We have been kept incredibly busy meeting with new NGOs and visiting schools in the community almost every day. There are many things BWU does well, including organizing an internship! There has been no shortage of activities to keep us busy and exhausted by the end of the day. We spent the first week and a half visiting political organizations based in Thailand to support their underground work in Burma. We have been unable to post much information about these organizations in order to protect their safety as an organization and as individuals here in Mae Sot.
All of these organizations, and schools, including BWU are unable to be recognized by the Thai government because their core goals are to serve the Burmese migrant population, of which the majority is undocumented. For most organizations the staff is also largely undocumented, and they joke that their organizations’ budgets should include a ‘security fee’ to cover the fees they have to pay the Thai police at random for being recognized as Burmese and unable to present identification.
One of the highlights of GROW so far has been getting to know the BWU staff, especially the staff who live on-site. We would like to introduce them to you, but unfortunately this blog post hardly does them justice, and we don’t have pictures (yet) for all.
Noe Noe Htet San is BWU’s General Secretary for all five regions of BWU. She lives with her family in Mae Sot, but we only get to see her during meetings and on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday. She is one of the local contacts for GROW logistics, and we send her reports of all the activities we do during the internship.
Noe Lay Dee is the Chairman for all five BWU regions. She lives in Mae Sot, but only visits the Mae Sot office site where we live for monthly meetings. She has invited us to see her home later in our stay, and we are excited to get to know her better.
Ying Myo Hlaing is the Mae Sot Office Manager who just arrived back from an internship in the Czech Republic. She manages the programs in the Mae Sot region.
Mu Sel is the Mae Sot Office Admin, and she lives with us at the BWU office. From our point of view, she is the one who makes stuff happen. She knows most of the organizations in town personally and has coordinated our visits with them. She represents BWU at events such as Anti-Human Trafficking Event held by local Thai leaders. In addition to being extremely passionate and outgoing, she is a big joker, and so easy to talk to. We spend a lot of time with Mu Sel, and she has become one of our closest friends here.
Naw Mu Naw is the Mae Sot Health Coordinator! She is the resident medic who leads reproductive health trainings in Mae Sot. She also works in the library on days when no trainings are scheduled. Known affectionately as ‘Mu Naw’, she is our darling resident mother who worries after us if we are sick or out on motorbikes.
Zar Zar is one of the Mae Sot Library staff, and she also leads themed discussions with local female migrant factory workers on their days off. Zar Zar used to work in factories herself, both in Burma and in Mae Sot before she was an intern with BWU. We can see that she cares deeply about each woman in the community.
Cho Thae is also one of the Mae Sot Library staff and a former BWU intern. She lives with us in the BWU office, and translates BWU activities for us when we need it. Her traumatic experiences fleeing Burma have given her a desire to see women enjoy equal rights in her community. We’ve also grown close with Cho Thae and have movie nights together in the library.
There is also an incredibly sweet BWU Intern who is training to help run one of the in-country BWU libraries and programs. She lives on site and loves to sing Burmese pop songs around the house! For her safety, we will keep her name and pictures off the internet and share them when we get back!
We’re still sorting out what can and cannot be shared over the internet, while still protecting everyone’s safety. But now that introductions are complete, you can expect more forthcoming information about local health and human rights issues. In other exciting news, we just found out that we will be able to try to visit the Mae La Oo Refugee Camp at the end of next week where we will be able to see the GlobeMed-funded nursery!
As always, leave us your questions!
Abbey, Katie, and Colleen