Change Yourself…Change The World.

Hello Everyone
November 23, 2008, 2:21 am
Filed under: Thailand


This is originally from my previous facebook group ‘Brittany Goes Global,’ (wanna know how I got the blog name? ;)) in which I sent messages to friends about my travels with Global College’s CRC Program through Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here in the correct date. As you can see, my writing is not quite up to par with what it is now 🙂 But I thought you readers would still find it informative and entertaining.

About this post: I know that many of you blog readers are into social enterprise and development. Looking back on this, I know how amateur this sounds– but this was a very significant moment in my life that inspired me to look into micro-finance in the first place, which started a long and winding path that has now lead to social enterprise.

Everyone has a beginning. This is my beginning. I hope you enjoy it.

I’ve been in Thailand for the past month now. For the first three weeks I felt like I was in a stationary place, I felt no ‘change’ taking place over me that usually happens in travel (though of course I know it does subconsciously). But then last week we went on a “Wat Suan Dok Meditation Retreat,” and if you’re both interested and have time, I’d like to share my experience with you.
So this ‘meditation retreat’ did not end up being about meditation at all- we probably meditated for at the maximum 20 minutes a day. But what we DID see were refugee camps on the Thai and Burmese border. We visited one of these villages for the week we were there. It was one of those ‘eye-opening’ experiences- seeing how these people are treated. There has been a lot of history of the Burmese army raping, pillaging, and killing local Burmese people. Many of the Burmese have fled to Thailand and are now ‘stateless,’- essentially they have no Thai citizenship and have no rights. They aren’t allowed to leave their villages, they can’t work any jobs, can’t send their children to schools, and are essentially helpless. But between staying in Burma and living under terrible oppression by the Shan army, or living in gross poverty but safeness in Thailand, these people choose Thailand. The monks have done the most amazing job in this particular village. They have built huts for a village of around 400 people, provided them with food, secondhand clothes, and either help the people locate jobs or pay them themselves for simple tasks. I have for the most part been against missionary work, after hearing of stories in Africa where children aren’t allowed to eat if they don’t accept Jesus as their personal savior. But after seeing the situation on the border, I realized I don’t CARE if the monks are spreading the word of Buddha, at least they’re helping these people when no one else will.

The first day we toured the village a senior monk took us to meet some of the local people. He took us into a hut that was inhabited by a man with his three sons, aged 13, 9, and 5. Their mother was raped and killed by the Shan army, and the kids barely have enough to eat. They were all thin and frail-looking. The father and 13-year-old looked so sad, but the two small children were innocent and smiling, happy we were there to see their life. The senior monk told us he was worried for their future. He told us that the monks helped institute a ‘one-baht-a-day school’ where the children could get an education for one baht a day each- but it is still too much for some people. He told us how hard it was for the adults to find jobs, and if they were lucky enough to get a job for the day, at the very most they made 50 baht. At this point I just wanted to pull out my coin purse and press my 1000 baht bill into this father’s hands. To see the terrible hardship they had to endure, the living situation of their hut, and the meager dinner boiling on their stove made my stomach turn. Every human being should have the basic right to eat food and not go hungry. Every human being should have the basic right to be able to sleep with a roof over their heads and feel safe, to be able to work a job, to have clothes on their back. And I looked around at this village and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for these people if the monks hadn’t stepped in. They’re not even recognized as refugees by the Thai government, they are ‘displaced people temporarily living on monk lands.’ When I got back to internet, I looked up the Shan people, and there are about six million of them, most of them having fled the Shan state, most of them living in Thailand in statelessness. How many people know about this situation? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? I understand there are so many problems in the world, that so many people need help, but I had not known anything about this situation until now.

There have been major disturbances on the Thai and Burmese border about six years ago, and now there are land mines between the Thailand and Burmese border. I’ve seen some kids with no arms, with faces completely blistered and disfigured horribly. What I felt over and over again as I looked at these kids was outrage and sadness, and once again the chilling realization of uneven distribution. That some people are so rich that they can own 50 cars, and then there are children that are literally starving to death. And the fact is, this village is one of the good ones. Yes, people can’t find jobs, yes, they go hungry, but the monks have helped them a lot. I can’t imagine the villages where there have been no help at all.

When I was in India and I saw this extreme poverty around me, it made me wonder (to more of an extent) why was I born into such a privileged life, with more clothes and food and material possessions than one person could ever need? Why was I the lucky one chosen to live such a carefree life while others starve and suffer? And the only thing I can do is to look at it, and know that I must have been put in such a place so I can be in a position to help the ones that are starving and suffering. It doesn’t really matter how I help them, or to what extent, as long as I am. It was like what I learned in Calcutta, making that one small step in their lives that they’ll never remember, that they’ll never realize I did. I taught English to two classes in the refugee camps. I taught one class “I am JUMPING!” “I am laughing,” “We are eating,” and made them laugh while I acted out each verb. Kids who volunteered to do these actions got candy. I taught the more advanced class ‘That’s cool,’ the difference between ‘weird’ and ‘normal,’ and ‘whatever.’ It’s not much. But it made them all laugh. And maybe I made them laugh, but they made me grow. They made me look at their situation and know that SOMEONE has to do something about it, and if no one else is going to step up and try to make a change, then I will- whether it’s working on statelessness, or world hunger, or education, or sex trafficking, or anything I can do that will help provide humans their most basic needs. So thank you, Wat Suan Dok meditation retreat, for reiterating what my needs are. To be the change that I want to see in the world.

Thanks for listening everyone.
Much love,

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