Connect with us

Phuket

Karen visit to Phuket full of firsts

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Nine-year-old Ywa Hay Tha never went on family trips to the beach; never saw his favorite films on the big screen; never got a chance for a “normal” life.

Nine-year-old Ywa Hay Tha was more concerned with keeping himself alive when he fled the Burmese military through the jungles of eastern Burma to the relative safety of the Umpiem Mai refugee camp in Thailand.

Now 18 years old, Ywa and 20 other ethnic Karen students of Thoo Mweh Khee (TMK) Senior College in Tak province visited Phuket last week for a cultural exchange after a “What if” conversation between a Satree Phuket School teacher and the director of TMK became reality.

TMK director Dr Shirley Worland said that the idea was inspired during a “silly conversation” with Satree Phuket social studies teacher Joey Ho, on her last day of a short volunteer stint with TMK.

While talking about the students’ travel restrictions, Dr Worland asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could get the kids down to Phuket?”

In what was a surprisingly smooth process, the group was issued a letter from the Tak Provincial Government permitting them to travel outside the province, based on a letter of invitation signed by the director of Satree Phuket, Kiattisak Pillawat.

NEW EXPERIENCES

The 21 students and several teachers, along with Dr Worland, arrived in Phuket last Sunday after a two-day drive from North Thailand.

All in their late teens and early twenties, the students have been experiencing a lot of “firsts” since setting foot onto the island.

On Monday, the group visited Satree Phuket School for a cultural exchange with Thai students – the first time many of them had ever interacted with their Thai peers despite having lived in Thailand for many years.

Ms Ho explained that she had earlier taught her social studies class about the situation along the Thai-Burma border, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled the Burmese military.

“That’s why when Shirley mentioned bringing the students down here, I thought it would be a great idea for them to actually meet these kids,” Ms Ho said.

She said that some of her students were so moved by the lesson that they took it upon themselves to make a donation box to raise funds to bring the Karen students to Phuket.

When they were asked to leave a local shopping center for soliciting funds without a permit, they stood outside in the heat trying to collect whatever they could, she said.

At Satree, the group was very impressed with the students and facilities.

They sat in on classes, participated in question-and-answer activities, gave a PowerPoint presentation and performed a drama they had written, based on their own experiences, with scenes detailing the violence and persecution they faced in Burma, their subsequent “run through the jungle” and arrival in Thailand.

On Tuesday, the Andaman Sea Club Co provided two catamarans, free of charge, for the students to get their first taste of sailing. The boats took the group to Koh Lone for a day of swimming and hanging out on the beach.

“This is the first time for me to see the ocean,” said 20-year-old Mary Win.

“Sailing was great. I felt like I was flying,” she added.

In fact, this was the first time most of the students had been to the sea.

“I like swimming because I’ve never been to the sea before, and also sailing – it was very good. I felt very comfortable with the wind blowing on me,” Ywa said.

On Tuesday evening the students joined the hordes of international shoppers at Phuket’s Central Festival, where they were treated to their first big screen experience. They watched The Green Hornet and then hit Burger King for their first fast-food experience.

Ms Ho said Karen reviews of Burger King were mixed, as the group are accustomed to a meatless diet because meat is too expensive. The film, however, got a unanimous thumbs-up.

The Secret Cove Guesthouse & Villas on the beach at Ao Yon provided free accommodation and meals for the group.

Owners Rik de Jong and Duangta Namsai hosted several fund-raising events, including a barbeque and beach parties, which paid for the majority of the trip.

“Without Rik’s generosity and efforts, this would not have been possible,” Ms Ho said.

“I am still quite emotional about the whole thing and still pinching myself to see if it’s real. This morning [Wednesday] I got up at 6:10 – quite a few of them were out walking at low tide, out to the coral – mostly one-by-one – just so amazed at the shells and small fish. They have collected hundreds of shells,” said Dr Worland.

THE FUTURE

The students are all part of either a two or three-year program at TMK Senior College, depending on their level of English.

TMK is part of the larger Migrant Learning Center, which is registered as such with the Thai Ministry of Education.

Most of the students come from families of migrants who are fleeing persecution in Burma’s troubled ethnic states and are not registered as residents in Thailand. They are therefore unable to attend Thai schools.

There are several schools for Burmese migrant children along the Thai-Burma border, and highly concentrated in Tak Province.

The students aim to take the General Education Development (GED) tests, which if passed show that the student has American or Canadian high school-level academic skills.

Many hope to pursue further education after leaving TMK, but the lack of funding often prevents them from doing so.

Ywa and Mary will be the first two students to graduate from the TMK program and both hope to find a way to study at university so they can help with social development and childhood education in their communities.

TMK is entirely dependent on private donations for day-to-day costs and Dr Worland hopes they will be able to raise enough money for a scholarship fund.

Anyone wishing to donate to the school or to help students like Ywa and Mary fulfill their potential can do so by contacting Dr Worland via email at shirleyworland@gmail.com.

Donors may also transfer funds to the school’s account, administered by Dr Worland: Siam Commercial Bank, account number 573-239360-6.

— Nicholas Altstadt

 

Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus Vaccines4 mins ago

Government to allow private sector to import 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses

Economy40 mins ago

Survey shows nearly half of Thai businesses except return to normality in early 2022

Best of1 hour ago

Thailand’s top 10 golf resorts

Sponsored2 days ago

Tour Phuket’s Islands with 5 Star Marine

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 hour ago

Provincial hospitals treating nearly 100,000 Covid-19 patients from Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

Friday Covid Update: 21,379 new cases and 191 deaths

Environment2 hours ago

Environmental groups urge government to ban the import of plastic waste

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

CCSA confirms 100,000 Covid patients in home isolation in Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Songkhla beach party sees 61 arrested violating Covid-19 rules

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Dr Boon, THG group must clarify Pfizer deal controversy

Coronavirus (Covid-19)11 hours ago

Moderna effectiveness drops just 1% in 6 months

Phuket13 hours ago

Body found in Phuket of Swiss woman presumed murdered

Phuket14 hours ago

TAT touts the Phuket Sandbox first month July successes

Protests17 hours ago

Monarchy supporters claim protesters weaponising Covid-19

Coronavirus (Covid-19)17 hours ago

5.7% of foreign residents in Thailand have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine

Travel17 hours ago

Top 5 Diving Schools in Koh Samui

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending