What happens after treatment stops? Palliative Care in Indonesia

On July 24, I accompanied Rachel House on a home visit to one of its patients – a 7-year-old boy who has leukemia and relapsed just before he was supposed to start the new school year.

After visiting Rachel House’s office to meet the staff and nurses, we were off to the young patient’s grandmother’s home where he and his mother stay.  They stay here so that he can be closer to treatment and support.  The mother and grandmother welcomed us with warm, sincere smiles. The patient had been improving until recently.

When we arrived, the nurse discussed the patient’s symptoms with the mom, brought him a new backpack since he was hoping to return to school, and consulted the mother on his oral chemotherapy. Because some families do not know how to access Indonesia’s free health care, the staff of Rachel house assists and guides them in the process from registration to accessing it.  Families supported in this community are laborers, have no jobs, supported by their families, or ojek drivers (motorbike taxis).  Palliative care is not well-known in the country, and people do not know what to do when their loved ones are sent home from the hospital to die. The families often don’t have emotional support, counseling, or even explanations on what will happen to the patient before he or she passes away. Rachel House was created to fill that need and support these families until the end.

As I observed Rachel House staff with the family they were not like outsiders stepping in to advise on the family’s lives, Rachel House was a part of the family – connecting on a personal level instead of via a chart. One of the nurses explained that this is why she joined Rachel House. She said that working in a hospital, one would feel a bit separated since the charts dictated everything. Here she can support the family on an emotional level and connect more.

After the visit, we parted with the family and the grandmother had tears. She said she was so happy to have the support of the nurses coming to their home. Her grandson was weak and could rest at home. Rachel House hopes to be able to provide this kind of support for other diseases in addition to cancer and HIV. Additionally, they hope to recruit new nurses while expanding awareness and understanding of palliative care in Indonesia.  This is one of those organizations that remind me of why I began to work in the non-profit and foundation field. It is meeting needs that are not being met, and supporting those that have fallen through the cracks to improve the care and basic rights of humanity.

Learn more about and support the work of Rachel House here: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/rachel-house-pediatric-hospice-in-indonesia-cancer-hiv/

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Anarchists? Rockers? How about a Homeless World Cup Team supporting the marginalized in Indonesia

Trophies from the HWC 2011

Trophies from the HWC 2011

July 23, I met with Rumah Cemara, an organization that played in the Homeless World Cup 2011 representing Indonesia. Immediately I knew it was not an organization like others – every person I met was not only laid back, cool, and “against the grain”… every person I spoke with was inspiring and open to share the challenges and experiences faced throughout life.

What type of challenges and experiences am I writing about? Rumah Cemara was created to increase the quality of life for former drug users with HIV/AIDS, provide care and social support, treatment, and decreasing discrimination in the community through outreach.  When I walked in I could feel the openness and lack of hierarchy within the organization and its members. Everyone mingled with everyone; there was no restrictive bureaucracy – just a safe, nurturing, and growing environment.

When touring the organization, it was great to see the Homeless World Cup 2011 trophies for “Best New Team” and “6th in Tournament”.  After taking a tour, I sat down with Ginan, the founder, and he explained that being a part of Homeless World Cup was a life-changing experience. He never dreamed that “people like us can represent our country in a world class tournament.” He said that the tournament is not just a game, it’s about change within yourself. When I spoke with another player, who played as a defender in the tournament, he said he loved being able to play soccer with people from all over the world. He had never met people from those countries before, and he said meeting them was exciting. What was his favorite part about the tournament? “That people like ‘us’ can represent the name of our country.”  When he returned, he felt very excited and proud, especially when returning to Bandung. People were cheering for the team at the airport, and that day “I was crying… crying because I felt so proud.”

