As we crossed into Myanmar night was falling. Myanmar is a beautiful country. This part of it is punctuated by steep, green mountains covered in bright green trees. Many of the houses have few walls to speak of. It lets the air in and it lets the light out at night revealing the glowing golden Buddha statues sitting at the center of attention in the living room. We crossed over rivers and forced our way through red dirt roads made into red mud roads by a recent rain. When we finally reached the key leader we were visiting it was already late. We met with the leader and the students briefly before falling asleep on the concrete floor. Between bugs biting and roosters crowing sleep was fitful, but it was a healthy reminder of what life is like for our leaders and students here in Myanmar. We were inspecting a children’s home where we had just put a new roof on a children’s shelter which 32 students call home for now. In this part of Myanmar, most villages only have school until grade 3. In order to study further, families have to find the money to send their children to another town to study, and children have to find the courage to leave. Out of the four children we interviewed, each was the first and only child in their family to study beyond grade 3. These children traveling to study presents great risks to children in an area known for trafficking, but it also presents opportunities for our leaders to teach and protect these children.
A local leader told us that 70% of children who do not attend school either end up in the military, marrying young, or traveling to Bangkok (usually under some degree of human trafficking) to look for work. Even as some of our leaders traveled this same area to meet with us, they said that two of the soldiers who searched their cars at a checkpoint were children about age 11 or 12. For many children, joining the military is the only hope they have to earn money. Child soldiers can earn 122 dollars a month, which for many of them is more money than they could hope to earn by any other means in this area. That is why the work of these leaders in this area is so important. They aren’t just providing a safe place and an education for children from the remote mountain areas but they are helping provide a future for children who have little hope for the future. One student we spoke with told us she planned to be a doctor, which is a dream that would not be attainable without homes likes this. We’re grateful for our leaders and the pioneering work they are doing in the country of Myanmar.