Sunday, 26 December 2010

2 Scottish Lassies dance for Dr Cynthia Maung

Can you spot the 2 Scottish lassies dancing in this Karen Group for Dr Cynthia's birthday?

Well done Lisa and Louise.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A letter from Say Hai to Campie children

Campie School Students,

How are you? I hope all of you are well and healthy with your family. How about your learning? I thank you done the great away and very well. As for us we try the best every time.

The first, I want to say you all thanks very much. When I went to you, you have a great welcome to me so, I’m very happy. I have known all of you are interesting Burma especially Aung San Su Kyi. So, I’m so proud myself for my society or country. And when I have being taught in your class, all of you are bright and clever because of your questions. And then I want to say you the fact that make me happier, is you are very interesting to our students. I have seen it when I have gone to high school. Our student also more clever than before in writing when they have relationship with you. So I know it is the result of our partner ship (or) friend ship between C.D.C and Campie School.

Finally, I want to say you Thank very much as much as you have support and help to our students. You try to learn and want to communicate to us so, I’m very happy to see you all interesting to us. I believe that we are going to get relationship better than now.

Thank very much, May God bless you all!

Best wishes,
Say Hai
C.D.C school
Mae Sot

Monday, 6 December 2010

It's Dr Cynthia's birthday...

Today CDC celebrated Dr Cynthia's birthday in big style with many groups of staff and children dancing for her. Louise Laing has been rehearsing Karen dancing and singing for 2hrs per day. You can see the celebrations here. Look carefully and you can see Say Hei with a Christmas tree. Say Hei looks really hot. How strange to see a Christmas Tree in the hot Thai sun.

Dr Cynthia's birthday presentation on PhotoPeach (double click to see this full screen).

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Suu Kyi thanks Thailand for helping Burmese

Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her gratitude to Thais for helping the Burmese people.

"We would like you to know that we wish to be your good friend and good neighbor," she said in a phone interview with the Bangkok-based Thai-Asean News Network. She called on Thais to be kind to migrants and refugees from her country.

Thailand has been sheltering more than 100,000 Burmese refugees for over two decades, and about 2 million migrants from the country are currently working in Thailand. Recently, more Burmese people have fled to Thailand as government troops fight with armed ethnic groups along the border. Suu Kyi also addressed fellow citizens in Thailand and promised they would not be forgotten, and that she would do what she could to bring them back home as soon as possible.

Published Wednesday, 1 Dec, 2010 on

And here is a lovely, lovely photo of Aung San Suu Kyi with her son Kim for the first time in 10 years. Beautiful picture of a precious moment.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Goodbye Say Hei...amazing woman!

Goodbye Say Hei on PhotoPeach

So our amazing Say Hei has gone ... and I've had a weekend to think about the magic moments of Say Hei's time in Campie School. Here's some of them.

Magic Moment 1
On Friday I took Say Hei over from my house to the beach. As we went down steps to the beach, she was nervous. " I afraid." No it's OK Say Hei. I took her arm and we walked onto the sand. The sea was far out so we walked half way towards it. "Stop. I afraid. When sea comes... it comes fast or slow?" She thought the sea was going to rush in and drown us. It was so so funny and she was so excited that in her 50s, she had been to the sea for the first time in her life. What a privilege to share that moment with her. She's got the photo sadly.

Magic/Tragic Moment 2
Driving past the sea near Levenhall, she said, "My sister, you very lucky. Every day you go to school you see this beautiful sea. Every day I go to my school, I see Thai police arresting my Burmese people."

Magic Moment 3
Say Hei, Marc and Fraser from P7 and I went to meet Don Ledingham at East Lothian Headquarters. The boys impressed all of us with their knowledge and understanding of the plight of the Burmese people. Later, Say Hei said "Your students have many rights... rights to speak to the leader. My students have no rights. One day, I hope my students will have rights as yours."

Magic Moment 4
Apart from the entire ceilidh being an incredibly magic moment where parents, staff, children and visitors all mingled beautifully. In her speech (which you can see on, Say Hei said, "I never thought in my life that I would ever be in your country."

Magic Moment 5
On the last night, Fiona O' Donnell (East Lothian MP) coming to listen to Say Hei and Paw Ray tell her about their situation. Paw Ray had been in Glasgow and returned with 2 new friends who drove her back. Then there were 10 in the house and the conversation became more and more obscure. Fiona turned round and said, "Being in your house is like being on another planet!" It was a huge complement.

Magic Moment 6
Later that evening, Gaynor and I had unpacked Say Hei's suitcase 3 times trying to get everything she'd been given by Campie into her baggage allowance. Gaynor had to stay so long that we all had a chippy tea. After a long time, Seth said to Gaynor, "Mum we need to go home. We've been here 5 hours." Then he looked at his ex headteacher, remembered his lovely manners and said, "But it's been really good!"

