From waste mountains, floods and lots of optimism
We had big plans for our third return to Myanmar! On our last visit, we have set clear goals about what we want to change in „our“ school Aung Oo Myae. But then, a little miracle happenend and Veronica got pregnant. Therefore, our goals and plans for the upcoming trip had to be adjusted a little bit.
However, it looked at the beginning as if we could not travel to Myanmar this time: The unusually heavy monsoon rains in early August caused floods nearly everywhere in the country and claimed many lives. „Is it not just stupid, to travel during pregnancy in a catastrophe area?“ How many times have we asked ourselves this question! After much deliberation and several consultations with the school, we have finally decided to travel to Mandalay, because fortunately, this region was not too much affected by the intense rains.
Much has changed since our last not two visits in Aung Oo Myae: As always, we slept on the floor, showered us with the brown dirty river water and quickly adapted to the life in the monastery. The student numbers has increased once more compared to last year: About 2350 children attend Aung Oo Myae now – far too many fort he small school facilities! While we learned from the media that the Swiss teachers complained about the poor air quality in the domestic classrooms, we stood again in front of more than 80 children in hopelessly overcrowded, stuffy and far too narrow classrooms and tried to by all means to teach them some English. But the large numbers of students bring another huge problem: Endless mountains of waste! Unfortunately, people in Myanmar have become accustomed, to throw the trash just on the floor. The country sinks into a waste-chaos: In the lakes and rivers, there is probably in the meantime more plastic than water. On roads and fields, you litterally have to find your way through the garbage, and even behind monasteries or museums are endless mountains of waste… If the government will not solve this problem, soon Myanmar will perish in the waste.
„Every great journey begins with the first step.“ According to this motto we wanted to act, and at least make „our“ school to a clean place and develop a „waste awareness“ in the minds of our children (with the hope that they will continue to spread our idea). Health and education are our professions (and passions) – that’s why we wanted to start with a clean learning environment.
Our idea was well received by the principale and the teachers: After we had given detailed information about the proper handling of waste (core message: waste belongs in the trash bins and not on the ground) to all the 2350 children, we launched the biggest clean-up campaign which the school has ever seen.
And this with resounding success: Aung Oo Myae has become a really clean place! On the whole school grounds are now garbage bins – and they are being used now! We were even able to introduce the recycling of PET and aluminum – that is something we are particularly proud of! Whether and how long the euphoria will last is very difficult to predict. But the teachers and students promised to continue with our project and to keep the school clean. How great would that be!
Especially enthusiastic about our idea was Aung Thu Phio, a young monk and teacher of Aung Myae Oo: He has invited us to the school in his native village, almost 3 hours away of Sagaing, to visit and the children there and teach them in the proper handling of waste. This trip, including the lectures to more than a thousand enthusiastic children and the visit to Aung Thu Phios family in a very remote area of Myanmar are among the big highlights of this Myanmar travel!
But we have also been acitve in other areas: For example, we have given all teachers a course in first aid for children, wer re-launched the school pharmacy, we taught English to children and teachers and diligently created all the necessary conditions that finally volunteers can sart teaching English in Aung Myae Oo school.
In addition to that, we have now officially established our „HEFT Foundation“ (Health & Education for Tomorrow „), which aims to support Aung Oo Myae sustainably in the future.
Yes, we are really proud of everything we have achieved in the past month. And we continue to be convinced to do the right thing!
Exhausted but happy, we have left Myanmar towards Thailand, to meet a friend in Bangkok and then travel back again together to Myanmar in early October. And what happens then? We have plans. But as a famous saying says: „If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans…!“ We will see. Stay tuned – we will inform soon on our website about it!
If you want a real insight into our daily work in Aung Oo Myae, we recommend you to read the next article further down on this page „An ordinary day in Aung Oo Myae“. Have fun!
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