Friday, June 29, 2012

Flag Raising 2012

Dear Everyone, The Raising of the Karen Flag in Orillia for the fifth year gives us an opportunity to meet, welcome and celebrate these new Canadians and to understand a little better the problems facing Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed to leave Burma and now after her high profile trip to Europe will return to her task at home. Hope of change seems possible. We worry that peaceful resolution between the Army and many Ethnic groups is still very much in doubt and raising the Karen flag with the Canadian Flag is a symbol and a chance to continue to ‘stand on guard’ for these people who have suffered so much. We apologize to those of you we have not been able to notify before now. We very much hope you will be able to join us for coffee, some speeches and pictures from PUB’s last ten years. We look forward to seeing you on Friday morning, July 6, 2012 at 10:00.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Karen take the New Year season quite seriously and whether Christian or Buddhist or Animists, they are happy - Hta thi Kli – to sing the praise of the Divine Being. Around the same time of year is Liberation Day when they celebrate who they are and their ‘Done’ – their ‘togetherness,’ which is expressed in the Traditional Done dance; the performance of which still sends shivers down my back every time I see it. All our students at Kaw Tha Blay are very much a part of this. A group of 45 of them trained very hard with their teacher, and became quite famous, competing with 8 other Dance Groups this year in Mae Lah camp. You are not allowed to say who won or lost, but they received 3000 Baht in what we might call – ‘a prize of appreciation.’ This money they are contributing to the budget for the Graduation Ceremony. They were invited to dance as well in a Thai-Karen village known well to Kshakalu, and in another village run partly by a Jesuit Mission, and also by the local group of Thai Forest Rangers. They danced for our family too and for some visitors from Orillia. Now it is all over and the colourful finery has been washed and packed away until next year.Graduation 2007 First Graduating Class 2007, Karen State

We now have 75 and more people living in an area of about 2 acres and the buildings have been going up over the last 5 years in Kaw Tha Blay as they were needed and we could afford them. There are no inspectors here and no building codes. We do have electricity, and some lighting, but daylight is more predictable. We have computers and through a satellite dish, the internet that we believe will change the world, and which we want to promote. Our young people are working very hard and making great strides and this year we have been very fortunate with our volunteer teachers, but we have lagged behind with waste management and finally this has now caught up with us. The ‘Honey Wagon’ needed to come far too often and as anyone who is not on mains drainage knows this can add up. The problem we found was the collecting tanks had been built with no spill over or tile drainage. They were just large concrete tanks with nowhere for anything to go. It took a lot of drawing on whiteboards, convincing our own as well as the next door farmer where we needed to dig, that we would be improving his land rather than harming it, before we could get down to digging and drying and drilling holes in the bottom of the concrete tanks and surrounding them with river stones making a sort of tile bed. Now it is done and hopefully will be the answer. We should not be too critical. Thomas Crapper did not come to London until the nineteenth century and before that the chamber pots were just emptied out of the upstairs windows into the gutters below. Walking to work in the morning may have been a bit tricky.

Because of increase in available land for farming, Ksakalu has been able to harvest and store enough lentils and rice to last us until next November. At present we are suffering from a water shortage and are badly in need of rain, not really due until May. We have a recently acquired pig which just gave birth to nine piglets and several goats that have been very kindly donated to us by friends from Kingston and the neighbouring town of Bath. One of each will be gone as food at the coming graduation. Some people may feel that the gowns and mortar boards the students wear are a bit of an extravagance. I should explain the same gowns are used each year and were made very cheaply in Mae La camp for the first graduation. It is just a once a year thing and there is very little wear and tear.

One of our visitors from Orillia arrived with a cast on her arm from a previous fracture, which was now due to come off. I was clearly the one to deal with this. I talked to Law Kwa the senior Medic and good friend in Trauma. “ Absolutely,” he said, “ We can deal with that”, which surprised me a bit as I know that they have been having trouble with the plaster saw they have there. So it turned out that the three ladies from Orillia started out their tour of the Mae Tao Clinic with a very necessary appointment in Trauma. When I was sick, I had to spend two nights in the local Thai Hospital. The same Law Kwa came each night and slept in my room on a makeshift sofa to be certain I would be alright. This gives you some idea of what sort of people they are. We intend to get them a new plaster saw and shears as well as a new dermatome, for taking skin grafts. To help them maintain a particular and much needed form of surgery in which they have become expert, and have been able to provide a very much needed service.