Magic Moment 7
At Edinburgh Airport at 4.30am on Saturday, Say Hei's baggage allowance was 23 Kg. Her bag weighed in at 30 Kg and the second bag that Campie were paying for was 7 Kg. So Gaynor and I unpacked her bag, moving Campie's letters for CDC and Louise Laing's Heinz tomato soup into the little bag. The queue behind us were not impressed but we were giggling our heads off. And surely this has to be the most obscure but effective example of excellence in a headteacher and the chair of a Parent Council working together! I mean 4am on a Saturday morning! (although that is why neither of us made it to the Musselburgh Community Planning event at 10am. Sorry, folks.)

So many others, Sarah Boyack showing the Scottish Parliament, watching her horror as we ate ice cream, visiting our Burmese refugee student friends at Newbattle Abbey College, waking up to the smell of Burmese breakfast cooking, Campie children saying bye to Say Hei and much more.

Say Hei, you came and gave us so much. Thank you Amazing Lady.

Sheila Laing

If you have any magic Say Hei moments yourself, put them in a comment or send them to us and we'll blog them.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pudsey and Ceilidh

Today Pudsey came to Campie and surprised the children ... and Say Hei and Paw Ray.

Tonight we had a brilliant ceilidh for Say Hei and Paw Ray and our friends.

Pudsy and Ceilidh on PhotoPeach

A row from Louise

Just got a huge row from Louise for not telling her that the photos of Say Hei are on the Campie School website on

Sorry, if you go to Campie School website and click on Burma on the right hand side, you will see all the posts about Burma and Say Hei. I think I better put them on here too.... but right now I am going to the Scottish Burma Ceilidh at Campie Primary School at 7pm. Watch this space, photos to follow.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

News from Waley, Thailand.

Report from a friend in Thailand, "All the refugees in Waley who came as a result of fighting on Sunday night were sent back by the Thai authorities at 9 am this morning." The refugees did not want to return because they were frightened and were forced to go back to Burma against their will. This is very distressing.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Go back to Burma!

On the Irawaddy we read, "The Thai army has announced that it will not allow Burmese villagers to cross the border again if hostilities resume. Observers say this policy is a result of a request by the Burmese government to the Thais to deny shelter to Burmese refugees, and a Burmese demand that the Thai authorities pay 100,000 baht (US $3,000) compensation for any Burmese citizen killed on Thai soil."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Burmese Headteachers visit to Scottish Parliament

Today, Say Hei and Paw Ray visited the Scottish Parliament. Sarah Boyack, MSP and BEST trustee (Burma Educational Scholarship Trust) showed us round and gave us an explanation of how the Parliament works. She spoke about the transparency and accountability of the Scottish Parliament and of its commitment to equality. Say Hei and Paw Ray were very impressed but so sad because Burma is exactly the opposit of this, as the recent elections in Burma show.
(PS Our headteachers are actually Karen ethnic group not Burmese.)

More fighting on the Thai Burma border

Today our Karen headteachers heard that there is more fighting on the border and more people are running away into Thailand. Many of the local Burmese and Karen people and organisations are trying to help them even though the Thai authorities want the new refugees to return to Burma. The situation is very tense and fearful.
We read on that...
"...More than 400 villagers fled late on Sunday night from the town of Valley, which straddles the Thai-Burmese border, following a resumption of hostilities between Burmese government forces and breakaway Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to Thai authorities.
We are all so joyful at Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom and it's amazing to hear her dignified and courageous speeches. However, let's keep remembering the poor Burmese and Karen people who struggle every day to survive in poverty, hunger and fear.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fear behind the celebrations

We have joined in with the joy in Burma and Mae Sot at Aung San Suu Kyi's release. However, the reality of the fear Burmese and Karen people live with on a daily basis, hit home to us on Saturday.

We received this report from a good and reliable friend in Mae Sot.

In the meantime, the situation here is still really bad. Now the Thais really don't want any refugees here, they are forcibly sending people back. Yesterday there was reports of large numbers of people strung out along the river banks of Burma unable to cross but fearful of being in Burma so just hiding out under trees along the river bank. The Thai authorities are blocking aid. People who return are being recruited as porters, men, women and children. The SPDC (Burmese Army) has brought in thousands more troops to the area, and are determined to wipe out any opposition. Fighting is breaking out, lots more landmines have been laid and people are on the move in desperate need of safety.