Rumah Cemara provides these marginalized youth an opportunity to have a safe environment, a family, and a trusting network to connect with, learn from, and grow with.  Why do they do football/soccer programs? Ginan and staff say because It is an effective way to spread the message of Rumah Cemara and to bridge the gap with the local community, decreasing stigma and discrimination. Rumah Cemara is a place to be free for anyone and everyone – a place to be themselves. Rumah Cemara hopes that Indonesia can be a place without discrimination.

Interviewing Rumah Cemara Founder about the HWC

Interviewing Rumah Cemara Founder about the HWC

Speaking w/ a Rumah Cemara member and HWC player

Speaking w/ a Rumah Cemara member and HWC player
To learn more about this organization be sure and check them out here: http://www.rumahcemara.org/

Meeting needs for youth in Indonesia – My day with YUM

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On July 17, I was able to visit the first, and still the only, library provided by Yayasan Usaha Mulia, or YUM, in the community of Cipanas, Indonesia. The families there consist of farmers, labor workers, and vegetable sellers at the markets.

When not in school, local youth have the opportunity to get tutored and participate in activities at the library like educational games, creative arts & crafts, and movies – when I arrived the children were making school schedules to take home. These included coloring, drawing, and cutting out shapes to make it their own while learning the days of the week.  These youth were ages 6-12. The older kids were working on the computers, and the younger ones were drawing pictures. It was fun to see how each group of younger children had a general theme they decided to draw – one group drawing a home and another drawing elephants and fish. The library was colorful, encouraging creativity, safety, with the walls filled with books, dictionaries, novels, and more. I also saw the “boxes of books” which is part of the mobile library program for other communities’ schools. YUM’s goal is to add more schools to its current 2 where it provides books. These are the first “libraries” in these communities.

I asked the librarian what he did before working at this one, and he said he was a teacher at the government schools. He said the schools lacked expression and creativity for the children, so when he was introduced to the opportunity at YUM, he was happy to join.

After, I went on to see the vocational training program, the organic gardens, and meet the community. I met YUM’s bookkeeper. When he was in 4th grade he was orphaned, so he was brought to YUM’s center. He stayed in YUM’s program and now works for the organization. I asked him to describe YUM and he said, “a place where you are happy.” The first program I saw that day was the sewing class. This program teaches young adults to make clothes, bags, and using recycled scraps for creative products. I sat down with one of the students, a young man who hoped to one day become a tailor and design his own clothes.  I then spoke with another young woman named Aji who was 16 and in her 3rd year of senior high school. I asked her why she took sewing class, and she said because she could make more friends and she wanted to be a professional designer. All of the youth explained to me when they are not in school they are usually helping the family or working. The classes had not only young women, but also a few young men working just as hard to develop skills for a career after.

Next, I sat in on the computer-training course. The 2 trainers were former students of the class themselves. The girl trainer explained to me she wanted to go to school, but after elementary her parents could not pay. YUM helped pay for her costs and now she loves math, hopes to share her knowledge, and to attend university to be a chemical engineer. She was an extremely bright and mature young woman still in high school. Aris, from YUM, explained to me 75% of youth going through the vocational training program receive jobs. If they don’t get a job, local youth marry young or become a domestic or labor workers.

Finally, the staff took me to visit the local community as well as explore the organic gardens planted by local schools and students. See the pictures in the slide show – it was such an incredible and inspiring experience to not only meet the children of Cipanas, but also to get to know the staff behind the impact-organization, YUM.

How to turn trash into jobs, education, and laptop bags – Day with XS

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On July 20, I was able to visit XS Project, an organization turning trash into quality products, creating jobs, and providing educational scholarships.

I arrived to the office and met staff doing everything from sorting and cleaning loads of trash, unused car seat covers, and old marketing banners, to working on product development, and sewing the products. I sat down with one of the sewers, and he explained he had been with XS since 2005. What brought him here? He said a friend was working at XS. He used to make seat covers for airplanes, but now he can make products from recycled products. At the time, the team was putting together very cool laptop cases created from a combination of seat covers and discarded marketing banners.

