the U.S.–based Burma Humanitarian Mission (BHM) has partnered with the Back Pack Health Worker Team to provide health care to members of the country’s oppressed and persecuted ethnic minorities. In 2019, BHM supported 30 teams of backpack medics from the ethnic minority Karen, Kachin, Shan, Pa’laung, Mon, Chin, and Rohingya communities. The teams of five medics each travel to between nine and twelve villages each month, working with local village health volunteers and midwives to provide health care to people from their respective communities. Serving the most vulnerable areas of Myanmar, each team provides care to an estimated 2,000 people each year.

The regions where the medics carry out their work remain highly dangerous. Our partners write: “In January 2018, one BHM-supported medic was killed when a Burmese jet bombed the village where she was caring for the villagers. In July 2019, soldiers raped and killed a mother in Nam Sung village. In August 2019, soldiers fired mortars into a village, killing four family members in Mawhik. Such incidents occur weekly.”

Many medics relocate their children to Mae Sot, Thailand, where the medics’ headquarters is located. There, a school and boarding facility called the Children’s Development Centre (CDC) provides education, housing, and other support for displaced children from Myanmar, from preschool through grade 12. The school fills a critical need, as authorities in Mae Sot do not permit migrant children from Myanmar to attend local schools. While the classes are not formally accredited, students can earn a diploma through the Thai Non-Formal Education program or a GED program.

A Buddhist Global Relief grant over the past fiscal year provided an education to 55 children of backpack medics at the CDC in Mae Sot. The children received tuition, food, uniforms, and school materials through the grant. Thirty-two of the children are girls or young women.

The backpack medics generally belong to the ethnic groups they serve, and in addition to providing a basic education to these students, the CDC also prioritizes teaching the children about the cultures and histories of the ethnic groups to which their families belong.

Three-quarters of the backpack medics and staff are women, many of whom come from oppressed ethnic minority groups. Our partner writes: “For women from Burma’s isolated ethnic conflict zones, training and opportunities outside of the traditional maternal head-of-the-household role are limited to nonexistent.” By providing an education for these women’s children, this grant provides the women the support they need to pursue their valuable work.

Their children receive the gift of witnessing their mothers as role models of empowered leaders serving their communities in the work of social justice.

Seventeen-year-old Naw Wah Shar Leh is an eleventh grader at the CDC. She was 9 when conflict broke out in her home village in northern Shan state. Like many Burmese girls from conflict zones, she did not attend school before she enrolled at the CDC.

Naw Flora Hnin, 9, lives at the CDC and is in the fourth grade. She is also the daughter of a backpack medic in Shan state. She and her family are members of the Pa’laung ethnic group. “I have a lot of friends, and I like math and reading the best,” she says.

Six-year-old Nant Su Myat Noe Oe is in the first grade. She and her family are members of the Karen ethnic group. Her father works in the medics’ headquarters in Mae Sot.

Naw Tha Dah Bleh, 16, also lives at the CDC. Her father is a backpack medic in Karen state. She says: “The army and soldiers have been fighting around my village for a while.… That’s why we have no school. I feel safe at the CDC. It’s fun and I have a lot of friends. I like math the most in school.” She hopes one day to become a teacher.

Educating Migrant Children from Burma

By BGR Staff

In eastern and northern Burma (Myanmar), the Burmese army oppresses and routinely attacks the country’s ethnic minorities—Karen, Kachin, Shan, Mon, Palaung, and other ethnicities—forcing many to seek shelter in the jungle. The result is a horrific health crisis among these internally displaced persons, whereby 135 infants out of 1,000 do not survive their first month. Malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia are the leading causes of death.

A U.S.-based organization, Burma Humanitarian Mission, has been supporting Backpack Health Worker Teams (BPHWT) to provide mobile medical care to isolated villages and camps of internally displaced persons. The backpack medics are recruited from the people and villages they serve. Each team travels to 9–12 villages per month, supporting approximately 2,000 people. In 2016, the teams successfully reduced morbidity rates from malaria and dysentery, and likewise lowered the infant mortality rate from 135 deaths per 1,000 births to 1.6 deaths per 1,000 births.

In 2017, BGR entered into a partnership with BHM to support the education of the medics’ children living in Thailand. Over the period of the project, from mid-2017 to mid-2018, BGR sponsored the education of 56 children at a school located in Mae Sot, Thailand, where they are safely removed from the violence in Myanmar. In Mae Sot, the students attend an established migrant school͛ known as the Child Development Center (CDC). Without this program, these children would have no chance to get an education. Continue reading

Supporting Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

The Buddhist Humanitarian Project: An Appeal to the Global Buddhist Community

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group traditionally resident in the Rakhine State in Myanmar, have fled their country because of the extreme violence directed against them by the Myanmar military. Their villages have been burnt, their people (including elders and children) shot in cold blood, and women subjected to sexual cruelty. The violence, sadly, has been supported by extremist Buddhist monks, contrary to the Buddha’s teachings on loving-kindness and communal harmony. Close to a million refugees have sought sanctuary in neighboring Bangladesh, where they are being accommodated in overcrowded, unsanitary makeshift camps with pressing needs for food and health care. The refugees want to return to Myanmar but are afraid for their safety.

The global Buddhist community has a responsibility to show that such violence is not the Buddhist way.

The Buddhist Humanitarian Project is an initiative of the Clear View Project, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Berkeley, California, under the leadership of Hozan Alan Senauke, former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. The project has launched a new website to garner support for the Rohingya refugees.

To learn more about this project and its activities, you can visit the website at:

http://www.buddhisthumanitarianproject.org/

At the website you can learn the various ways you can help to ameliorate this heartrending crisis.

  • Among other things, you can sign a letter to the Myanmar State Sangha Council and government officials, urging them to reject the violence and support the refugees.
  • You can donate to respected nonprofit organizations working on the ground in the Rohingya refugee camps. The website offers a list of reliable organizations.
  • You can also share this information on social media and by email with friends and members of your sangha or community.

 Your support can say to Rohingya peoples and to the world that the rain of the Buddha’s compassion falls on all beings equally.

To learn more about the crisis and how to support the refugees, visit:

www.buddhisthumanitarianproject.org

Buddhist Emergency Fund for Rohingya of Burma

A Letter of Appeal from US Buddhist Teachers

We are sending you this request to help with a Buddhist Emergency Fund for the Rohingya of Burma. The Rohingya, an ethnic minority group of the Muslim faith living in Burma, face a dire situation, requiring immediate attention and support. They have been denied citizenship, health care, education, and adequate food while forced to live in harsh and restrictive apartheid-like conditions. One hundred and forty thousand have been forced into squalid camps that have been called open-air prisons.

Many thousands have tried to escape by putting their lives into the hands of human traffickers and heading out to sea. Untold numbers of Rohingya have now been abandoned and left floating in rickety boats without food, water or medical care. Governments in the region and the world have refused to launch a search and rescue mission to save them and some navies have even pulled these desperate people further out to sea.

Because this refugee nightmare is in part due to the policies of Buddhist countries, principally Burma and also Thailand as well as Malaysia and Indonesia, it seems especially important for Buddhists around the world to visibly respond according to the central Buddhist values of compassion and respect for all beings.
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