The local community-run schools we are supporting are the only source of formal education to their young students. Resisting regime pressure to shut down, they rely on international support through the Community Schools Program to prevail in the conflict areas of eastern Burma. Every year since 2008 we have been helping these kids have a better future through education with the help of the Community Schools Program. The first two photos (top left and bottom right) of this article were taken in a few months ago at an IDP school inside of Burma. As you can see, it is easy to fall in love with these kids!. We try to support them and their teachers as much as we can.
In 2006 the Community Schools program was recognized by the World’s Children Prize Foundation of Sweden and received funding for 25 of their community supported schools. As part of this recognition, a formal needs assessment was done that identified the action areas of child abuse in the Eastern Karen State of Burma. According to the "Activity Report of the WCPRC in Burma - May 2011" report published by the Community Schools' Program, here are those areas of concern:
- Parents cannot afford the children to go to the schools due to poverty.
- In Burma there is still a civilian war with killing and displacement; many children are threatened and the Burmese regime has burned down houses, community schools and have killed innocent families
- Children have been forced to become child soldiers
- Child trafficking that includes forcing the children to work as housemaids, market workers and in brothels is occurring
- Due to poverty there is the lack of the opportunity for studying when children can attend school
- There is often no local school in the home village of children and parents cannot afford the transportation to schools in other villages
- In some schools, children are beaten for infractions such as not doing their homework
In response to the needs assessment and report, formal workshops to provide basic child rights training for teachers and a global vote for the World's Children Prize was organized in schools in Burma and in Thailand migrant schools and schools inside of refugee camps by several organization. Unfortunately, some IDP schools in Burma could not safely participate for security reasons due to conflict. For many children (excepting the ones in the conflict and refugee camp schools), the global vote was the first time they have ever left their village and became aware of a global community that supported their rights.
We have wanted to publish more photos about KIRF's support of Community Schools a long time ago but didn't due to our concern for the safety of thir many volunteer aid workers and the teachers inside and outside of Burma. The photos above are being published with permission of the Community Schools Program. More news and photos from this non-profit will be available online once their new website goes live.
In 2008, KIRF co-founder Mark Kirwin purchased and helped deliver school supplies, food aid and basic living supplies to migrant and refugee children from the Eastern Karen State of Burma. The photos below were taken in 2008 and were chosen in order to not reveal the identities of these migrants from Burma.