January 15, 2013
Ayeyarwady Foundation team left Yangon heading the town of Belin where four new schools awaited. We drove carefully and steadily along the roads where the way ahead was covered by thick mists. No matter how thick were the mists, when we marched on slowly and steadily with wisdom, perseverance and good conscious, as fast as we could, it proved that we could get to our destiny in time by reaching Belin around 8 AM and from that sense, we got strengths to march on for our nation likewise. The main thing driving us is the passion based on love.
8: 30 AM
After following the little road which paths way from the main road, for five minutes, we saw a glance of a new school from Awin Gyi village. Inside the compound at the front of school, there were students with white and green school uniforms, teachers, school committee members, parents, local armed forces and the Karen Donrein dance teams wearing Karen traditional dresses. The team from Ayeyarwady Foundation that went two days ahead to prepare for the schools opening ceremony were there in the crowd as well. When Saw Pa Lay, the deputy commander of no.1 division (KNU), greeted Zaw Zaw, the chairman of Ayeyarwady Foundation, a spark of joy for the accomplishment of the region was seen in their eyes.
After a while, the minister of Mon State arrived and the ceremony began. When the ribbons were cut and the new school was transferred officially to the ministry of Education, the look on the face of the children looking at the balloons going up to the sky was overwhelming. To see their future going up freely, victoriously is the desired-fruit in the little seed that was sowed in the compound of the new schools by Ayeyarwady Foundation.
As part of fulfilling this vision, Ayeyarwady Foundation gave 40000 Kyats each to the teachers, 20000 Kyats each to the staffs of school, 5000 Kyats plus exercise books and pencils to each students and gave 1,000,000 Kyats for the school committee. Then, the minister and the chairman of Ayeyarwady Foundation went into the classroom and encouraged children. After staying nearly an hour, we left the lovely performances of Karen traditional dance groups behind and headed to the village of Shwe Yaung Pya.
9: 30 AM
The School of Shwe Yaung Pya, which located not far away from Awin Gyi, made us imagine the picture of kids playing around before the school bell rings, by its beautiful view of the school entrance with a little road. In real as well, there were children, teachers and parents awaited for the opening of the school, just in front of it.
Near the school flag-post, there were Karen women who were clapping with joy upon seeing actor Wai Lu Kyaw who came along with Ayeyarwady Foundation to support. When the actor greeted them, innocent smiles were seen. After opening the school and gave donations just as the first school, we talked with teachers, students and parents at the school, to investigate how can we support more in the future. As the next stop, Mi Chaung Ai village located a bit far from Shwe Yaung Pya, we continued our journey after a while.
10: 30 AM
After passing by and through the forests and mountains, we arrived to Mi Chaung Ai Village. There was a significance classroom there. The scene which can see through the back window of the classroom was amazing. A scenery with a school football field with a country side landscapes. The students who will learn from the blackboard, with that background in the sight, even if they became leaders that built the nation in the future, would always remember these moments.
At this school also, we did the same opening and donating as the previous schools and we left for our last destination, the school of Kyauk Taung Village.
11: 30 AM
After leaving forest, mountains, valleys and streams, we started to saw the isolated rock mountains with strange forms here and there. As the name of the village, Kyauk Taung means “rock mountain”, the village was located at the bottom of a big rock mountain. In the compound of the school, there were packed with people. Students, teachers, respective local authorities and local armed forces were there. Although they were armed, they were standing together without any conflict was because we did manage to unite everyone through the mutual desire to see the bright future of the children. As the soldiers with different uniforms were standing together, the leaders were chatting with each other as well.
While going in and out of classrooms one after another and talked to the children, it was noticeable that Karen language was commonly used by children of lower grades. Another noticeable thing was their hair styles which looks very up to date just as the ones of famous footballers. When asked who took these haircuts for you guys, a student said their teacher Daw Tin Nilar Htay took it for all of them. So I looked for her and chat with her. As she said, there were over 100 students in grade 1, around 60 in grade 2, nearly 50 in grade 3, around 40 in grae 4, and it became fewer in higher grades. The teacher took haircuts for them for this event. There are 5 teachers including the headmaster at this school. Children have difficulties in attending school at raining season. After building this new school though, even the kids who have left school for one or two years came back to school she said.
We overheard the groaning from the chairman upon being weary for the kids who only have the opportunities to start attending school at grade one when they are over 10 years old. He also encouraged the foundation team to keep supporting these kids as much as we could. We also have to acknowledge the efforts of the workers who made it possible to reach this remote place by building roads and also building this school through tough situations. Ayeyarwady Foundation will also try to make these roads better and help the kids to reach school in rainy seasons smoothly and safely.
Actually, six or seven years ago, this kind of view was impossible to be seen because of the conflicts and unrest in the region. Despite of the differences, as the desire to see this region develop and the brighter future of the children is the mutual goal for everyone, Ayeyarwady Foundation came in between and reconciled to see the result of today. The scene of today was really lovely. All the individual armed forces were standing together and joyful together.
We also told the teachers that we appreciate their sacrifices and love to teach these young children kindly and carefully. There were teachers from near-by schools as well. We also said thanks to them and gave 1,000,000 Kyats for school fund of those four schools as well.
After opening and giving donations to the school, we all had lunch together at the school with Karen traditional food. After 1 PM, as we have reached a point of this long journey, Ayeyarwady Foundation came back with a strong will to keep standing for the education of the children of this region and the lasting-effect of the school in order to walk until the end.