November Writing Contest

“My life is a peice of fragment…”

In November this year, Room to Grow held our first writing and drawing competition with students in the three dormitories we support in Umphium camp. The drawing contest was the most popular for the students, perhaps the writing contest felt too much like homework for some.

While the drawing contest was fairly straightforward, we ran into a few problems with the writing. I had suggested that students write an essay on the subject of the challenges or difficulties they had faced in their lives. Unfortunately the word “essay” inspired a great deal of confusion for students, who assumed they had to follow some kind of formal structure (although what that might be, very few students could guess). Despite the confusion, we recieved a total of 21 entries, mostly written in Karen.

Many of the entries we recieved touched on the topic of education. In order to get an education, many children had faced enormous challenges and a strong desire to go to school and get good grades.

A common roadblock between children and school was economics. Children who go to school cannot work and bring money into their family. In addition, funds are often required to pay school fees or transportation costs to get children to a place with a school. TPK, a student at Kyaw Kyaw’s dormitory, wrote, “I did not want to attend school because my mother could not afford to the money to pay for car fare for me to go there.”

For other children, the way to a proper education is blocked by soldiers of Burma’s military regime, the SPDC. In Karen state, soldiers often burn villages, including schools and the constant displacement as children run and hide in the jungle and return home again, disurpts what little schooling is available in the ethnic areas.

The names of the student winners has not been displayed here for reasons of safety. Although the writing and the translation is sometimes confusing, at other times, it is strangely beautiful.

The challenges in my life.
By A.S. (17 years old, grade 10)
Day Chae’s Dormitory

I would like to write about he challenges and difficulties that I faced in my life.

I was tortured by the SPDC since I was seven years old until the time I was eight years old. Not only me, but also all the people in my village were tortured by the SPDC. My family and I stayed in the junble and slept under the trees and bamboo groves at that time. Afterwards we had to stay in the jungle for three days and our rice ran out because we could not go back to our village. So we ate only bamboo shoots one day.

When we got the news that we could go back to our village, we went back secretly and took rice from our village. One time that my father went back to the village to take rice, he met with the SPDC and was killed by them.

After my father passed aay, our family faced with many problems. We stayed in a small tent with a bananan leaf roof for one month. After a month, people came and informed us that we could go back and stay in our village. At that time we were very happy. We had a chance to go back and attend school in our own village.

When I was eight years old, I studied kindergarten  (KGA) in my village. Our village had grades one to four. After KGA, I left school for one year because my family could not support me and my education. The next year I continued my studies even though I had no support. My sister supported me with what help she could.

I cannot forget these challenges and experienes and I will remember them all my life. Even though I faced problems, I tried to solve them and succeed. The difficulties that I faced and the challenges in my life taught me many lessons. We each have our own goals and decisions to make in our lives and no matter what happens, we should try hard to get those goals.

Challenges in my life
By: KWS (16 years old, grade 11)
Kyaw Kyaw’s Dormitory

My life is not flowing smoothly like a river, but like fragments of a river.

Some people in the world believe in fortune, yet they could not achieve everythign that they want. If we try hard, are diligenta nd believe in fate, however, we can get everything we desire.

Some people believe that if we have strength, that alone will help us survive very well. For a person who thinks like that, however, sometimes they can not achieve all things.

When I lived with my parents, I did not know about hardships and challenge. I stayed carelessly and did not need to worry about anything. However, as I become an adult, I am getting to know about life.

I first came to know about challenges in life at the time that I began to be able to divide good and bad in my mind. The challenges that I faced then, and now, have to do with money, torture, education and control over my mind.

For money, I am very poor and my family is in the hand-to-mouth situation. Because we do not have money, we have a problem with basic survival and we have trouble paying the taxes in our village, paying for health care for my family and paying for transportation. These problems are always challenging in life.

Because of the SPDS’c tortures, my life can not easily escape from teh darkenss and could not penetrate easily into the light. The SPDC are always challenging my future. Because of the SPDC, our family had to move many times from town to town and from village to village. Not only my family, but all the villagers in my village have these problems with the SPDC. It is becuase of the SPDC that my brothers and sisters could not continue their education. It is because of the SPDC that there are not only villagers who neve had the chance to study, but also no teachers in our village, even today. The SPDC, therefor, is one of the main challenges in my life.

Because I had no learning in the past, education will always be a challenge for me. There are many opportunities to study in the refugee camp including post-high-school programs and trainings in modern music, weaving, and other topics. These are useful things for my life.

In my mind, those who succeed and always win, are those who can control themselves. That is why my mind is one fo the challenges in my life. My mind can help me succeed when I decide to do something. Sometimes, however, I cannot control my mind.

My life is just a peice of fragment. There are many challenges in my life. These challenges include education, money, problems in my family, and torture. These are my challenges. Now I am living in Thaialnd because of my poverty and because of the problems with the SPDC. There are many problems in my life and I need to try hard when faced with these challenges so that I never have to face them again.

Challenges in my life
By: KK (Kyaw Kyaw’s dormitory)

I keep the word “challenge” in my mind whenver I fight the problems in my life. I save a lot of energy to sae the educational challenges and difficulties I have to face the future that we call “tomorrow.”

I am a person who values education and I am always a willing student. However, I cannot memorize things easily as my memory is not good. Sometimes my friends criticize and make fun of me for this reason. Even when I hear them, I am not depressed. I remember a proverb that I heard when I was young: “The swan is lonely in the middle of one or two hundred ducks. But anyone who can see the flowers on the swan’s head can see it is patient and brave.” This proverb is like a cup of tonic to me.

Even though my brain is not good, I do not give up. I have to try with diligence. My destination and goals always seem very far away.

I also pity my parents. It takes so much time for me to study. I am the oldest daughter in my family. As I am studying, there is no sibling to support my parents. Instead, my parents have to work hard to support all of my sibilings so that we can continue our education. There are five children in my family. All of us are studying so it costs a lot of money.

If I think about the difficulties in my house, I feel depressed, but I tell myself that we can find money any time and I have to have my own aim for life as well. My aim is to become a surgeon. I wonder whether I will achieve my aim or not sometimes. But I have decided that I will try until I achieve by goal, despite facing challenges.

I know that if I don’t achieve my goal, I will be very sorry. However, a proverb which gives me energy is: “If you don’t get the thing you want most, just try the best wtih what you already have.”

I always imagine that I must be brave to be able to face the challenges I face without giving up. Even though I face problems, I hope in every tomorrow I will achieve my goal.


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