We are sending out food, blankets, water, hygiene kits, maternity kits and baby kits. There are women close to delivery, brand new babies, elderly and disabled included of course in these populations. The Thais are not allowing international NGOs access to sites so everyone is relying on us to get stuff to the right people. "us" is merely a community network of Burmese people, healthworkers, monks, teachers, market people, activists etc.........using the networks to get people what they need. The whole Burmese community in Thailand has opened up their doors and is taking care of people - in villages three or four families are staying with
each village house. They are not relatives of each other - just people are looking after each others. Villagers may be looking after people at great personal risk since in some villages, the authorities have announced that anyone caught harboring refugees will be arrested.
So in the midst of the jubliation that Aung San Suu Kyi is free, let's help out our friends who are giving so much to help those in fear and remember there are still 2200 political prisoners in Burma's jails.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday Sightseeing and Shopping!

Say Hei Sightseeing on PhotoPeach

Some fresh, windy Scottish air was in store for our Burmese teacher Say Hei today. We picked her up bright and early at Sheila's house and whisked her off in a whirlwind tour of East Lothian and Edinburgh.
We fitted in Gullane bents - to watch the brave (or crazy) kite surfers - , Direlton and Tantallon Castles - from the outside, North Berwick beach, Phantassie Dovocot and Preston Mill, Asda, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Saint Giles Cathedral!!!
Wow what a day! Can't say we don't know how to treat our visitors. If Say Hei does not sleep soundly tonight I shall eat my hat!

She's free at last!

At 11am (UK time), Saturday 13 November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi has been released after a total of 15 years and 20 days. She said to the huge crowd of people outside her house, "We must work together in unity to achieve her goal." She's gone back inside her house but will speak to the people at 12 tomorrow (5am UK time) from her party's headquarters - the National League of Democracy.
Burma Campaign UK has released this statement, "Burma Campaign UK today welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but warned that the release should not be interpreted as a sign that democratic reform is on the way. Burma Campaign UK also called for the immediate release of 2,202 political prisoners who remain in detention."

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Scotsman on Friday, The Times on Saturday

Today, Say Hei was on page 24 of The Scotsman newspaper, talking about the current situation in Mae Sot. Gaynor Allen, Campie Parent Council Chair, wrote the article and we really want to thank you Gaynor for using your skill and talent to share Say Hei's story with the world. After Nicky Orr, another Campie mum tweeted Gordon and Sarah Brown last week, Gaynor's also tapping on Gordon Brown's door but he's not answered.... yet! She's a persistent woman mind, so you never know...

Tomorrow The Times are doing a feature on our Burmese friends too so look out for that.

Today, Say Hei spent time talking to a group of Campie parents about her Karen people and about the situation in Burma and in CDC School. She had hoped her translator, Khaing, would be available but she managed just fine without him. Her English has amazed us this trip. She can say most of the things she wants to say and she is becoming really confident to speak to people.

She spent the day in P1 with Teacher Kat and in P5 with Mrs Polley. You can see those photos on Then tonight teachers from Campie and Forthview with some Campie parents enjoyed a meal with Say Hei and with Ko Htike and Win Maung Thein, our Burmese student friends from Newbattle Abbey College. It was lovely to relax though Say Hei was very sleepy. The TV was on in the Thai restaurant and our noisy table went very quiet when BBC24 put on a feature about Aung San Suu Kyi. It showed Zoya Phan of Burma Campaign UK and Headteacher Paw Ray was staying with Zoya in London tonight. She returns to Scotland tomorrow, having had a busy but rewarding trip to London to secure funding for the dry food programme to feed the migrant children.

We had a false alarm at Campie today. Ms Laing got a text that Aung San Suu Kyi had been released at 10am UK time. It was from a very good source so she ran into the P1 open plan area, shouting excitedly to Sey Hei and the children that ASSK had been released. The P1 children began to clap, which was just beautiful. Later we found out that ASSK was still not released.

Tonight Ko Htike explained (and we also read this in the Guardian) that her release papers were served but there were conditions restricting her movements and restricting who she could speak to, so Aung San Suu Kyi refused to leave her home. We await tomorrow's events with great interest, excitement and concern.

Tomorrow, Teachers Kat, Alicia and Hannah are taking Say Heh shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh. Pat Boone records, christmas cards and board games for her boarding house students are on Say Hei's shopping list. Ms Laing's staying in bed...ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Will Aung San Suu Kyi be released today?

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will apparently be set free on Friday. Burmese authorities entered Suu Kyi’s lakeside house on University Avenue at 12 p.m., reportedly to deliver a release warrant, according local journalists who are waiting outside her compound. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and authorities seemed to be talking in the house after the release warrant was read and she is likely to come out of the compound at 4:00 pm,” said a reporter outside her residence. “Her party (NLD) invited journalists in Rangoon for a press conference at 5 p.m

Paw Ray in London and Say Hei in Wallyford

Andrew Scadding of Thai Children's Trust sent this letter that Paw Ray had published in The Times today. Paw Ray has been very busy in London speaking to organisations that might help Burmese migrant children in Mae Sot. She's also met up with some dear Karen friends that she has not seen for years, Zoya Phan and another young woman.

