An overview of the St. Lazarus-Fonds Europe activities in Myanmar
St. Lazarus - Fonds Europe e.V.
Dr. Thomas Gille, director
Königstein, March 5, 2021
Project work in 2019
1. Support program for HIV-positive children in St. Raphael Orphanage (Term: Nov. 15, 2018 – Nov. 14. 2019)
The object of this project is to support and strengthen HIV-positive children, to give them a more worthy basis for life and to enable a social reintegration. The main activities involve measures for healthy nutrition, medical care, education in movement, and support for education. These activities were proposed by the KMSS (Caritas Myanmar) in order to strengthen the patients and the community in the Yay Aye Quin quarter, Taunggyi Township, physically, intellectually, and spiritually.
Results: ¾ of the HIV-positive children received the possibility to lead a better life and a better education. In the same degree it was also possible to enable the children to lead a more dignified life and to integrate back into society. The number of children in this care could be increased.
The project had a duration of one year and had a budget of about USD 5,000.
2. Education program for pupils of the leper colony in Loilem (Myanmar)
(Duration: June 1, 2019 – February 30, 2020)
This project was proposed by the Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS/Caritas Myanmar), with the goal of improving the education of children from disadvantaged families (relatives infected with leprosy), by providing support for education. This included education and sensitivity courses for parents, financing of school materials, financial support for school personal and afternoon caretakers as well as food and nutritional support for the pupils. The goal is to provide a high quality education for the pupils, so that they will be able to contribute to a better future for themselves, their families and communities.
This is achieved in that the awareness of the value of education is introduced to the communities and the children are supported with the required materials.
This project had a duration of nine months and cost about 25,000 USD.
3. Financing for the renovation and re-building of a boarding school building (Term: November 2018 – May 2019)
This project intends to integrate a boarding house school for children and teenagers into the leper colony community in order to make a lasting improvement in the quality of education there. Generally speaking, the main activity of the St. Lazarus-Fonds in southern Shan State in Myanmar is to improve the future perspective of the younger generation through improved education. In this case it involved the renovation and conversion of an existing building in the colony into a boarding house school building. It is important to support education in these projects, to encourage the village communities to try for a better education and thereby help the whole community to improve their lives. The project gathers a large community of pupils together to realize the educational support program. Additionally, families of the pupils are also supported in developing future goals and setting and achieving collective priorities.
This gives the leper colony inhabitants a responsible role in planning their future and also actively taking part in the initiative of the educational support program.
The project concentrates on educational support measures and development structures through the renovation and conversion of the boarding school building.
The project had a duration of 6 months and cost about 22,000 USD.
4. Taunus Zeitung (Taunus Newspaper, a local publication) from July 12, 2019: „Ein Segen für die Ärmsten“ (A Blessing for the Poorest)
5. Visit to Myanmar in 2019
Both directors of the St. Lazarus-Fonds Europe, Peter Chung and Dr. Thomas Gille, made their third visit to Myanmar in November 2019 to support the project work in the leper colony St. Joseph in Loilem, Shan State.
During the course of the visit the current support programs were visited and problems and successes were discussed with the managers on site. Of particular importance, these conversations and the direct contact with the colony inhabitants enabled discussion of further assistance and the planning of future projects.
The St. Lazarus-Fonds is supported locally by the Caritas organization KMSS in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. The visit started off with a presentation in the KMSS office by the project managers on the past assistance projects and those which are still needed. In conversation with Archbishop Matthias the importance of the St. Lazarus-Fonds and its donors for the people on the colony was emphasized.
Since our last visit in Taunggyi the Fonds has been supporting a home for children. These are HIV-positive children, whose health problems also resulted in significant social problems. After our visit in 2017 when we saw the poverty and hardship there an education and nutrition support program was launched. We could now see the success of these measures in person. The nuns who oversee these measures reported stabilization of the children’s health, improvements in social reintegration, as well as improved performance in school. The children gave presentations of their daily routine and their school, and a 15-year old gave a very personal presentation of his life and medical story.
