By Jerry Nelson
The Mae Tao Clinic with its Child Protection Department and Child Development Center is the oldest project of Chiang Mai International Rotary Club. Historically, we have organized awareness tours and have done fundraising on their behalf. Our tours have been expanded to include supporting organizations, to help people understand the situation along the Thai/Burma border. The challenge is to find a balance between the time available during a tour and the things to experience!
October brought an Amazing Tour!
On Wednesday, 16 October a van-load of great and caring people departed Chiang Mai to tour the Mae Tao Clinic and supporting organizations. On board were four Rotarians from CMICR, three of whom saw the clinic for the very first time. We also had one CMIRC alumni who is very involved with teaching migrant children, one amazing woman who has started a business with the aim of providing employment for those rescued from human trafficking and two members from the local Toastmasters club rounded out the group.
On Thursday morning we started at the old campus of Mae Tao Clinic. The first stop was The Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (CPPCR). While they deal with some very serious child issues it’s always a pleasure to meet with Saw Aung So and his staff.
We learned they are instrumental in providing proper documentation to the Royal Thai Government to facilitate birth registration. They are part of a Child Protection Response Team, their Child Advocacy Officer is a Thai lady -- an amazing woman! There are six categories of abuse that they deal with: sexual; physical; emotional; exploitation; neglect, and other (includes accident, child marriage and more). Child beggars at the Thai border are an ongoing issue. Horrific cases were mentioned. The kindness shown to these children by CPPCR staff is a true blessing.
Our second stop was at the MTC Office of Burma Operations & Ethnic Health System Strengthening Group. EHSSG is comprised of several organizations including the Mae Tao Clinic, Backpack Health Worker Team and more. They team together to provide the best level of care possible depending on the level of armed conflict in the area.
Their target population is more than 830,000 people. They have 296 service sites in Myanmar. Their total caseload was reported as 288,203 in 2018. Many of the health issues are due to poor hygiene.
Health workers from ethnic and community-based organizations are attempting to work with government to address health policy, systems strengthening and delivery of health services. Peace building concepts and practices need to be an integral part of health policy and planning; this is critical to improve the lives of people inside Burma!
The last stop of the morning was the prosthetic lab where we met two groups of people from Myanmar who are being trained in the skills required to make prosthetic limbs. The great news is that after their training is complete, they will return to Myanmar and will make these services available internally.
After lunch, we visited the Girls' Boarding House that is part of the Child Development Center (CDC). They maintain two boarding houses -- one for boys and one for girls. Although school was not in session, several children remain because of their family situations. When school is in session there are about ninety-four girls resident in the house we visited. The boys' dorm houses seventy-six. We had the pleasure of visiting the girls while they were weaving and sewing. The boarding houses are doing all they can to become self-sustaining.
Global Alms is an organization dedicated to the elimination of trafficking, sexual exploitation and physical abuse of men, women and children. We had an opportunity to visit their Mae Sot branch and learn about their operations. They run a self-sustainable Training Centre focusing on prevention. They provide Thai people, migrants, and foreigners with training options in Reality Based Self Defense, vocational courses and opportunities such as small business development, internships and leadership training.
The ‘Yes She Matters’ program provides women an opportunity, no matter their race, religion or documented status, to receive immediate help if they have been raped, sexually assaulted, abused or caught in domestic violence. Global Alms has partnered with the Royal Thai Police, Immigration Investigations, the Ministry of Social Development & Human Security and the local government hospital to support any cases that come through or are referred to their Emergency Assistance Team. They have recently partnered with National Rugby League Asia to spread awareness about the 'Yes She Matters' program in Thailand. They have partnered with Steeden to produce one-hundred limited edition Rugby League balls for sale to raise funds and awareness for 'Yes She Matters'. The long-term goal is to have local community businesses support 'Yes She Matters' in their locations so it becomes a community based self-sustaining program.
Friday, 18 October we visited the new campus of Mae Tao Clinic. Dr. Cassim Akhoon, Clinical Consultant was our excellent tour guide (far right in photo below). He gave us a very thorough tour and explained many aspects of the clinic that we would have otherwise missed. His passion and thoroughness are so very much appreciated. He emphasized MTC’s ongoing efforts to educate the migrant population, especially when they must come to the clinic for medical care. Hygiene and diet are critical.
During our briefing by the Child Protection Department we learned that MTC provides dry food to thirty-seven boarding houses. Fourteen are in Burma and twenty-two in Thailand. We also learned that the Mae Tao Clinic is working toward establishing themselves as a special economic zone; more about that in the future. Due to fundraising challenges the staff at Mae Tao Clinic are now being paid 85% of their expected stipend. After a brief stop for lunch, the tour's last stop was the Child Development Center where we received a thorough briefing on their activities. Their educational goal is to strengthen the quality of education provided and develop clear pathways for students to be able to access recognized and officially accredited education programs so they can obtain further education. In Thailand, they utilize Thai Non-formal education, and are working with Khon Kaen University and Tak University. CDC’s Pre-GED program and partnership with BEAM Educational Foundation in Chiang Mai prepare students to apply for International Universities. They are also developing paths for students to attend Myanmar University.
One of the most serious challenge for students who graduate from Mae Tao Clinic’s Child Development Center is finding funding for higher education. During the October tour we saw Merlyn Htoo, a student in the BEAM 2018-19 class. She is currently working in the Physical Therapy Department at Mae Tao Clinic. Merlyn wants to study nursing, has been accepted at university and is attempting to secure scholarship funding. Help Me Brain Storm: It's impossible for one Rotary club to fill every need, but we are dedicated to Child Safety, Health and Education and we live by the motto ‘Service Above Self’! We need your support -- moral, physical and financial. CMIRC is always searching for ways to better support the Mae Tao Clinic. There will be a brain storming lunch at Phra Sing Village in Chiang Mai from 11:30 am on Thursday, 21 November 2019. The purpose will be to come up with ideas for the future. Your collective ideas will be presented to Mae Tao Clinic, discussed and then written into CMIRC’s strategic plan for the next year and beyond. Happy New Year: The next tour is scheduled to leave Chiang Mai on 1 January 2020. We set this date to be able to accommodate a group of Rotarians from The Netherlands. The itinerary will be similar to the October tour, but may be further improved based on feedback received from the last tour and the Brain Storming lunch. The Mae Tao Clinic supports Burmese migrants and citizens through health care, training, child protection and education. Everyone is invited and encouraged to support this marvelous organization!