I then met the head of product design and the head of finance.  The head of finance explained, XS is “not just cleaning the environment, but it is creating jobs for those who need it. XS is also providing education scholarships – it’s like 3-in-1.” The head of product design explained that he was first introduced to XS in college and thought it would be a great challenge to create products out of recycled material.

After meeting the staff and watching the process of turning recycled material into new goods, Retno and I went to visit the community where it all starts – the trash pickers. When we arrived the kids were so excited and everyone came out to say hi and play. Retno brought a box of pencils and crayons gathered from other schools, and the children all dove in to grab their handfuls. We stopped to speak with every family and to hear their current needs and issues. The families live on this land and work for a “lampak” which is the boss of that trash picker community.

I asked the kids what they studied and they all shouted out, “math, Bahasa (Indonesian), Ingrish (English), and Quran reading!” I then asked a few what they wanted to be when they grow up – and 2 young girls said a chef and teacher. Another young girl said a doctor. XS provides funding for the children’s schooling directly to the school and follows up with the school and teachers to see how their progress is. Retno encouraged the moms to tell their kids to go to class. In this community, the parents’ generation mostly did not attend school so this is a new opportunity for their children.

Creating change for Burma-Myanmar through education and change-makers

Imagine living in a country where it was virtually impossible to access high quality, affordable education. Imagine that 30-50% of the population of this country lived in extreme poverty, and that education was a key factor in bringing desperately needed development to marginalized communities. This is the situation in Burma today.

Thabyay Education Network (TEN) works to solve this issue by providing access to higher education and professional development opportunities to people from marginalized communities who can make a difference. On May 8, 2012, I met with TENs staff, learned about its programs, and joined two scholarship recipients in a tour of their university in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  The staff I met all took time to show me the process, explain to me all of the background and steps, shared why they joined TEN, and the challenges they have faced along the way.

Michael, who runs TEN’s ‘low cost, high impact’ self-study university preparation program, explained to me how this program helps community development workers in Burma access international university education. “These individuals want to improve their skills so they can increase the impact of their work, but access to decent education is a major obstacle. They lack the necessary qualifications, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), to be eligible for international universities outside Burma. However, to get these qualifications, they usually have to attend expensive private classes, which they cannot afford.” Michael continues, “When they enroll with us they get full support to self-study in their own time so that they can obtain the university qualifications they need.”

“This program is just one piece of the jigsaw of services that we provide”, explained the Development Director, Quentin Hewitt. “Many of the individuals who successfully gain the necessary university entrance qualifications with us go on to receive a university scholarship administered by us. We also support the development of communities in Burma through providing curriculum development and teacher training, organizing professional internships for community workers, running schools and placing skilled volunteers with community-based organizations. Through our efforts, we would like to create a generation of motivated individuals with the knowledge, skills and networks to make a profound and positive impact on their country.”

After visiting the office and learning about TEN’s projects, I was off to meet two Burmese scholarship recipients who now attend Chiang Mai University. Kaythi and Naing Lin (names changed for security reasons) are both enrolled in CMU’s new Social Science program which includes courses on environment, sociology, statistics, and economics.  What did they like about their program? The fact that CMU offers a great social science curriculum, unavailable in Burma, challenges the way they think, and generates learning through class discussion. Such experiences are virtually unknown in universities in Burma where analytical thinking is discouraged and an overriding emphasis is placed on rote learning outdated and often irrelevant texts.