Say Hei went to Wallyford Primary School today to meet Teacher Hannah. Her P4 class gave Say Hei a lovely welcome and tour of their school. They were so fast at picking up information about Burma. Thank you Wallyford.

Gaynor Allen is Chair of Campie Parent Council and also a journalist. She has interviewed Say Hei and sent an article to The Times and The Scotsman so keep your eyes open for this.

Aung San Suu Kyi update

Kim Aris, the younger son of Aung San Suu Kyi, reportedly applies for a visa to visit his mother in Rangoon.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wednesday in Mae Sot

The news we hear today is that the Burmese army have retaken Myawaddy and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have retreated to the outskirts of Myawaddy. The Thai army are sending the people back to Myawaddy but many people are afraid to return. reports,

'All Refugees Returned to Myawaddy
MAE SOT — All refugees who did not return to Myawaddy on Tuesday were sent back by Thai authorities Wednesday morning. Thai authorities said the process came after agreement was reached with Burmese counterparts led by Col Khin Maung Htay. But social workers here said some refugees are still hiding in rice fields along the Moei river. In Myawaddy, authorities collected a list of those who fled to Thailand during the fighting. One Burmese official in the town said the order to do so came from the regional military command.'

Another report said, “The town was silent when we went back this morning, but there were soldiers searching for explosive devices. Then we heard the soldiers wanted porters, so we come back to the Thai side,” said Han Sein (not his real name), a retire civil servant from Myawaddy, speaking to The Irrawaddy on the bank of the Moei River, which separates Thailand and Burma.
“I saw that some of the shops—particularly the phone shops—had been looted, but I have no idea who did it,” he said, adding that this was the worst incident he had experienced since moving to Myawaddy in 1992.
While many local residents have returned to the town to check their property, many others say they are still too worried about their personal safety to remain there.
“After I got back to my house, I cooked some rice. Then I saw that some people were running away to escape being recruited as porters, so I also came back to Thailand,” said Daw Yee, 74. “I am worried about my home, but right now, safety is my main concern.”
Many who have returned to the Thai side of the border have taken shelter in local monasteries or in houses near the river. Others are said to be hiding in the woods around the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
“I feel the situation in the town is still uncertain. That's why I decided to come to Thailand this morning,” said Ba Maung, 84, who was taken to the Mao Tao clinic in Mae Sot after he arrived on the Thai side. “I was at a monastery during the fighting on Monday.”
Thai soldiers at the Thai-Burmese Friendship Bridge between Mae Sot and Myawaddy said they could understand why the refugees were nervous. “The opposite side of the river is too quiet. It's not normal. Something could happen at anytime,” said one Thai sergeant at the bridge.
However, local authorities in Mae Sot are struggling to deal with the influx of thousands of refugees and are eager to see the situation return to normal as quickly as possible. Thai officials and NGO workers said there were only 13 toilets for about 20,000 refugees who arrived on Monday and Tuesday.

The Mae Tao Clinic have launched an appeal to support the efforts to feed and house and help the refugees from Myawaddy. There are many remaining in Mae Sot.

For details of Say Hei's day in Campie, see Campie website on

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Say Hei's Tuesday in Scotland

Say Hei and Paw Ray went to bed on Monday at 8pm. They were so tired but they woke up at 2am! So at 5am, they were in the Headteacher's kitchen cooking rice and chicken. Ms Laing snored through it all!

Say Hei's Tuesday in Campie on PhotoPeach

Paw Ray went to London today to speak to important people about helping the Burmese and Karen families living in Thailand. So Say Hei came to Campie for the first time.

Ms Laing and Say Hei took all morning to meet 14 of Campie's 18 classes. Say Hei loved the bright classrooms and could not believe that in P2 the children had 5 jotters for their work. In CDC, they only have 1. In CDC the children sit on benches and each class has 42 children so the children are squashed together on the benches.

In the afternoon, you can see Khaing Maung Maung came to assemblies to interpret for Say Hei. P4-7 listened superbly as they always do when they hear about Burma. Khaing, Say Hei and Ms Laing told them about the Karen and Burmese armies fighting in Myawaddy, near Mae Sot. We are glad that Say Hei's boarding house girls are all safe and living in CDC just now. She told us they've been cooking food for the new refugees.

What impressed Say Hei most was the excellent questions Campie children asked her. Some were so difficult to answer but Khaing helped us in the afternoon. Questions like...

