March Update

In March many of our regular Room to Grow activities continued, such as regular food funding. But with school activities wrapping up, there was an opportunity for several special events.

In Thailand, the hottest time of the year is April and by hot, we mean hot. In the camps there is no possibility of hiding in an air-conditioned building or even enjoying the breeze from a fan. It’s impossible for teachers to teach without becoming a puddle on the floor and its impossible for students to stay awake long enough to learn.

Unfortunately for students in the fourth and seventh grade, they need to keep concentrating from March 18th to 21st and pass their standardized board exams. By March 21st, however, all the students are free.

With students out of school, March and April are the perfect months for renovations and for the construction of new buildings. By law, until very recently, refugees were not allowed to use permanent building materials in their construction. Since refugees started coming across the border from Burma, the Thai government has treated the situation as temporary and made policies accordingly. Twenty years on, however, the situation is far from temporary.

Thankfully, policies have started changing and refugees now have permission to build with cement and metal.

One of the strongest needs at Kyaw Kyaw’s dormitory was rebuilding the toilets. The girl’s toilets lacked doors and the thatch was so sparse, there were holes in the walls in some places.

Behind the boy’s toilet, which was perched at the edge of a hill, a huge pit had opened as part of the hill had eroded away.

In February we discussed plans with Kyaw Kyaw for changes. He wanted to use bricks and cement to create larger water tanks and stronger buildings.

The nearby monastery, who was also engaged in construction, assisted the dormitory arrange for materials and their transportation. Students helped a member of the community who was hired to assist with the construction.

As a result, there are two beautiful new buildings on the compound of the dormitory run by Kyaw Kyaw.

Students celebrated the end of the school year and the completion of their exams with a celebration sponsored by Marge Norris. More updates and details on the celebration to be posted soon.

This month, unfortunately, one of our dormitories lost its leader. Than Hla and his wife were resettled to the United States. They had an interview with the department of Homeland Security in February and left the camp on March 31st for their new home State-side. Room to Grow Foundation wishes their family the best of luck in the future.

Than Hla’s son will remain in Umphium and has accepted the responsibility of managing the boarding house from his father. He, along with two others, will make up a new boarding house committee to care for the students’ needs there. Room to Grow Foundation looks forward to working with them in the future.


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