Outhouses, computer labs, and landmines

Trip Start Jul 18, 2007
Trip End Jul 26, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, July 21, 2007

"This is our new computer lab," says one of the teachers escorting us. Computer lab? I think to myself. I look in the room skeptically and my jaw drops. I see thirty teenagers sitting behind brand new flat screen computers, learning Microsoft programs.
I just went to the bathroom in a bamboo outhouse with no running water, but there's a computer lab! My thoughts could go one of two directions from here: these people are either incredibly resilient and determined to make the best of a very bad situation, or they're just extravagant.
I believe it is the former. This camp was established in 1997. The 4,000 people that live here are not allowed to leave the camp to enter Thailand. They can either go back to Burma (not a very safe option considering the landmines, burning villages, and Burmese military goons eager to shoot them or worse); or they can take their chances at starting a new life in one of 33 countries around the world that will accept them. They're stuck within the confines of this camp, and they can either curse the lemons or make lemonade. When I look at these kids learning to use computers in a computer lab I see lemonade all over the place.
After hiking up a big hill, we enter another classroom. About 40 kids stand to greet us. This is the group of kids who live in the home for orphaned children that is supported by God's Kids.
At home, our staff spends countless hours in meetings, in our offices, on the phone, on the radio, meeting people for lunch, creating websites and brochures and letters... all for this - to see that these kids, the kids in this room, are doing ok; to see that they're well fed, happy, educated, cared for, and shown the love of Jesus. This is the end of the production line for God's Kids. To see them face to face is indescribable.
We sing songs and pray together and thank each other for the work we're all doing for God. Then we go outside to take a group photo. But one girl stays behind. She's sitting at the front of the room against the wall. She has a bandage on her leg and her crutches lean against the wall. I look down and see that the bandage stops near the middle of her shin bone, and there's nothing below it. She's missing a foot and part of her leg.
After talking with her and her teacher, I find out that she's relatively new to the camp. She's fourteen years old, and just a few months ago she was in Burma with her parents. She went out to pick vegetables from her parent's garden and stepped on a landmine.
It's easy to see when walking around the camp that this is not uncommon. Many people - children and adults - are hobbling on crutches, and several of the teenagers that we come across wear t-shirts that read, "Say no to landmines." Landmines are a part of their lives like flat tires and fender benders are part of mine.
This little girl touches us and we continue talking with her. She's fine talking about the landmine and her missing leg. She's fine talking about anything right up until we ask her about her parents. Then she cries. And she can't stop crying. Her parents are still in Burma. As far as she knows, they're still alive. But as far as she knows, she will never see them again. They wanted her safe and taken care of, so they had her rescued and brought through the jungle across the border and into this camp. What will happen next? Who knows?

We spend some more time at the camp, seeing people and kids. But the rest of our day is spent thinking about that 14-year-old girl who stepped on a landmine in her vegetable garden. I keep thinking, "I'm going to go home; she's going to stay here." For some reason, it's a strange thought for me. As if after seeing her sitting there with her blown up leg, how could I go back to my normal life again.
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starlagurl on

Super blogging!
Very nice writing, great pictures. This is a great way to get the word out about your charity. Nice work. I featured you on the company blog this weekend, check it out: http://blog.travelpod.com

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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