Kaythi previously worked as a volunteer with an international organization working with the elderly in Burma. Naing Lin was a teacher and a volunteer. Why did they volunteer? Because they “want to help people and want to be life trainers”, said Kaythi.  Education is extremely important and they wanted to spread awareness about it – “we are the pioneers”, Naing Lin said.  Although she had a good job, Kaythi decided to apply for a scholarship because she felt that she could work more effectively if she was better educated . Her parents are small-scale farmers who had no opportunity to attend formal education. Although they need the help of every family member to obtain enough food from their land, her parents encouraged her to take this opportunity. “Don’t come back to the fields. Continue to study,” they said.  Naing Lin explained that learning English is “a great tool to attain knowledge and then share it.” He wanted to promote awareness about education to his Shan community – “if I don’t have anything to share with them, what’s the purpose of learning?”

w/ Scholarship Recipients and Thabyay @ university

w/ Scholarship Recipients and Thabyay @ university

Afterwards, we all went to the Chiang Mai University campus to meet the scholars’ Director and Coordinator of the Social Science program, accompanied by TEN’s Development Officer, Tom. The Director explained that the goal of the program was to prepare the students in multidisciplinary studies, but a big challenge was the certification of Burma’s education systems – which often is not internationally recognized. Through the international school at Chiang Mai University, the Director stressed the importance of extracurricular activities to promote integration among the students from Burma. Kaythi and Naing Lin both spoke passionately about their university life and the difference it will make in their future endeavors.

To support Thabyay provide more scholarships visit: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/5168/thabyay-education-network/

Beautiful tree on campus… Thabyay is creating leaves of change to trickle down into the community

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Elephant and Community Tourism Model To Be Replicated

Hiking over hills and deep into the forest, we came across 3 adults and 1 baby elephant. I was able to spend a day with Global Vision International staff and volunteers getting to know the elephant herd they have sponsored and supported back into the elephants’ native habitat. This also includes the mahouts’ (elephant caretakers) return to their local villages.

The elephants we got to know were Mana, Tong Dee, Boon Jon, and Song Kran along with their mahouts (the other member of the herd, Bpee Mai, was off to receive mahout command training which is a part of local tradition and culture). One of the mahouts had been caring for his elephant for 50 years. Getting to know the staff, I learned that one was an elephant specialist, helping collect the data on the elephant behaviors. Another staff and volunteer were in veterinary school, and the rest of the volunteers were passionate about animals and conservation. Staff are not only gathering data about elephant behavior from volunteers, they also are studying the various types of plants the elephants eat, what traditional plant medicines the elephants take in the forest, and how they relate to each other. This team hopes to provide new data and research on these Asian elephants never gathered before.

While there, the local community was so supportive providing homestays and a traditional “Dee Joo” welcoming ceremony. The community and mahouts drive the projects activities. Because of this project, not only were the health and well-being of the elephants supported, they were able to stop working in stressful and harmful tourism and street begging activities, return back to their forests, and the mahouts were able to return to their homes and still make an income for the family. GVI is creating an eco-tourism model to be replicated that shows villages and elephants do not have to be involved in harmful, invasive tourism, but can be integrative, collaborative, and mutually beneficial.

GVI is hoping to expand the number of elephants reintegrated back to the local habitat.

Check out this video of my experience… and when I feed a baby elephant:

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention in Thailand – The SOLD Project

This is the home of one of The SOLD Project scholarship recipients. This recipient lost both of her parents, and currently her sister is raising both this girl and her young brother. They are at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

On May 10, I met with an organization that is addressing human trafficking and sexual exploitation from where it starts instead of at the end of the line. The SOLD Project is using education as a means of trafficking prevention from the outskirts of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

I met with Shannon, Director of Interns and Volunteers, to visit The SOLD Project facility and resource center for youth. GlobalGiving funds provided a computer lab and provided new desks to this facility. When I arrived, a local university student was teaching students the importance of social media safety. A lesson I think we all could benefit from. Shannon shared that there are about 120 youth in its program in total, but about 20-30 attend daily. Youth spend their time after school, on weekends, and on breaks learning about computers, art, guitar, photography, and any other projects that volunteers and mentors wish to teach.

Class in session - Social Media Safety Training

Class in session – Social Media Safety Training

During computer time, I was able to sit down with a few of The SOLD Project’s scholarship recipients and get to know them better.

