SUMMARY OF MAY 2001 TRIP TO THAILAND
After spending 8 hours on the bus from Bangkok, I was happy to see the dark Mae Sot bus yard. I stumbled out of the bus and wearily walked around to claim my three heavy bags. A young woman I had met in the Bangkok bus station was dragging her duffel bags out of the bus. When I had arrived at the bus depot in Bangkok, this young woman was also waiting for the bus. She asked where I was going and when I told her I was going to Mae Sot, she said that was where she was going. She was a young Karen who has been studying in Canada. This would be her first trip to the border to visit her family in 5 years. She had heard of me but we had never met. A Tuk Tuk driver came up and grabbed my bags and I helped him get them on the back of the rickety little motorcycle drawn cart.
(Photo of TukTuk and Driver)
Sally came up and introduced me to her brother and he offered me a ride to wherever I was going. I thanked them but told them I was already loaded onto the Tuk Tuk. I climbed on the back and hung onto my 3 heavy bags as the "taxi" jerked to a start and bumped over the deeply rutted yard. Sally and her family probably thought "that crazy Kallawah, riding on that thing when she could be in a truck with us!" I felt strangely calm as we careened around the corner. I knew that I was right where I was supposed to be.
It was almost 6 AM by the time I was settled in my room. I made myself wait until 7 AM before phoning Pastor Winsleigh. I asked him if he could take me to spend the day a short ways out of Mae Sot. He said he'd make some calls and get back to me. It is always hard getting a truck and driver on short notice.
In less than 15 minutes my phone rang. It was Donnie, the 19 year old Karen
young man that I had been sponsoring for the past 6 years.
(Photo of Donnie)
We made arrangements to spend a couple days near Mae Sot then met up with Ksah Kah Lu, who is Dr. Po Thaw Da's son-in-law. He has built a hostel for internally displaced students at the top of a hill in Mae La refugee camp. There are a group of 43 young people ranging in age from 11 to 20 years of age. All of them have families who are displaced within Burma, having to continually be on the run ahead of the Burmese military troops. There is no way they can get an education while on the move constantly. Their parents have no resources to feed them, let alone educate them. They all were willing to slip illegally across the border and come to the camp hoping someone could help them. Ksah Kah Lu built the hostel and typed up a proposal to try and get support for them. After talking with him for several hours, I agreed to travel with him to the camp and see the hostel and meet the students. Donnie, Ksah Kah Lu and I took a line bus along with some other refugees returning to the camp.
An hour later we arrived at one of the gates. I noticed that much of the make shift fence was broken and it was very easy to just walk into the camp in some areas.
We all walked through the gate at Mae La and headed up the hill. The split bamboo houses are badly weathered and are crammed together and go all the way up the side of the mountain to the base of a sheer rock cliff. It hadn't rained recently so we were able to walk fairly easily on the dirt paths. As we steadily climbed up the hill I knew I hadn't done enough hiking in Hawaii. The heat and high humidity soon had me longing for the cool winter trade winds of Makaha. Refugee families stared at me as we passed their homes. The children shyly responded to my greetings of "wohlawgay" (good morning).
We finally made it to the top of one hill and Donnie told me the large bamboo structure in front of us was the orphanage where Pah Nya had been moved so he could get the care he requires.
(Pah Nya and the orphans at the ICC Orphange)
Pah Nya is the young man who was blinded and lost both hands in a land mine explosion 2 years ago. We have been sending money to help care for him and Pastor Winsleigh made arrangements for him to be moved up to the International Children's Care Orphanage where he could be properly cared for 24 hours a day.
There were about a dozen wide eyed children of various ages watching me closely as I took off my pack and shoes to enter the building. We asked for Pah Nya and a man I assumed was the house father quickly went inside and led him out. My heart sank when I saw his face. His eye sockets were red and inflamed. Some of the scars on his face were reddened and sore looking. When I said "Wohlawgay Pa Nya" he broke out in a huge smile that lit up his scarred face. He proudly said to me in English "Hello Pee Tah Thoo, I always remember you and thank you very much. I am fine, thank you!" He was so proud that he had learned that much English, I couldn't restrain myself and reached out and gave him a big hug. Through Donnie he told me he liked being up here with the children and told Donnie he always practiced his English so he could show us his progress. I told him how proud of him we were and Puu would come to see him when he could. His big smile was reward enough for any sacrifices we have had to make to keep him sponsored. When I asked if he needed anything, the only thing he asked for was a winter jumper. I had brought in a cassette player for him from his new sponsor and told him I would bring it on my next visit in a few days. I then asked if I could pray with him and he readily agreed. I put my hands on his shoulders as we prayed. My heart was breaking as I saw the long dark years stretched out in front of him.
As we told the children good bye, I asked Donnie to remind
me to bring in some "Zip The Blessing" bags in for them. I had started a
new outreach I call "Zip the Blessings" which is zip lock bags filled with
small items for the children. The kids in our church in Hawaii had a wonderful
time filling the bags full of goodies. We took in probably 75 of the bags
and they will bring hours of blessings to the young people who receive them.
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