(3/7/16) I had no idea what to expect when we reached Htan Kyung school, but my heart swelled to see the porch filled with children in their uniforms, their hands pressed together as they all chimed “Good Morning!” in unison, many times! While that may be the extent of their English, their words were filled with respect, joy, and gratitude. Even though it was a weeklong holiday from school, all the children came to visit us and help celebrate the anniversary of the school we so proudly opened last year. Parents, elders, and other villagers came as well, filling the structure to maximum capacity.
Cyclone Nargis devastated this region in 2008, the worst disaster ever in this impoverished country. Life down in the Ayeyarwady River delta continues to pose many challenges. Farming is hard work, small villages have no electricity, and fish are becoming extinct. Some food and supplies have to be delivered by boat, an expensive mode of transportation, but the only way to access remote villages. Annual flooding still wipes out many homes.
Our village of Khin Tan is fortunate to have this school, as it provided a safe place to meet and store food in the flooding during the monsoons last year. Though it is basically just an open structure, the school is built on pilings strong enough to sustain it and high enough to keep the interior dry. During the high-water season, children come by boat right up to the front door, as the steps may be underwater.
It is just pure delight to spend time with these children. We did an art activity of exchanging autobiographical culture frames with our sister school at home, Hyla Middle School. The kids were amazed to watch the instant photos develop in front of their eyes and see themselves. Every child also received their very own Burmese/ English activity book and colored pencils, a very special treat for these students.
Htan Kyung is more than just a school. It is an integral part of Khin Tan, and wonderful things happen here, besides just the magic of education.