Month One

by jeannabauer

SawadeeKaa,

I’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand for about a month now. So far, so good.

Most of my days are spent at Partners (www.partnersworld.org) where I volunteer with the women’s weaving program. Working alongside Hser Gay Paw and Dorothy, we help displaced and ‘stateless’ women use traditional craft (weaving, sewing, embroidery) as an income generator. Most of the women we work with have little to no education and struggle to feed their families. Our programming helps supplement their family income to cover basic living expenses.

Admittedly, I’m still deep in observation/adjustment mode, but building relationships and learning new skills daily. My songtaw rides home are spent removing fly threads, loose string and pins from my clothing. It’s not a bad gig and certainly, I’m making my grandmothers proud.

Partners mission is to assist the people of Burma in leading full, free lives. Their projects include medical training and clinics, emergency relief; attack warning programming, agricultural development and training, education, leadership training and community empowerment.

Working alongside this passionate, like-minded, un-tiring team has been incredibly motivating. As new horrifying reports from all around Burma and the Thai-Burma border feel never-ending… the motivation is key. It can be hard, being so close to the suffering. Word from Kachin State is that thousands of people fleeing from Burmese military attacks are living 10,000 feet up in the mountains. The villagers ‘shelter’ themselves from snow and wind in homes made of cardboard and tarp. They’re barefoot.

Yet we carry on. Doing what we can to make life better for the people of Burma. For many around me, it’s their faith that leads them through. For me, it’s thinking about my dear Karen brothers and sisters in St. Paul and the years I spent with their community. They taught me a new level of generosity, kindness, empathy, resilience, humor and hope.

I’m still trying to work out my purpose here in Thailand, but trying also to simply enjoy the experience: eating street food, wandering the city – it’s markets, shops, temples and alleyways. So far, its been a really nice fit.

Thanks for your continued thoughts and support!

xo

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