Kaw Tha Blay, this ‘land without Evil,’ is facing a changing world and for the present no one can predict what is going to happen across the border, that will have such profound consequence on the thousands of Karen on this side as well. We do know how important it is to educate and keep in health as many of these young people as we can. We are so grateful for your continued caring and interest and support. Because of you, these young people have a future and are learning that they too belong to the rest of the world. They really understand the value of freedom. ” Freedom is the most valuable thing that you can have. Unfortunately, something only really understood by those who have had to live without it.”

Thank you again – and for listening.

David for PUB.

Going on, I would like to draw your attention to the Carlton University videotape of their Skype interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. You can find it at . It is very inspiring and gives you the feeling that perhaps the world can change!

Friday, January 13, 2012

David's Journal December 2011

The word “Geek” is old German for a brilliant , cheerful and probably not completely honest trickster, performer or tumbler, most probably part of a medieval circus. Now it refers to a person of high intelligence working with computers – not your average run, who see things from a different perspective. PUB has been fortunate to run across one of these. The border is being continually enriched with people of different and remarkable talent, which gives it for the rest of us its fascination and charm. Michael Cariaso first came here three or four years ago to work in Paw Ray’s school for Karen migrant children and set up the school with Computers. He firmly believes that by spreading the gospel of the internet a new age will be born. Looking at the changes that have taken place with the Arab Spring, that was made possible through social networking communication, it looks as though he might well be right. When he is not taking time off here, he works with the computerization of the human genome, and which prophetically he feels will completely change the face of medicine. We live in a world of huge potential. It just needs to be grasped. As an established Geek, employment for Michael is not a problem. He recently spent a year working with a group in the Netherlands. When he finished with them he traveled in Georgia, and then spent time in Malaysia, before finding a car and driving up the Peninsular and through the floods. His experiences, his exceptional photographs, and the benefits of his knowledge of the genome can be experienced by visiting and is well worth it. Right now he is spending 2 days a week with our students in the computer department at the Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre that PUB supports. We and our students are remarkably fortunate.

Niang Win, Kyaw Chit and Soe Maung were amongst the first children to come to Kshakalu’s Kaw Tha Blay Hostel at Mae Lah camp in 2001 when they were ten years old. They were even by Karen standards quite small; a genetic advantage that prevents them in a food shortage of growing beyond their strength. Niang Win’s father had died. He has a sister. They are very poor. His mother sent him to Kshakalu for their survival and also that he might have an education. He went to school at the Seventh Day Adventist School, run by Helen Hall, a remarkable and dedicated Australian. Very quickly it was obvious that Niang Win was out of the ordinary and a Geek in his own right and almost monotonously began to collect top prize in his class every year. As a matter of course, he sent the prize money home to his mother every year. Once he had finished grade 10, he taught for a year with Helen Hall, then acted as the leader for Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre during the ‘summer’w months, before going to a post grade 10 University preparation college called MinMahHaw in Mae Sot. From there he hopes to get a scholarship to study Math and Economics in a university in Hong Kong. The scholarships may be backed up by a Swiss NGO, called Childsdream, through the Canadian international Agency CIDA and through a similar Australian agency. Niang Win will be going back to see his mother in Pa’an this Christmas. The advances and possibilities that we are seeing now would not have been imagined when Niang Win arrived in Mae Lah in 2001.

We badly need some good news from Burma to hurry up history. I am not sure we have that much time to take this long. Recently the Free Burma Rangers reported that on the 29th. of October in the village of Tee Ma Mayn, not very far from Pa’an, the capital of Karen State, the government Light infantry division commanded by Than Mat Soe entered and fired into a house, killing the owner 36 year old Saw Pa Kok, and also took money and jewellery. In response, the KNLA, the Karen National Liberation Army, ambushed members of the Light infantry Division, killing two and wounding six. The government troop again in response, fired two mortars into the village and then entered the village found four women whom they beat and captured twenty-two others, whom they took off to act as human mine detectors. No one died then and they were let go after two days. Although in a remarkable change of direction, Current Prime Minister, formerly General, Thein Sein, cancelled the building of the Myitsone damn by the Chinese in Kachin State, the building of the Toh Boh Damn on the Salween river however is continuing, which will destroy 12 villages and 5000 acres of excellent farmland.

Thein Sein recently met the premier of India and was present at the recent Asean Summit in Bali. Apparent moves to decrease the dependency on Beijing. The Clinton visit and the present tolerance of the new USD – read replacement for SPDC – for Aung San Suu Kyi are welcome moves, but it is hard to know at this stage how much they indicate. At present the very minimal release of political prisoners suggests the government has not gone through any sort of an epiphany as far as Civil Rights are concerned. However the Burmese Elitists are not stupid and they must look with some anxiety at events in the Middle East and wonder whether it is practical to try to hold on to so much power, in a world society where it is hopefully becoming more and more difficult to rule outside of a proper moral code. We can hope that Thein Sein, as a person, is both sane and unafraid. Emerging from a military dictatorship, and a very splintered country, it is not easy to decide on an appropriate mode of government. Events in Teen Ma Mayn could well indicate that in some areas, the local commanders have a free range and often operate more as independent brigands than part of an army structure that we are more familiar with. The same leopard is still running the country for now, but we can hope that with time and continued contact with the all the outside world, the spots will begin to fade.