Q. Do you have a pet?
Q. How many children do you have?
Q. Do you like Burma or Thailand best?
Q. Do you think in Burmese or English, Khaing?
Q. Do the children play football?
Q Does anyone in Burma make a sacrifice for others?
Q. Why did you come to Thailand?
Q Did the soldiers see you come to Thailand?
Q Were you afraid?
Q. How many students in your school?
Q. When did the trouble start in Burma?
Q. Would you fight the soldiers?
Q. When will the fighting stop?
Q. Are you cold?
Q. Are you tired?
Q What writing do children do in CDC?

and on and on and on and .... just brilliant... well done Campie kids.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Trouble in Myawaddy

Say Hei and Paw Ray woke this morning to very worrying news from Mae Sot. Overnight there had been fighting in Myawaddy, just across the river and some crossfire had hit some Thai people on the Mae Sot side.

CDC school and the other migrant schools have been asked to close by the Thai Police to keep everyone safe. CDC tried to evacuate Say Hei's boarding house but the boarding house is right on the road to the bridge so the Thai Police wouldn't let people out. However Say Hei spoke to teacher Myo Nyunt and was satisfied that all her boarders were safe.

After Dr Cynthia told the volunteers the school was closed, Louise went to see if she could help with the stream of people fleeing into Mae Sot. The police were directing them to a big field near the bus station, near CDC school and Mae Tao Clinic.

Louise told me, "People from Myawaddy were all just sitting there on bits of cardboard in this huge field. They'd run away from Burma across the river with nothing and they were sat there feeding their babies. They were happy to be out of Myawaddy and glad to have somewhere to camp with their families. One woman was sitting wanting to go into the queue for food but she couldn't go because there was nobody to watch her baby. She told me she was a teacher in Myawaddy but here she was sitting in a field with nothing. It was mayhem. I helped by handing out water to people. The Thai police were being very kind to the people and the Red Cross were giving them food and water. I felt so horrible to leave to go home. Tonight it will be cold, about 16 degrees and they are all sitting in that field with no shelter."
She's written more on

Sunday, 7 November 2010

From Mae Sot to Edinburgh - they did it!

4pm on Sunday 7 November 2010 was a wonderful moment. Say Hei and Paw Ray came through the International Arrival door, exhausted but safe. I was getting quite worried because their flight landed at 3.35pm but they weren't coming through the arrival door. That was because customs opened their suitcases and checked everything. Makes you cross doesn't it?

But they are here and we are so happy to have them with us. It was 4 degrees centigrade outside so we had the heating on full blast and our house was like toast. All the Scots in the house were sweating but Paw Ray still had her big coat on! I think they're OK now though.
We had a lovely welcome party for them. Gaynor (Chair of Campie Parent Council) and her family were here, Fiona, Beth and Gavin from Forthview and Alastair whose mum is Burmese. We enjoyed a buffet and Paw Ray and Say Hei both managed to eat it.
Of course, today is Election Day in Burma so we quickly found the Irrawaddy website in Burmese so they could catch up on the news. The Election is over, the results unknown except we all know what they will be. However, news from our friends that the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have seized power from the Burmese Army in Myawaddy, just over the bridge from Mae Sot. Follow this news on

They've had a shower now and they're both tucked up in bed at 7.30pm. Tomorrow They will both go to Forthview, taking greetings from Thazin. Then on Tuesday, Paw Ray is going to London to speak to groups about the need on the border for migrant Burmese and Karen children. Say Hei will be going to Campie and EVERYONE is very excited for that.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Journey is going well

I just spoke to Say Hei and Paw Ray on the phone. They are about to board the plane in Bangkok and have safely got through all the checkpoints. They sound happy and excited and a bit worried about how cold it will be. We'll be meeting them tomorrow at 3.35pm in Edinburgh Airport. Just amazing.

One of our lovely Campie mums went out today and organised 2 whole bags of essential clothing for living in Scotland. So so kind ... and the labels she made said,

"Welcome to our friends from Burma with much love from your Campie friends. x"

What a lovely start. Thank you Campie mum. :)

Friday, 5 November 2010

Say Hei comes, An Election in Burma

At last, Say Hei will arrive in Scotland on Sunday 7 November at 3.30pm. She will be in Campie on Tuesday, or perhaps Monday. The children are all very excited to meet her and are pretty good at the Burmese greeting. Minglaba! Say Hei hasn’t got any shoes. She only wears sandals so we’re guessing what size she is so we can take some shoes to the airport for her. Gaynor’s family and Ms Laing and a Burmese lady called Khin are going to meet Say Hei and her friend Paw Ray, who is travelling with her.

On Saturday, the Campie teachers who went to Burma and 6 P7s are going to Glasgow to speak at Amnesty International’s Scottish Conference about Burma. Ko Htike and Win Maung Thein are going with us. They are Burmese refugee students at Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith so the P7s will enjoy quizzing them on the train.

