On Monday, we visited the garbage village here in Mae Sot. It is a large piece of land allocated by the Thai government to be used as a garbage dump. The way to the garbage village was pretty rough because the road was pretty muddy and Rachael and I definitely ended having to step into the mud (and who knows what else is in that mud) to prevent our motorbike from toppling over. But we all made it in one piece and here are some pictures to prove it!
We weren’t able to walk around the entire garbage village and the garbage was piled so high that I really couldn’t tell how far it went but what we did see was pretty shocking and eye opening. There was also a constant background noise of flies buzzing everywhere. The garbage village is lined by huts – Zar Zar helped me ask one of the residents of the garbage village about the huts and he said that an Englishman has donated the metal sheets for the roofs and every time a new family arrives, they are given some of the metal sheets so that they can start building their new home. The rest of the house was made out of wood tied together in various areas. The huts do not have doors and are all surrounded by garbage.
All of the residents of the garbage village are Burmese migrant workers and they make a living by picking through the garbage to find items like iron that they could sell to the recycling center nearby. Many of the residents walk around barefoot, both on the garbage and in the mud around the garbage. Through selling recyclable items, we were told that a family could make around 100-150 Baht (~$3-5) a day but it also depends on their skill level. They do have safe drinking water there now, which Zar Zar said is probably provided by the International Refugee Committee (IRC) but before that, all of the residents got their water from a lake nearby. Here is a picture of people picking through the garbage:
While we were at the garbage village, we also visited the Sky Blue Learning Center there. This is a 1-5 school in its 7th year and there are currently around 100 students, all of whom live in the garbage village with their family. The cost of attendance is 100 Baht per year and the school provides uniforms, books, stationary, etc. There are 7 teachers at the school who teach English, History, Geography, Math and the Sciences and they are currently not receiving any salary because the school’s funding just ended last month. After 5th grade, the students have the option to continue receiving education in Burma if they can pass the test to show that they have mastered 5th grade material. Last year, 8 students passed the test and when a student passes the test, the family will move back to Burma with the child.
It was heart-wrenching seeing people living in such horrible conditions. On Sunday night, we discussed how difficult the following day’s journey was going to be on all of us. None of us had ever seen poverty to such a degree and we kept trying to think of something we could do for these people. We had the same discussion back at Whitman before traveling over and sadly, came up with the same answer as Sunday night. There was nothing, at this moment and perhaps ever, that we could do. Someone suggested bringing some crackers but we decided against it because we couldn’t feed everyone and some crackers is not a meal. We had planned on bringing a portable printer with us to take/give photos to the children, since they probably wouldn’t have a photograph of themselves or their family, but decided also decided against it. It would definitely be a confusing situation for them to have some random Westerners ask if they wanted to have their photograph taken and then given them a hard copy. We will be discussing with our new partner organization, Burma Humanitarian Mission, if there is anything they think GlobeMed could do to help these people, but our hopes are not too high. Unfortunately, it seems that all we can do right now is hope.
Until next time,
Dandi, Rachel, Morgan, and Rachael