This year’s celebration of Gratitude Day in Myanmar assumes a different tone. On the 12th of January 2019 some members of the Educating Community composed of 7 Sisters, 1 Lay collaborator, 1 pre-aspirant and two young girls of the FMA communities visit the refugee camp in Kutkai. This visit is part of the Provincial Gratitude Day in Myanmar which is aimed at celebrating it in a more meaningful and significant way. It is realized as an opportunity to share the experience of God’s providential care and love to our presences in the Province with our suffering brothers and sisters who are displaced because of the on-going civil war in Kachin State.
Through the help and collaboration of Fr. Luigi, Director of KMSS (Karuna Myanmar Social Service) of Lashio Diocese and Fr. Tino, Procurator of Lashio Diocese, the group is able to connect with the 46 IDP’s in Kutkai and Muse’ and is hosted at the Bishop’s residence. Fr. John Gam Seng (SDB) and another 2 laymen accompanied the group to Kutkai for the distribution of the goods.
Though Kutkai is relatively far from the FMA communities in Pyin Oo Lwin, this small town in the Shan State of eastern central Myanmar is chosen to be the heart of our gratitude day celebration. It is about 964 km from Yangon and 398.6 km. from Pyin Oo Lwin. It takes around 9 hours by bus from Anisakan, Pyin Oo Lwin to reach the place since the transport has to crossed several mountains. Kutkai is a place near Muse’ which is bordering China. It is indeed a periphery that is worth the attention of any group who wants to bring help to those who are in need. There are 28 displaced families (135 people) in the camp which is inside the compound of the Catholic Church. The families are Catholics from the Kachin and Shan tribe. The head catechist, Saya Naung Latt who is assisting the families, recounts that because of the fighting between the Burmese army and the tribes’ army , many people flee from their own villages and find a place for their temporary shelter in the town of Kutkai. It is far from their village called Naung Phan which is about 15 km away from Kutkai.
It has been 6 years that the families are staying in the camp through the help and care of the Civil Society Groups and local authorities. The KMSS charity group of Lashio and the other NGO also provide support for their essential needs of housing, health care and education. But, it is too little and cannot get enough for their living. There are a big number of women and children staying in the camp. The adults try to search for any work that they can find in order to provide especially for the children and elderly. Finding themselves in such situation, the children cannot study well and therefore discontinue their studies and engage in work earning a minimal wage. In March the families will be relocated to Gale Zup Aung, 14 km away from KutKai where, hopefully, they can start to rebuild their lives.
It is touching to see the eyes of the families: children, young people, elderly and adults beaming with joy as they meet and endlessly thank the group for the little items they receive out of the kindness of many people.
Indeed, God’s magnanimity and generosity are overwhelming that one cannot contain it for oneself. The solidarity with the 46 IDP families from Kutkai and Muse’ of the Diocese of Lashio is the Salesian Sisters’ concrete gesture of recognizing and thanking the Lord for His immense goodness to His people. The visit would not have been possible without the help of our Singaporean friends from Project Kyrie who quickly responded to the Sisters’ invitation to extend help to the IDPs.