It’s a very important weekend for the Burmese people. The first elections since 1990 are on Sunday, the day Say Hei and Paw Ray arrive in Scotland. Last time Aung San Suu Kyi won the elections. This time, her party are not allowed to be elected. So the election is not as fair as the election Campie children have voted in this week. Every child from P2- 6 has voted in the Children’s Vote run by Tam Baillie. Nobody told Campie children what to vote for. Burma is very different. So listen to the news children and listen out for what happens in Burma this weekend.

On 13 November, Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed so listen out for that too. Say Hei and Paw Ray will be finding out what’s really going on in Burma and they will tell us.
So have a safe journey Sey Hei. We are all thinking about you. You are very brave, just like Aung San Suu Kyi.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Say Hei's visa has been approved. This amazing news came this afternoon. However, none of the other 5 people who were coming over, including Dr Cynthia Maung, have had their visa applications for UK turned down. Say Hei is frightened to travel alone so, I understand, she is waiting until the others re-apply before coming over. She's able to come as soon as it suits now though. A huge thank you to Fiona O'Donnell, East Lothian MP for her support. :)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Run for Burma

Today about 18 staff from Campie, Forthview and Pirniehall ran for Burma in Inverleith Park, Edinburgh. Some of the money we raised went to Partners UK. Campie's money is going to the CDC boarding houses. Well done, everyone.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Say Hei's 2nd visa attempt....

Say Hei went to Bangkok almost 2 weeks ago to apply for a second time for a UK visa so she can visit Campie in November 2010. We've just heard the application is ready to be collected but we don't know if the visa has been granted or denied. Louise Laing is going to go to Bangkok on Sunday to collect the visa on Monday. Fingers and everything else crossed!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Say Hei applies for UK visa again

Tonight, as I write, Say Hei is travelling on another minibus from Mae Sot to Bangkok to apply for a UK visa for the second time. We have prepared stronger evidence to support her application from both schools. Our MP, Fiona O' Donnell, has given her support once more, as have the Thai Ministry of Education.

You can see Say Hei and one of her daughters and her adopted son here in this photo with my daughter Louise and I.

So I'm hoping and praying that she has a safe journey as I know she'll be feeling nervous and that this application for a UK visa will be successful. If it is, Say Hei will be coming to Campie School at the end of October 2010 for a few weeks. Let's all hope .......
Sheila Laing

Sunday, 26 September 2010

CDC and Campie in the paper...

Hannah Alcock wrote to the local press about the link between our Scottish school and the Burmese school. Read about the article in the East Lothian Courier here....

Monday, 16 August 2010

Campie staff learn more about Burma

Summer is over in Scotland - well, the staff all returned from their holidays for 3 In Service training days at Campie.

This morning Katherine Macnaughton and Alicia Macfarlane led Campie staff in learning about CDC School and about the lives of the Burmese and Karen students and staff. They began by putting 6 photos from their visit to Mae Sot on 7 tables and the staff had to go around and record their impressions of the photos. This was cleverly based on a session SCOTDEC ran at Campie earlier this year, where they used photos to challenge stereotypes. And what were the staff saying about the photos?
'The children look so happy and well cared for.'
'I can't believe the clinic has so many landmine victims and they are all so young.'
'Is that school milk they're drinking?'
'What are they selling ice cream in school for?'
'Such cute children.'
'The nursery has pictures on the walls but the school is so bare.'
'64 Burmese schools in Mae Sot? I thought CDC was the only one!'

Each table then read a CDC child's story of how they came to be in Thailand from Burma, which provoked strong feelings of awe at the resilience of the Burmese people but concern at the danger they live in on the Border.

Finally, we thought about learning projects that Campie and CDC could embark on together in our Global Schools Partnership. We'll share them with Say Hei if she ever gets a UK visa!

A brilliant learning session with everyone involved, asking questions and impressed with how much Alicia and Katherine have learned in such a short time. Thank you Alicia and Katherine - and Hannah who planned the session with them but has now moved to work at Wallyford Primary School.

Friday, 13 August 2010


We have all been shocked and disappointed today because the 3 visas to come to UK were all REJECTED by UK Immigration. The teachers has misunderstood the text that said the passports could be collected to mean the visas had been approved. So our last blog posting was wrong.

The teachers are very distressed and upset. At this moment, Friday at 11am UK time, Dr Cynthia has called a meeting to discuss the way forward for the Burma:Scotland Global School Partnerships.

This is dreadful news. Watch this space, we'll keep you posted.....

