I stayed up late the night before we left sorting through paperwork and reading about the individual hostels that Partners supports. There are fourteen children’s homes, each with fifty to one hundred students, along the border that Partners gives monthly allowances to, providing food for the students and a small stipend for the caregivers. We also provide hygiene packs each quarter, giving each student shampoo, washing powder, candles, a toothbrush & toothpaste, and soap.
I read through the reports on each home, telling how many children were at each, how many caregivers, and short story about the home–how it began, how the children got there, what a typical day looks like. At the end of each report, there is a needs section that overviews the requests of each home.
Partners can’t supply all their needs, and we’ve actually had to make some budget cuts in the past year due to decreased giving. This happens alongside all the other NGOs, including the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) that provides all the building materials in the refugee camps. Most homes now have requests for building materials (bamboo and leaves) since TBBC won’t be able to give as much this year, either.
I have mixed feelings as I read. I’m amazed at the number of orphans and split families (where the family is in Burma or another camp but has sent the student to study) that create the need for these homes. I’m amazed at the small funds (in the grand scheme of the global economy) that it takes to support these homes: to create hygiene packs for all the students (around 930, according to my calculations at 2 in the morning), it costs around $2,500 dollars each quarter, which is around $2.68 per child. I’m saddened by the hurting children and their photos, while I’m encouraged that people are hearing their cries. Most importantly, the Lord is hearing their cries, and he’s sending people like us.
But what really struck me the most was what I read on each needs list: school uniforms, shoes, and umbrellas for each child. At the end of the day, they just need shoes. They need uniforms so they can go to school. And they need umbrellas for rainy season.
It makes it all so human.
I think of all the political talk about closing the camps, sanctions with Burma, and if Burma is now a democracy. It’s all heartbreaking. And the biggest reason why is because they’re missing the people.
It’s so easy to zoom out, to start putting titles on governments and declaring them democratic or free or developing; to make policies that affect global trade; to sit through dialogues and debates and committee meetings.
But somehow, we miss the people. The people that make up the governments; the people that participate in the trade; the people sitting in their own community meetings. The people who are just kids needing school uniforms, shoes, and umbrellas.
[Can I just throw in here that I don’t think I sound much like a political science major? Oops.]