Next Time current peace talks and what they may or may not mean

Monday, October 17, 2011

Time to leave

Thanksgiving is over and our grandchildren have gone back to their homes; so hard for us to let them go. Hard also to imagine in two weeks, we will be in Mae Sot, back to our other kids and the Clinic. The summer is over before it has started. Cathy was back in May and we embarked on a garden fix-up, saw as much as we could of the family, wrote and published the news letter, had a very convivial Flag raising, attended Arts For Peace and had a great PUB garage sale at Eric and Cathy’s. Our thanksgiving is never over for all our friends who do so much to support PUB and make all this possible – what will be the promise and the message for the end of this year and into the next?

First once we are there the buildings will need to be looked at. In Mae Lah a sudden flood, swept away the boys dorm. No one was hurt and no one drowned – thank God – but the building has gone and will need to be replaced. Then there are the washrooms at the Teaching Centre; today inadequate for the numbers there. Then the school supplies, clothing, reviewing our computers and the internet connections, deciding on the outlook for a virtual classroom, connecting to Georgian maybe or Lakehead and a syllabus there and for our teachers, and looking to how this difficult society is poised now and how it will be in the months to come and how we can integrate our students into this changing world. There will be a lot to do for Cathy and Cathy and Eric.

Frank Brewster will be there for the whole of November, dividing his time between the Learning Centre and the Clinic. In the Clinic, a worthwhile direction we think we should take to improve pain control, which would need a political change on the part of the Thais, maybe a reasonable job for someone getting too decrepit for a more active role and here at home at OSMH – we are wondering about starting a Burmese Medical Club of interested medics after presenting Grand Rounds just recently.

To our supporters – thank you so much. To keep you up to date, we will be sending regular progress letters to you unless you would prefer not to have them, in which case, perhaps you could let us know by e-mail.

Cathy & David

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dear Friends,
I never know what these kids are up to next!! With PUB's money I bought their computer teacher a goodish u-tube video camera - once again leaping them into the modern world. Their teachers Avish and Snow have produced the below which I just love! Hope you will click on these links and see your kids in action and get to know them a bit. Having done nothing except provide them with the equipment I have no right to be proud but am - very- and you should be too!! Your funding has made this leap possible.
Good job teachers and students of KTBLC and friends of PUB! We have come so far. I am amazed.

Pi Cathy D.

PS I leave Wednesday for the Border. Cathy and Eric will be joining us for graduation on March 23rd and David for now, and the PUB Board and Lindsay, will keep the home fires burning.

Sent: Friday, January 28, 2011 8:15 PM
Subject: Speak Karen to Reach Karen (A series of video project from KTBLC)

Click on the link below to watch students teaching Karen, this is a project as a partial fulfillment of the course 'Spoken English'.
These videos will be of high interest to those who aspire to work with Karen people along the borderline. Learning basic karen will be an effective tool and hope this will make their experience worth while. I request you all to kindly refer this to your friends who may benefit from this. More videos still in the making......

Eh Ku Paw

Eh Ku Paw-2

Day Mu Chi

NU Paw

Hei Gler Htoo

San San Myint

Lah K'Paw

Paw Ku Say

Wi Lai Phorn

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Views of PUB's investments

Dear Friends of Project Umbrella Burma,
Last January we spent $2000. to purchase a 3.5 acre hillside (through a Thai Karen) that had good water. We have a farmer that works with us for his food. When there is clearing, planting or harvesting, our young students do the work. The two pictures attached show what they have already accomplished. They are presently eating soup gourds and pumpkin, lettuce cilantro -other greens. They have planted many trees - Banana, Lime, Pomela, Cashew, Mango, Papaya and others I can't remember. In the October picture you will see green lentils in the foreground. Also lemongrass, long beans, cucumbers. 3 huge bags of Soya bean seeds went in last week. We now have 3 huge Rice paddy areas loaned to us and will begin the harvesting Monday and will to have enough rice for college and hostel for 4 months. They finished the rice storage building concrete floor/rat proof walls etc. last weekend.
Enough. Thank you for your donations that have paid for seeds, young trees, tools etc.
Best to all,
Cathy in Mae Sot
PS The kids are also doing well in their studies!