Saturday, 7 August 2010


Miraculously, after all that hard work by so many people, Say Hei, Pho Cho and Nee Shar got their visas to travel to the UK. Well, when I say 'got, what I mean is someone needs to travel to Bangkok to collect the visas but they are approved and ready. Louise was going to collect them but she's not well enough so Lisa is sorting it out. This is fantastic news.
PS Louise is now out of hospital and recuperating at home in Homestay.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Louise is ill

Many of you have written to say that you are now following Louise Laing's blog. Louise is Ms Laing's daughter and she is living in Mae Sot for about a year, helping and teaching at CDC Nursery and now also at Say Ta Nar School.

Louise has become quite ill with dengue fever and was admitted to hospital today. You can read more on her blog...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Rainy Season...

Coming back to Scotland, it's clear you've had a bit of a rainy season this summer. On the Thai Burma border, the rainy season has had much less rain than usual. The rice in the paddy fields is suffering and there are fears for crops. But when it rains, it rains... usually very suddenly and usually as we are out on our bikes. Here you can see what happens when the rain starts lashing down as the children are leaving school. Ugh!

Monday, 2 August 2010

CDC Boarding House Part 2 - Thank you Amber!

The Burmese and Karen people are the most generous hosts and they do love to feed visitors lots and lots of lovely Karen or Burmese food. Here you see the lovely spread they set out for us. They'd gone to lots of trouble to cater for our western tastes with battered chicken, plain rice and an eggy dish..... the girls had had a much plainer meal than us so we felt very guilty that they had cooked special food for us.
Sheila's usual agonising over eating food she's scared of!

Alicia sets Sheila a good example and has a go at everything....

After hearing about Burma from Ms Laing in Assembly, Amber Reilly in P7 determined to do what she could to help the Burmese children. She also spoke to Campie parents with Ms Laing about Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma.
P7 had their official charity for the year but Amber got her class to save up pennies throughout the year for the Burmese children. All in all, Amber and her friend Marley gathered in £80. On top of this a Campie parent had given us £50 so we put this together. At the end of the meal we gave Say Hei 3000 baht for her girls' boarding house and we gave Myo Nyunt 3000 baht for his boys' boarding house. They were both very happy to have this extra money to spend on the children. They asked us to say thank you very much Amber and Say Hei looks forward to thanking you when she comes to Campie.

We left the boarding house wondering if Campie could do more to help the boarding houses...

Living in a CDC Boarding House Part 1

CDC school has 520 boarders, children and young people whose parents have died in Burma or whose parents have sent them to Thailand to avoid hunger and worse or to get education. It's a mammoth task to find the funding to care for these children and young people. CDC seeks funding from many places to care for the children in large boarding houses. The CDC teachers live in the boarding houses, caring for the children after teaching them all day. Say Hei is the housemistress of a boarding house for 80 girls and young ladies. She invited us to the boarding house. This is the view from the 3rd floor of the 3 storey boarding house.
Say Hei and Sheila Laing with their daughters and with Say Hei's adopted son. Say Hei runs a very loving and nurturing boarding house. Pi Say Hei... grandmother Say Hei is what the girls call her. These girls cannot leave this house except to go to school. They can't go out to play as they are at risk of being arrested. They live their lives in this home and in school.

The girls are relaxing on a Friday evening, sitting about in groups having a blether....

Below you can see how much space each girl has to sleep in. They sleep side by side on their mats. Their bedding and mats are rolled up daily. Not much privacy or personal space here.

Each girl has a box for her personal possessions. Imagine girls, getting all your possessions in one box. Despite such little space, the girls take great care over their appearance and their belongings and they always look smart and well turned out.

Everyone's shoes are lined up, ready for going out. Shoes are taken off in Burmese homes.

There are toilets on each floor. Miss MacNaughton used this toilet, but then Miss MacNaughton used every toilet we passed!

All the girls are on a rota to clean, cook and care for their home.

Campie staff on the Thai Burma border

Above is my favourite photo of Alicia MacFarlane on the border. She is with Myo Nyunt, who was the excellent teacher who was Alicia and Hannah's interpreter. He's wearing his special Friday clothes.

Below is a Campie staff meeting right at the river that divides Thailand and Burma. We'd just been refused permission to travel to Burma because the border had been closed 'because of a problem Burma have in their country'. We went to the market on the border and had a coke in one of the cafes, which turned into such a boring Campie staff meeting that Geoff wandered off to take our photo!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Back home

Safely home to the clartiest kitchen in Scotland. Got the bleach out and scrubbing hard. Got off the plane in Edinburgh, went to the loo and met Zoe Porter and her daughters and mum! Zoe's been great at commenting on the blog and keeping up with us so that was just lovely. She's off to Bulgaria and I am off to detoxify my kitchen and phone Louise.

