LISU HILLTRIBE KINDERGARTEN
Our travel group encountered this Lisu Hilltribe village in October 2011. These Lisu live in a very remote mountainous area about 15 minutes outside Mae Salong near the Burma border. They were originally part of a diaspora which traveled from mountainous areas in Tibet and China, to find refuge in Thailand. They raise field crops by hand, and create textiles and jewelry which they trade in the Mae Salong market. The village is located several miles from town, and access is along winding dirt roads with sheer breathtakingly beautiful drop-offs on one side and vertical mountainsides on the other.
The village has a government sponsored kindergarten, but the kindergarten has limited supplies and the children live in remote conditions. Some of the children are cared for by single parents or extended family who work very hard to eke out a living. One 87-year old woman was caring for her 2 grandchildren and attempting to survive by selling handmade goods. We affectionately refer to her as “Grandmama”.
Charities Within Reach began their work with the kindergarten in June of 2012, providing shoes, clothes and games to the children. The teacher and her volunteer helpers are very dedicated to these 4-6 year olds, but had little in the way of educational resources. CWR made it a priority to return to the Lisu kindergarten in January 2013 to bring a year’s worth of , school supplies, along with clothes, children’s books, puzzles, coloring books and crayons, toys, games, and protein bar treats.
Upon our arrival, after traveling a long winding road, as our van was getting close to the village, a hilltribe woman who was hoeing a garden, spotted us, dropped her hoe and ran into the village to the kindergarten building. As we pulled near the building we could hear the collective scream of a dozen or more children from inside the building. The children knew we were coming that day but they did not know the time we would arrive. When our CWR group assembled in front of the building, we were met by a group of giggling yet slightly timid kindergarteners on the steps, who sang to us their ABCs along with songs of happiness and welcome.
We spent several hours of pure joy with these little angels, playing games, drawing pictures, singing, and talking with their caretakers through our translator and guide, Jermsak. We left gifts and a further stipend with the teacher who gives so much of her love to these kids, but receives only a minimal salary.
After spending a beautiful and poignant afternoon of fun, games, and more than a few tears of happiness, we left the Lisu Hilltribe kindergarten with the promise to return in 2014. In April of 2014 another group of travelers with CWR visited the kindergarten once again. As before, the travelers came with lots of school supplies, games, colors and presents for the children. Some members of the group personally donated money so the teacher could buy fuel for the donated truck to get the older children to school in town. She is trying her best to see that the children do not get lost to the drug trade as they get older. She told us that many of the older boys are already lost to drugs and she wants to make sure that the younger ones have a chance for a better life.