School Boarding House Myanmar

“If we find a way to raise this money, we are going to build a boarding house to support 30 children to stay in school. If we can’t raise the money… well, we are just going to have to find a way. We are going to build this boarding house.”

That was the message I heard Khun Anatasio Nay Zar deliver to his community in the Middle Kayan Region of Myanmar this January when students, teachers and parents came together to discuss the importance of the boarding house. It is a project that will provide 15 girls and 15 boys the opportunity of education each year. I don’t think I have ever seen such a participatory meeting, where all levels of people impacted were involved.  It was beyond inspiring.

I met Nay Zar late last year while working on the Thailand/ Burma Border. He has since become my good friend. Although he is only 26 years old, he has founded Kayan Community Development Services (KCDS) , a small grass roots community based organisation, dedicated to improving the conditions of Kayan people, both inside Myanmar and also for Kayan refugees living in Thailand.

Find KCDS on facebook  here.
There can be no doubt that Kayan people are incredibly strong and resilient. They are survivors. They endured decades of colonisation followed by decades of war with the Burmese Military Government. A century without freedom and self-autonomy has transpired into a region with very little development, riddled with poverty and cut off from the world. Most villages do not have any electricity. The few that do are sourced from a generator that is only turned on one or two hours per day. The dirt roads connecting the villages are wiped out every year during the rainy season.

Before the ceasefire with the Burmese Military, education was not an option, because people had to be ready to fight or flee at any moment. Now, because of generational low education and poverty, Nay Zar explains that many people think, “if you work, you have food and money for the day, but if you are in school, you wont get money, you wont get food.”

Currently only 20% of children in Middle Kayan Region attend high school. Only 5% finish. There is only one high school for over 55 villages spread throughout the mountains. Many children have to walk up to 5 hours a day just to get to school and back home.
I think the pain Nay Zar felt when he was forced to quit high school continues to be a driving force behind trying to save others from that fate. He says he feels the pain all over again every time he recognises the same hurt in another child’s face. He believes so strongly in the power of education that they already transformed the KCDS office into one boarding house for 17 students. But as Nay Zar says, “this is not enough”.

While visiting the region, I was so inspired by Nay Zar, by KCDS, the Kayan community and especially the children that I met, which is why I decided to create this crowdfunding campaign.

If we share this campaign and contribute even just a small amount of money, this will go a very long way. 16,000 Australian dollars is a lot of money to this region. It will cover the cost for land and the construction of a boarding house large enough for 30 children. The community is dedicated to supporting their ongoing living expenses, so this boarding house will be sustainable into the future.

If this campaign is successful, they will begin building in May 2015. This means it will immediately change 30 children’s lives, by allowing them a safe place to stay where they can continue school. But, also just imagine the carry on impact it will have, as year after year more young people receive an education.
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Carey Scheer 
Brunswick East VIC

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