Cat, one of the first scholarship recipients, shared a bit about her background: Her favorite subjects include English and math. When not in school, Cat watches TV and listens to music. After high school she hopes to do something with communication and language. She loves to learn because of the variety of knowledge she gains, and she wants to learn more. After, she said “thank you very much for tables, chairs, and computers.” Because they have access to computers and Internet, they can all learn so much more. In addition to the computers, the new shiny desks were wonderful to see compared to the old ones that were falling apart.

Nan is another young student I spoke with who has applied to and just passed the entrance exam for a good school that teaches English and Chinese. In her free time she likes to listen to music and read books. Her favorite subject is language, and she hopes to pursue studying tourism when she gets to university.

I was told by one of the SOLD students that if SOLD wasn’t there, she would not have anything to do, be bored, and not be with friends. The SOLD Project provides an outlet for these youth – a chance to continue education past what they can afford, continue learning, and a safe place to be when not in school.

At the end of the day, I sat with staff and spoke about their backgrounds and what brought them to SOLD.  Many shared how their religious backgrounds drove them to work with an organization like SOLD, but all shared their passion and commitment to working for this organization.

Getting to know the students

Getting to know the students – looking at family pictures and sharing memories
Speaking with staff
The SOLD Project students playing at their school

If interested in learning more please go here: http://thesoldproject.com/about/ … and to support The SOLD Project go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/donate/6013/the-sold-project/.

 

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

Supporting schools and artisans in Laos

On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received GlobalGiving funding for renovation and to visit participants of the Micro-Credit weaving project.

at the SEDA supported school

at the SEDA supported school

This village’s income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school – the children have to go to the next town for high school. Before renovation, these classes were held in flimsy buildings that were practically huts with dirt floors.

Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the students were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.

I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs with us – the school currently needs science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.

speaking with students

Speaking with 2 students

classrooms receiving renovation

Classrooms receiving renovation

Renovated Classrooms

Renovated Classrooms

After visiting the school, we went on to visit participants of the Weaving Artisans – Micro Credit Project. SEDA was working with a specific village where the women are wives of handicapped military veterans – therefore usually the main income generator of the household.

We visited 3 women who benefited from and were part of this project. All three were highly grateful and dependent on the support of SouLy and SEDA for marketing and selling their work. Tuh, the 1st woman to participate in this textile project in thie village shared some of her beautiful work. She spoke about her current situation while we all sat on the front porch next to her large weaving machine. Tuh was an orphan who went to work at the handicapped veterans camp where she met her first husband. Now Tuh was a widow – twice she was married and both times they passed away leaving her alone to support herself and her children. I asked her what she was able to do with the money earned – and she said finally buy a computer for her kids.  She had been a weaver before, which is a tradition passed down, but now with the market testing of quality, color etc. SEDA helped bring her products to the market.

After, we met with another woman who was part of this project. We sat with her and her husband while she weaved. Her husband had lost both of his arms – but one wouldn’t notice from the great big smile he had when he greeted SouLy and myself upon arrival and sat laughing and talking with us. Both husband and wife were warm and welcoming eager to speak with me despite the language barrier.


visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

visiting the first SEDA weaving participant

a weaving artisan with her husband

a weaving artisan with her husband

Creating beautiful and intricate traditional Lao skirts

with a SEDA weaving participant

with a SEDA weaving participant
 
The final product
Finally, we went to explore the local market so I can learn a little bit more of the culture through food, smells, and sounds.
 
Choosing from a variety of rice – who knew there were hundreds of types 
At the market in Vientiane Laos
Yummy dried frog dishes in the market…
… or perhaps you prefer beetles, grasshoppers, and grub worms?
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this project, experience how GlobalGiving funds were used, and learn more about the Lao culture.
*SEDA is now a for-profit entity called Guo Angkham Technical Expertise Ltd. (GATE)

My first time in a refugee camp – Ethnic minority refugees on the Thai-(Burma)Myanmar Border

