Thanks to You, We’ve Helped Provide Maternal Care and Schooling to Displaced Burmese Families

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has long suffered from instability. Between military rule, civil war with ethnic minority groups, and the most recent 2021 coup and Rohingya genocide, many people have fled their homes. According to the World Health Organization, about 10 million people in Myanmar were also in need of health assistance in 2023. With your help, we’ve been supporting a clinic that provides aid to both of these groups.

The Mae Tao Clinic (MTC), located in the Mae Sot area in Thailand, along the Myanmar border, provides health care services to refugees, migrant workers, and displaced Burmese people. They also help the children of these families through boarding schools that provide accommodation, an education, and food. GreaterGood has supported both efforts for more than 10 years, providing about $2 million in funding.

Students in Mae Tao Clinic's boarding school
Students in Mae Tao Clinic’s boarding school. Photo: Mae Tao Clinic

A large share of this support has helped the clinic safely deliver babies to mothers who would have otherwise been unable to afford care. Among the more than 1,000 deliveries they handle each year were twin girls named Nain Chit Cho and Nain Chit Pue. Their mother – 31-year-old Ma Cho – is a migrant worker originally from the Bago region in Burma.


HELP MOTHERS SAFELY DELIVER THEIR BABIES


She says, “My family and I work as farmers and raise animals to support ourselves. The ongoing political unrest in Myanmar (Burma) has forced us to leave our community, constantly moving to avoid conflicts between the Myanmar military and the pro-democracy People Defense Force (PDF).”

The PDF are known as pro-democracy activists and formed in response to the February 2021 coup that put the military junta in power.

Mao Tao Clinic offering maternal care
MA CHO AND HER DAUGHTERS RECEIVING CARE. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

Ma Cho explains that her parents encouraged her and her family to move to Thailand, which they ultimately did, out of concern that their child may not be able to attend school with all the instability. Her husband was also worried about her pregnancy, what with the stress of having to continually flee.


HELP MOTHERS SAFELY DELIVER THEIR BABIES


Upon arrival, her family had to rely on their parents because it can be difficult to find a job without documentation. Her husband has been trying to find work as a day laborer. Despite this, though, she was able to get the healthcare she needed at MTC.

New mother with her babies at Mae Tao Clinic
MA CHO AND HER NEWBORN DAUGHTERS. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

She says, “I chose Mae Tao Clinic for the delivery because of the lack of documentation and language barriers at Thai hospitals. Additionally, my parents encouraged this choice because MTC was more affordable with our M-Fund health insurance, and in case of an emergency, MTC would refer us to Mae Sot Hospital.”

Fortunately, things went well, and she gave birth to her daughters, who weighed 2.52 kg and 1.98 kg, respectively. The girls also received their immunizations and birth certificates. That’s something the clinic makes sure to provide for the children, to ensure they have necessary documentation.

Mother and father with their newborns at Mae Tao Clinic
MA CHO, HER HUSBAND, AND HER DAUGHTERS. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

Their work to help children doesn’t stop there, though. In 1997, they launched their first boarding school for children of migrant workers, the Children’s Development Centre (CDC), which had expanded to include a high school and nearly 900 students within 20 years. The school’s aim is to provide education, accommodation, and food, and to lower the children’s risk of falling victim to trafficking or child labor. It also ensures they have steady schooling while their parents look for work, as they don’t have to go with them from place to place.


FEED AND PROTECT BURMA’S SCHOOLCHILDREN


MTC also operates 23 other boarding schools in migrant communities in Thailand, along with 15 in Myanmar in regions with internally displaced people. They’re called Karen schools, named after the Kayin province in which many are found. GreaterGood has long worked to support these students by contributing to the schools’ dry food program. Thanks to you, we’re able to get staples like rice, yellow beans, and tinned fish to them.

