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From Refugee Camp To Learning Camp


My name is Moe and I came from Myanmar. I came to Thailand with my family when I was 3 years old. Our Lives in Myanmar were difficult: We didn’t have a job. Also, we had a farm but if we grew rice or beans we couldn’t sell it anywhere. The government forced all the men in my village to work for the army, but my father left, walking to Thailand:  If he would have went by car soldier would have seen him. That’s why he walked.

Moe's parents

He became a friends with Hmong people and stayed in the forest and after one year he built a small house and he called the whole family to move to Thailand. 

42KM Village

First we stayed with other Burmese refugees at “44 Kilometer” village. The Burmese worked on the farms of the local Hmong farmers for 60 Baht a day. “When I was 9 years old I went to work at the farm”; I joined them working in the fields from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., making 30 Baht a day.

I started school when I was 12 years old in a school built for Burmese refugee families by my father. That was the first time the Burmese children had the chance to go to school. Before that I couldn’t read my own language or English.

In my family only I and my younger brother went beyond primary school. My other 4 brothers and sisters work in the factory, some are farmers.”

Then my family moved to “42 Kilometer” village, my father built another school for the Burmese children. Several NGOs learned about my father’s work and began to support the school with clothes, food and teaching materials.

When I was 16, I went to another school for refugee and migrant kids (Burmese and Karen)

After I finished grad 9 (M3), my teacher wanted me to become an English teacher, but I was not interested in English. Also when I was at school I learned to memorize the words, but I never practiced using them in sentences and I never heard my teachers speak English with me or the students. They focused only on reading and writing.

Sweet

I wanted to go to Bangkok to work with my brother but my parents didn’t agree and they discussed with my teacher and my parent’s friend “Sweet” .Sweet helps the migrants and minorities at the Myanmar border with finding jobs and opportunities. Sweet explained about Openmind Projects and my parents sent me to OMP.

April Camp 2014

In April 2014 I was invited to the Learning Camp at the Openmind Training Center in Nong Khai, along with several other students from Mae Sot town.

At the camp: no one spoke Burmese. “When I joined the camp it was a little bit difficult for me. We had evening activities, we practiced to talk about ourselves but I didn’t know how to speak by myself in English, it was very difficult for me.”

But I was lucky that I got many friends and everyone helped me so that by the end of camp I was a little bit happier. I didn’t know the language but I found many amazing friends that taught me Thai.

After the camp I stayed at the Openmind Center with 4 other kids from Mae Sot. A few months later 2 other Burmese students came from Mae Sot, so I decided to stay longer and become a trainee.

I improved all my English skill: I practiced to speak, to listen, to read and to write with the volunteers many times and everywhere. I improved my speaking while I talked to the people that speak English. During presentations I talk in front of the people. I was teaching the students together with volunteers and I was making the lesson plans with the volunteers. At the meetings I practice my speaking, reading and writing skills .While checking the emails I improve my reading and writing skills.

I also learned to use computers and the internet with the help of the other trainees. Before I didn’t know how to use the computer....Joiy taught me, and he said:” Moe, this is Facebook, we can use it like this or like this.” Joiy is a staff at Openmind Projects and he come from Laos.

This is how I improved my IT skill: I learned Windows Office from volunteers and the staff and I taught it to the new trainees and campers. I learned how to use email programs from the staff and I use them every day. If I don’t understand something I can ask the Staff. While I search for information on the internet I improve my searching skill and I can show the campers how to search. When I show the campers I learn new things too. 

I became motivated to learn English: I know it is not difficult and I have many friends. I want to learn more. 

Our volunteer and sponsor Pradip  has helped to support me during 2017 so I was able to stay and work at Openmind Projects.

Now I am a volunteer and project coordinator. I am responsible for our projects in Western Thailand near the Burmese border.

My experiences are varied as I teach English with volunteers at local schools as well as teaching English and working as a trainer at the camps I am leading a group of trainees in Openmind Projects, and follow up on their progress every week. I also am responsible for coordinating and welcoming new volunteers, as well as educating them in basic Thai language and culture.

Thank you to Jim and Vanja who helped me with writing this story.

Thanks to Pradip who has supported me and to Openmind Projects Team who are supporting me.

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