Mae Sot, an ethnically diverse, trading center, that is a major connection between Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). Consisting of a population of about 120,000 people, this booming town was our home for two weeks. It is settled in between the mountains of Burma (present day Myanmar), and Thailand. Getting there was tricky due to so many winding roads, but the drive was breathtakingly beautiful. So many different languages spoken there, so many different religions, and so many different stories of how people got to this very unique place. On one street you can find a mosque, temple, and church, all right next to each other. Everything exists here quite peacefully regardless of different ethnicities, languages, and religions.
B.W.U. (Burmese Women’s Union) plays a huge role here in the promotion of human rights and women’s health awareness in Mae Sot. Although some of the organization relocated to Chiang Mai and even back into Burma (Myanmar), their influence is still very prevalent and intertwined with the other organizations they work closely with there.
When we first arrived, we had a full itinerary set of visiting organizations, the Mae Tao clinic, and a few schools that provided a great education for the children of Burmese migrants. It was so incredible to see everyone coming together as a community to improve their lives and the lives of the next generation.
The Mae Tao clinic was quite a shock to encounter. By our western standards it may have seemed to be very poor quality. There was no air conditioning in the rooms and often patients shared a room with ten to fifteen other people. However, the patients were so incredibly grateful for being able to get the healthcare they desperately needed. In Burma (Myanmar), it is almost impossible for many citizens to afford the most basic healthcare that is necessary to live a normal life. In Thailand, many of the undocumented refugees and migrant workers are unable to access healthcare of the country. The Mae Tao clinic is a great option that provides for these people who are in these such unfortunate circumstances. There are many doctors and medical students from all over the world who volunteer at the clinic, and it is mostly funded by donations from non-profits. (if you have some change to spare, drop a buck or two off on their website maetaoclinic.org)
At one of the school visits, we met a lively, and motivated group of high school students who lived in a dorm room that is shared between 30 other students. They literally slept on the floor, with only two bathrooms that were shared amongst them. But they wanted to be in school so badly, and learn, and establish a bright future for themselves. It really made me observe my own life and how I haven’t really appreciated the opportunities that I’ve been given. These students work so hard, and little did they know, made a huge impact on us. They worked together to cook for each other, grow vegetables in their garden, but most importantly study very hard in hopes of getting a scholarship to a University. Many of them have been accepted to Universities all over the world. To reflect on their humble beginnings as refugees when they were children, to the accomplishment of getting a successful college education at very good universities, is something that is mind blowing to think about.
Our time in Mae Sot was truly amazing, inspiring, enlightening, and at times very difficult to endure. It’s crazy to think that we will back in there in one, short year, and I am counting down the days.
For more about Mae Sot and some of the organizations we visited, check out my page; Beautiful places & Beautiful People!