Louise has been finding it really hard to be left in Mae Sot by her mother so if you want to keep up with the situation for the Burmese and Karen people in Mae Sot, follow her blog and send her a wee encouraging comment at


Friday, 23 July 2010

Farewell Assembly at CDC

It was our last morning at CDC and we had come to take assembly to make sure every child in CDC Primary knew what we'd been up to and what the partnership was all about. We got up at 6am to make sure we were there for the 8.30am start... in true Burmese style, it started at 9am!

The primary school children lined up on their balconies to come over to the big assembly hall. Here you can see the primary school. The secondary school has an identical building facing this one and they also have a third building behind the assembly hall. CDC building was built to Thai standards by Child's Dream. One of the conditions of the building is that it is not used for a boarding house so CDC have boarding houses scattered around Mae Sot.

The primary children walk to the assembly hall, arms folded in single file. CDC children wear a special green uniform on a Friday. The rest of the week it's lilac and navy.

It takes quite a long time to get the 560 primary pupils out of their building into the assembly hall. As each child passes us teachers, they bow their heads out of respect to us. Imagine that in Scotland! Take note of the flagpole behind the children.

The primary goes from Kindergarten to Grade 6 but Alicia and Hannah worked with Grade 6 and Grade 7 so Grade 7 got to come too today. The guy in red was the only person who could get the CD player and mike to work. I guess he's a kind of Burmese Linda Borthwick (Campie wonderwoman) and just like her, he keeps vanishing just when it all goes wrong and everybody runs round shouting for him. Just like Linda!

Every day the Burmese and Karen schools have to sing the Thai National Anthem and raise the Thai flag. So daily all 1300 people on the campus gather on the balconies, stand facing the flag and sing the national song as pupils raise the flag, followed by a 2 minute silence. This is because the Thai government want the Burmese schools, or learning centres as the Thais say they must be called, to assimilate into Thai culture and become Thai. Of course the Burmese and Karen people are mostly desperate to return to Burma so this is a huge conflict, not just as the flag is raised but in every aspect of their daily lives.

The Burmese and Karen people accept this as part of the cost of living in another land. As an outsider, I find the song and the flag raising deeply disturbing as it encapsulates the unbearableness of being a refugee with no rights to exercise your own culture. It unleashes a real clash of emotions - I feel stirred by the sound of 1300 people singing a stirring anthem, I feel angry that the Burmese people cannot be in their own place and are made to bow to another culture. This is heightened at CDC because look at the mountains... that's Burma. So very close but so very far away.... However, I recognise that my feelings of dissonance are a luxury that these refugee and migrant people cannot afford to have. They need to survive and to survive, this is something they need to accept.

Above you can see Say Hei, the Head of the Primary School introducing us to the assembly. The children call her Pi Say Hei, which means grandmother. She is the most nurturing, wise and gentle woman you could find and her experience and bearing bring her great respect in the CDC community. She runs a boarding house for 80 girls as well as having 4 daughters and an adopted son. We are SO HONOURED to be welcoming her to Campie.
Below we all greet each other with Minglaba!

And we sing, I FEEL GOOD by Fischy Music, which transcends all cultural barriers. Thanks Stephen Fischbacher once again for the music that we use so much here on the Thai Burma border. It's a novelty for the children to sing a fun song in assembly and people stream out of secondary classes to watch from the other buildings. We're even observed by a dog on the roof of the other building! Below you can see Myo Nyu, who was the interpreter for Hannah and Alicia. He is an outstanding teacher and learner and they have so many funny and amazing stories to tell about working with him. He's a very stylish guy and is wearing his take on traditional Karen clothing in the photo. We spent most of the week calling him various versions of his name. Num num, myoo myoo, no no, nweh nweh.... He took it all in good style and told my daughter Louise that he enjoyed working with Alicia and Alcock!

At the end of Assembly, a procession of pupils came forward to give each of us a Karen tunic that they had made by hand for us, then another procession gave us a brooch and finally they gave us a beautiful mosaic picture of their traditional culture for Campie's entrance hall. Alicia took it back to Scotland so come to Campie for a look, folks. We were all moved and very emotional. Alicia is a bit of a basket case when it comes to being moved it has to be said but we were all as bad as her this time! Interesting what you learn about your staff far from home!

And then it was time to say goodbye to the children as they left the hall to go back to class with hugs and smiles and 'Thank you teeecher'.
These people just fill our hearts with love and we have all been so totally privileged to spend this week with them. They deserve so so much more than life and the Burmese junta allow them to have just now. When will it change?
Thank you CDC, Mahn Shwe Hnin - headteacher, Pi Sei Hei and all her teachers and staff, Lisa Houston and Dr Cynthia Maung for your gracious hospitality and kindness to us and for embracing our partnership.