Month II … & a half.
I flew through month two and here I sit – everyday being the longest I’ve lived outside of the US.
To be honest, these months have been plagued with a reoccurring worry that I’m not skilled enough to be of valuable assistance here in Thailand. Chiang Mai is a city full of people into Burma and so many of them are super-heros. They have fancy degrees and some of them even get paid. They can take photos that aren’t blurry while putting in a hydro-system, planting a field of corn, filming a documentary, learning another language, giving an emergency IV and climbing a mountain without loosing their breath – all at the same time.
They’re magic people.
Then there’s me. I get sweaty and don’t drink enough water. I mix up ‘chicken’ and ‘near to’ in Thai, ‘five’ and ‘rat’ in Karen. My fourth floor office leaves me breathless, I hit snooze too often & always forget my camera. My skill? Heck if I know. So I worry. What do I have to offer? Am I wasting my time, and worse – the resources of my supporters? My one room space finds me defeated and confused, often.
This month we had a Partners staff retreat and it was a game-changer. The focus was reflecting on our journeys to the present and the triumphs / low-points along the way. Partners certainly wasn’t founded by magic people. No, Partners was founded on a connection with one person. A Karen woman named Rose Mu. She was running an informal orphanage out of her home and said that 30 dollars could support one child for an entire year. So (broke and degree-less) Steve and Oddny did what they could. That was in 1995.
The 2012 Partners fact sheet is 5 pages. 5 pages of bullet points like: In Kachin State, we have fed more than 1,139 adults and 333 children; provided medical care for 3,000 IDPs; and helped 1,500 people get under shelter. In Shan State we’ve trained 120 heath care workers, many of whom are working as community medics or as part of mobile health teams. Partners co-founded the Karen State Education Assistance Group which supports over 122,620 children and 5,403 teachers attending 1,223 schools in Karen State, making this the most comprehensive education support program in a conflict zone in the world.
And during our retreat, when news broke there had been a fire in a Karenni refugee camp – we had a truck loaded with supplies and volunteers on the road within 24 hours (even with time for an organization Harlem Shake video). All of it, all 5 pages of amazing stats – real life change for the people of Burma … was done on the backs and hearts of ordinary people.
Then there’s all of you – you people I’m terrified of letting down – friends, family, the Karen community of St. Paul, former colleagues. You’re all there sending messages of support and encouragement – knowingly or unknowingly reminding me over and over that the skill of relationship building and connectedness is one to be valued. That being here, being open and being kind – is enough. As it turns out, no one expects me to know it all, but I should be giving it my all. Something that I cannot do if I’m worrying about being magic.
My current task at work is tracing, cutting out and pining mesh body parts for a training apron. The body aprons are taken inside Burma and used to teach villagers the basics of their body. I can assure you, cutting out mesh hearts isn’t as thrilling as stitching up a real one and if I had to get up the mountain to deliver said aprons – within an hour I’d be found panting trying to pin the hot pink mesh lungs to myself in pure breathless desperation. Thanks for reminding me – that’s okay.
I’ve been privileged growing up in a part of the world where the placement of my heart organ has been taught since elementary school. I’m honored, to live amongst and be supported by such wonderful people who continuously teach me the value in listening to, working with and being proud of the heart I’ve been given – even if it isn’t magic or super-powered. I couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you (Ta blut, Tee Bwi, KobKunKa).
If you’re interested in supporting my volunteer experience financially, check out my new ‘about’ page for more information how.