Sunday, 21 November 2010
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 www.campieschool.com), 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.
If you have any magic Say Hei moments yourself, put them in a comment or send them to us and we'll blog them. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, 18 November 2010
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
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Monday, 15 November 2010
(PS Our headteachers are actually Karen ethnic group not Burmese.)
Sunday, 14 November 2010
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.
Saturday, 13 November 2010
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!
Friday, 12 November 2010
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 http://www.campieschool.com/. 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
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.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
'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 http://www.campieschool.com/
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
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
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Saturday, 6 November 2010
Friday, 5 November 2010
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.