Prior to visiting the main objective of our visit, the leper colony in Loilem, we visited another leper colony close to the Inle Lake, not far from Taunggyi. Our intention was to gather information to support a future expansion of the extent of the St. Lazarus-Fonds assistance, This colony, the Nyaung Pin Thar Leper Village, is also managed by the Caritas-Team KMSS and relies on external assistance. After a tour through the village the current problems and requirements were discussed with the villagers and their leaders. There are significant deficits in education, and in such basic things as educational material and a building or rooms for lessons. A first possible project was determined to be the construction of a simple school building with a room for common learning. The St. Lazarus directors will discuss the realization of the project in order to present it to donors and sponsors.
After the end of the visit to Taunggyi and the surrounding area the trip continued on together with the KMSS team to the St. Joseph colony in Loilem. In the days which followed the current projects were visited and further assistance measures were discussed on site.
The colony was founded in 1936, and today in addition to the seriously ill there are also many cured leprosy patients. They live in small common groups or with their families, spread out through four villages in an extensive area about 5km outside of Loilem. The lepers are cared for by three nuns, who are led by a catholic priest. The next level of care and responsibility for the various assistance programs lies with the Caritas in Taunggyi (KMSS).
In 2015 the St. Lazarus-Fonds started an agriculture and nutrition program, which is already displaying significant success in cattle and fish management. The proceeds now constitute a fixed component of the supplies for the colony, and have led to a lasting improvement in the quality and reliability of the colony’s nutrition.
A further component of the program was the establishment of extensive fruit plantations. The avocado plants have developed so well that the St. Lazarus-Fonds visitors were able to admire the first fruits. The mango trees are taking longer, which is explained by the unusually light rainfall in the past rainy seasons. The project leaders assume that the first fruits can be harvested in one to two years.
In addition to extensive avocado and mango plantations over 1000 dragon-fruit plants were planted. These have had varied success, depending on the exact location and the water supply. The first fruit is expected in 2020.
The St. Lazarus-Fonds visitors had the opportunity to observe the work of cultivation and maintenance of the plantation and the plants. This heavy work is done by the colony inhabitants, young and old, healthy or ill, with simple tools. This too can be understood as part of the St. Lazarus-Fonds program, in the sense of help for self-help and a strengthening of the sense of responsibility for their own supplies.
The recultivated fish pond was supplemented by the construction of a pigsty near the edge of the water. The dung seeping into the water will increase the yield from the fish farm.
On the way through the colony the group was able to see the size of the cattle herd, because the paths crossed repeatedly. The cattle were purchased as part of the agricultural program. This is another successful example of the nutritional and agricultural program and illustrates the valuable usage of funds provided by the St. Lazarus-Fonds.
The boarding house school project for some of the children living in the colony was a large project in the past two years, both from the extent as well as costs to the St. Lazarus-Fonds. In addition to acquiring and renovating a suitable building, - the building is now in use - the focus was on securing long term financing for lessons and the care of the children in the boarding school. Forty children are in the school, and the 12 boys overnight in an external building. This building is more of a dilapidated wooden hut, and is a very poor provisional accommodation. The 12 boys sleep in a narrow room on wobbly beds. One such bed, for instance, consists of an old door on wooden posts. The girls in the school slept on thin mattresses on the floor. The first assistance here was to purchase simple mattresses to improve this situation. In discussions with the Caritas helpers the possibilities of improved accommodation for the boys were discussed, and it was decided to plan a project. One possible solution was the renovation and rebuilding of a building not far from the boarding house. Additionally, it was decided on the spot to finance beds for the 18 girls living in the boarding house, as well as furniture such as school desks. Later, in the presence of Archbishop Matthias, a suitable sum in cash was presented to the head of Caritas in Taunggyi, Fr. Paulu Nan, in order to enable this project.
This shows once again that in spite of the inconvenience and difficulties of a trip to the colony in Myanmar direct contact makes quick decisions and assistance possible on the site.
Following the extensive well and water supply program over the past four years almost all parts of the colony now have a reliable supply of fresh water. The exception is in one village, so that in this case another well must be drilled to ensure a steady supply. For this and also for an individual well for the boarding house building the Caritas Taunggyi will develop a project and present a request for support to the St. Lazarus-Fonds.
The two and a half day visit to the colony St. Joseph came to a very fine finale with a festive event with dance and song, presented by the children and teenagers from the boarding school. Many inhabitants from various parts of the colony also attended. Amid the joy and fun of the entertainment there was also great thankfulness expressed for the support by the St. Lazarus-Fonds. In many individual conversations with those present the improvements in the colony were described, and that the people could look to the future with hope and optimism.