(Bangkok Post) - This is a charity cause that will help both the recipient and the giver. The Phuttika Network, a coalition of socially engaged Buddhists in Thailand, is raising funds to support the poor children of Burma.
After almost fifty years of military dictatorship, the situations in our neighbouring country have become more aggravated than ever. According to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Fact Book web site, 32.7 per cent of the population in 2007 lived below the poverty line. Despite its rich resources, less than 10 per cent of Burma's national budget has been spent on education (whereas up to 30 per cent was allocated to the military).
Children are among the worst affected. It is estimated there are up to 70,000 child soldiers in Burma, making it the world's highest figure. One-sixth of children under five were found to suffer from severe malnutrition. About 35 per cent of all children have spent less than five years in school. A large number have become orphans, after their parents were killed during the government's suppression of ethnic minority groups, or turned into forced labour on state's development projects. These children, if neglected, are likely to end up as cheap migrant workers (most probably sent to Thailand) or worse, exploited by human trafficking rings.
As the majority of the people in Burma are Buddhists, temples have thus played a crucial role serving as both schools and orphanages for the destitute youths. The Phuttika Network estimates there are more than 1,400 temples across Burma, which provide help and with very little support from the government (especially after the peaceful demonstration by monks last year). In Rangoon alone there are over 160 temple schools, each of which houses 300 to 500 children of both Burmese and other ethnic origins. Some even accommodate as many as a couple of thousands.
The Fund for Education of Poor Children in Burma, initiated by the Phuttika Network, is aimed at alleviating hardships faced by these temples. Recently, donations from the locals have fallen sharply due to the dire economy and calamitous Cyclone Nargis, which prompted thousands of the victims in the Irrawaddy delta to seek refuge at the monastic sanctuaries.
The raised money may not seem large for Thais, but it will be of pivotal importance to the people of Burma, says Phra Paisan Visalo, chair of the Phuttika Network.
"True compassion," he said, "transcends any race, language, or geographical boundaries. For above it all, every human is related as brothers and sisters. A heart full of compassion will be so big that 'they' become part of 'us', or even better, that there will be neither 'us' nor 'them'.
"In the past, Thailand used to receive help from other richer countries, and millions of Thai children have been relieved from malnutrition, and can enjoy better health and education. Today, we are in a position to help others, especially those in the neighbouring countries, who are much poorer than us. The offer of our generosity will thus not only bring the feeling of joy to the givers themselves, but can also inspire hope for a better future for these children."
Donations made through the Children's Foundation at PO Box Krutumlom 73220, or at Siam Commercial Bank, Phetkasem Soi 114 branch; savings account 115-2-14733-0. A Buddhist ceremony will be held on August 24 at Wat Thong Nopphakhun to coincide with the charitable project. Call 02-883-0592, 02-886-9881, or 08-6300-5458.
- Orphans: Ban San Rak, meaning house of woven love, provides loving care to a group of orphans from the northern hilltribes as well as Thai-Japanese children whose mothers used to be in the flesh trade. The shelter is located in Mae Lao district of Chiang Rai.
To help, contact Phimphan Kaewsrinuan at 74 Moo 5 Tambon Phakhodham, Mae Lao district, Chiang Rai 57250. Call 05-360-4203 or 08-1952-8865, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bank info: Krung Sri Ayudhya Bank, Chiang Rai branch. Savings a/c name: Phimphan Kaewsrinuan Account no: 110-1-36902-1.
- Glasses: Your old, unused spectacles can help needy children see better. Thanks to the Mettapracharak Hospital's Eyeglasses Bank in Nakhon Pathom province, you can donate your old glasses so they can be repaired and distributed to needy children with poor eyesight, who cannot afford to buy spectacles.
To donate, contact the Mettapracharak (Wat Raikhing) Hospital's Eyeglasses Bank.
Contact person: Dr Pannet Pangputhipong. Address: 52 Moo 2, tambon Raikhing, Sam Phran district, Nakhon Pathom, 73210. Call 03-4321-983 - 5, 03-4321-244. Fax: 03-4321-243.
- Hornbills: You can help "adopt" these endangered birds and save them from extinction by joining the hornbill adoption campaign.
In need of help are the wrinkled hornbills, white-crowned hornbills, helmeted hornbills, black hornbills, rhinoceros hornbills, great Hornbills and wreathed hornbills.
To help, contact the Hornbill Research Foundation.
Address: c/o Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama 6 Road, Bangkok 10400.
Call 02-246-3026 ext 4606. Fax: 02-644-5411.