The refugee camp

A Karen group refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border
 My first time in a refugee camp, was on the visit to DARE Network, a partner of GlobalGiving. DARE provides therapy, support, and prevention for drug and alcohol users within refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Many Burmese and ethnic minorities such as the Karen and Shan flee Burma/Myanmar due to military and internal violence.  I was shocked at the political and situational state of these people …

On the way to the Karen Refugee Camp – We were so close to the border I could see Burma/Myanmar 

Imagine being stuck in 1 place for your entire life – one community with the only way in or out controlled by authorities of another land. Imagine having no access to income generating activities outside of this compound. Imagine not having a country or state to claim and call home – from yours, you fled for your life and from violence. This is the situation of the refugees I met near Mae Sariang, Thailand.

We arrived and stopped for lunch at the vocational training restaurant within the camp – provided by an International Organization

I met with staff of the DARE Network in Mae Sariang and after a wonderful tour of the office by Lawlaysay, Kiri and Det Sot took me to one of the refugee camps they work in – a Karen group camp to be specific. The Karen group is an ethnic group found throughout Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and other areas. This trek to the camp was a rough 2 hours through windy mountain roads .. with the Burma border just within reach – a dangerous tarek during the rainy season, Det Sot told me.

Along with the direct therapy and prevention work that DARE does, its staff also coordinates with other active NGO’s in the camps to ensure they were all meeting the needs of these communities that have little to no access outside of the camps unless emigrated to the “Third Countries” as they call them – the U.S., Canada, or Australia. I asked why is supporting the youth important, and the staff said because the youth are stuck in the camp and can get trapped using drugs and alcohol. DARE protects the youth and provides alternative activities like their “ultimate Frisbee tournaments”, holding educational groups before activities like ultimate Frisbee can begin. I asked what other types of activities the villagers and youth have access to, and the staff said none.

Meeting with staff at the DARE center

Meeting with staff at the DARE center

studying the DARE methodology

studying the DARE methodology and treatment for current drug users

Immediately upon entering the camp, you could see remnants of the flood’s impact on the community (this area was devastated by flooding last year), but also the strength of the inhabitants. Their homes were washed away and bridges were destroyed. After, the refugees returned from higher ground, rebuilt homes, fixed bridges and carried on.  The center had just finished its round of therapy and was on break until the next round of therapy began – along with the youth program since they were on holiday.

with DARE Network Camp Staff

After, I met with the head of “Social Welfare” in the camp that explained there were about 18,000 refugees in the one camp alone. His role was to deal with fighting within the camp along with social conflict. He said although alcohol was not allowed, people still found ways to get it into the camp. He also explained he is volunteering at DARE. Why was it important to him? He said because at first there was pushback from users in the community, but now the users after receiving therapy receive jobs and are hired providing outlets to alcohol and drug use, not to mention income for their families. He went on to explain that now there were only 11 workers serving this large camp. He hoped there would be more DARE workers to make the camp “more strong”.  There is a saying there that “when using the bottle, you go straight to heaven” – demonstrating the importance of DARE’s presence within the camp along with its educational, awareness, and prevention work along with treatement.

rest of the community supported by DARE

Other section of the camp  supported by DARE accessible only by this bridge that was washed away in the flooding (finally rebuilt)
Bridge destroyed by floods and rebuilt by community – it is rickety and terrifying to walk across but is the connector between the camp’s 2 sections

In addition to its facilities,  Lawlaysay explained to me the goal is to translate its process in a “training” manual that is the accumulation of over 12 years of work. DARE hopes to help people not only in the camps but also inside Burma and even in Karen/Burmese communities in the countries where the refugees have resettled, particularly the USA.


The rest of the refugee camp – kids playing in the river and above a picture of the electricity source of the camp… hydropower

Below are pictures from my guest house in Mai Sariang (a border town between Thailand and Burma). The area is beautiful. 