Students eating at Mae Tao Clinic boarding school
STUDENTS EATING AT MAE TAO CLINIC BOARDING SCHOOL. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

GreaterGood CEO Tim Kunin was first made aware of these schools more than 20 years ago and was impressed with what they offered.

He says, “It was keeping kids in school, keeping them away from being trafficked, and allowing them to grow up and become productive, when these are people who are essentially stateless and have really no opportunity.”

Among the students enrolled in the schools, at CDC in particular, is 20-year-old grade 12 student Naw Ta Kaw Htoo. She was unable to finish her schooling in Myanmar, where she’s originally from, due to the country’s instability, the COVID-19 pandemic, and family issues. She and two of her siblings were sent over by family to take advantage of the MTC schools.

Mae Tao Clinic boarding school student does schoolwork
NAW TA KAW HTOO DOING SCHOOLWORK. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

Though the change was difficult for her at first, she says she feels safe at CDC and is particularly enjoying math and English. She appreciates the chance to learn new skills and discover some of her hidden talents. New computer knowledge has also been especially helpful.

After she finishes up with grade 12, she hopes to join a GED program, which is the equivalent of obtaining a high school diploma. Her goal from there is to further help her community in the medical field, by undergoing Community Health Worker training, another service offered by MTC.


FEED AND PROTECT BURMA’S SCHOOLCHILDREN


She says she wants to thank donors for helping her complete her schooling, explaining, “I love staying at the boarding house because it makes me smarter and better for my lifestyle. Boarding houses are the most important places for people who do not have enough support from their families to attend school.”

Female Mae Tao Clinic boarding school students eating
NAW TA KAW HTOO AND SCHOOLMATES EATING. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

Another CDC grade 12 student who couldn’t finish his schooling in Myanmar, but has been able to pick up where he left off in Thailand, is 20-year-old Saw Aung Aung Htwe. He stopped attending school after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and was held up further by the 2021 military coup. Other students in his hometown of Paung Township, Mon State, faced the same fate. He and his friends worked together to help with part-time schooling for some of the children in their community, and even helped pool together the costs of enrollment for one student, but he says it broke his heart because so many more want to go, but their parents can’t afford it.

His own dreams of becoming a secretary appeared to be out of reach, but his sister – who was at a refugee camp in Thailand – encouraged Saw Aung Aung Htwe to join her. He initially stayed at the refugee camp, too, but his sister reached out to friends in Mae Sot. This helped him enroll in CDC and finally get back on track to achieve his goals.

Mae Tao Clinic boarding school student smiles
SAW AUNG AUNG HTWE WITH SCHOOL BOOK. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

In an impact report sent to GreaterGood, MTC said, “He enjoys living in the boarding house because it is filled with students who fled from their home due to the war and sheltered underneath the same roof, which made him feel like they are rowing in the same boat. Moreover… it comes with strict rules for the students, such as waking up at 6 a.m. and dividing into three groups for boys’ boarding, taking duties respectively in cleaning the dorm, doing personal hygiene, and setting time for every activity, like study times, time for meals, and so on. Everyone has duties to fulfill, and he believes these rules make him smarter, so he loves living there.”

As for school, he’s a big fan of math and of learning more of the Thai language, though he says it’s the most challenging subject for him. He continues to work on it over the summer, as well. He’s also learned important skills that can help in the workplace and has received training on human rights and gender-based violence.

Mae Tao Clinic boarding school students doing chores
SAW AUNG AUNG HTWE AND CLASSMATES DO CHORES. PHOTO: MAE TAO CLINIC

Like Naw Ta Kaw Htoo, his goal is to join the GED program, to further his education at the international level. He says he wants to thank donors for helping him and his friends finish their education, as their families wouldn’t be able to cover the costs otherwise.

With your support, students like Saw Aung Aung Htwe and his classmates are able to achieve their potential, while mothers like Ma Cho are able to safely welcome babies into the world and get the documentation they’ll need for future security. If you’d like to continue to contribute to stories like these, click below!

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