A giant gold Buddha statue among the mist in the mountains just after a storm… view from my hotel…
 After the visit, I returned to Chiang Mai… but I wanted to share some images of a typical bus stop in these towns… notice the “spirit house” in the second picture which is prevalent in a majority of establishments and the chickens roaming free below it.  Buddhism is the major religion here, but it is more of a mixture of Hinduism, Animism and Buddhism.
 Many more stories to come…

Where nature meets technology and e-creativity – an environmental-education program to be replicated

Imagine entering your science class and the teacher says – “today we will learn how to create a video game, then you will create your own, enter it in competition, and then finish up playing the games.” I am sure your experience with textbook-based environmental awareness – the importance of nature, animals, plants, and RECYCLING – would be forever changed. Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam (or YAWA) has partnered with corporate partners like AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) to change the way environmental education is being taught in Malaysian schools – through technology training and creativity capacity-building.

Me with YAWA staff and current student now a volunteer trainer for new youth groups.

Through a train-the-trainer approach, youth train younger youth creating mentor-mentee relationships. This particular youth said before he did not know a lot about the environment, but now he knows more about things like recycling, has fun doing it, and now hopes to be a landscape architect.

One of the staff explained why she went from supporter, to volunteer, to staff with YAWA: Her own son had disabilities and was very shy. After joining the program, he started wanting to go all of the time and finally the pivotal day was when he asked his mom “to go home”. He was confident there and no longer needed her with him. She said she committed 100% to making sure he could make it to every YAWA activity because she saw the change in him. It gave him courage, and his grades even improved. Now he is a volunteer training younger youth.

at MyCore Cyberjaya (the tech-park of Kuala Lumpur) where a class is creating video games with environmental advocacy missions (defeating deforesters, poachers, gathering rubbish); AMD gave 112 pc’s to the program to promote the E-Creativity Green Competition

MyCORE was created through a government push for an educated and technoologically savvy population. It was looking to develop the job and economic future of Malaysia.  There they provide trainings and workshops.

The first collaboration AMD had was a road show to 10 states in Malasia for 9-12 year old students to compete in educational games. AMD gave 80 pc’s at first to 8 schools.

I was told that game development project not only cultivates creativity but develops skills for future careers.

Next we visited  YAWA Environmental Education and Interpretive Centre – students practicing combining entrepreneurship training through green-solutions, products, and businesses. This center is for youth to gather, organize, and meet building entrepreneurship skills, selling products, and starting businesses with a green-focus.  The picture above is one of the top students in the e-creativity competition demonstrating his environmental game that involved jumps, avoiding bad guys, grabbing rubbish, and depositing it in trash bins.

This group demonstrated their advocacy campaign by selling t-shirts they made about the environment with cool catchy slogans and colors

These 2 young women took old newspapers and made new paper to sell- they showed me how and then made a lovely card saying “thank you for coming”. Now I know what to do with all of my old newspapers – I never have to buy paper again.

This group was using old water bottles to create hydroponic plants and spices – which they then sold to the community.

This group of youth were practicing baking and fundraising… and creativity… by selling home-made sweets self-decorated  (even the icing was homemade.. and delicious).

Salina from AMD and me

with cupcakes to take home and the home-made card

Other projects not pictured were taking left over water bottles, fruits and vegetables to create home-made cleaners, soaps, and shampoos to sell in the community. Another project was to raise birds to sell eggs.

YAWA is trying to encourage the moving away from a culture of dependency and teach self-empowerment while also creating awareness about environment through a hands-on science education approach.

YAWA’s long term goal is to create a forest development center with land to provide hands on training for youth.

Although YAWA is not a current project featured on GlobalGiving, I visited because of GG’s involvement in the partnership between AMD and YAWA.  I was blown away by YAWA’s organizational structure, commitment and drive of its creators, staff, and volunteers (the volunteering and give-back culture of Malaysia is commendable and inspiring). Additionally, the students I met were learning not only about the value of recycling turning waste to new products, developing creative mind-sets, and practicing career skills that will support them for a lifetime. I would love to see these programs implemented in schools back home…

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

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