Last month, Justine Demmer, Asia Network Consultant and Viva HK National Director, visited a new network in Myanmar, where a committed group of 20 organisations are working together to help children displaced by conflict to go home again. Here are Justine’s reflections.
Full Moon Children’s Development Family got its name from the idea that the children should never walk in darkness again. The sun would shine for them in the day and the sun would reflect bright light from the full moon for them at night. They would be safe and well cared for.
This care home for children started at the bottom of the mountains in Myanmar. A pastor took some friends up to the conflict area and, in one day, rescued 80 children living alone in the forests of the mountains. These children were either orphaned or separated from their families due to the political violence. After a few years they moved down to just outside of the city of Yangon.
Full Moon currently cares for 330 children, and has branched out in a number of ways to do community development, agriculture, building schools in partnership with the education department (in areas that have never had access before), organising citizenship for children and awareness about child trafficking.
I was impressed by Full Moon’s wonderful model. The children are taught to be proud of the region and tribe they come from. Once a year the whole group go on a tour to all the tribes that the children are from to maintain relationship and connectivity.
Then when the children have finished school they do a gap service year at Full Moon, as part of the youth leadership. Following vocational training, the young people go and serve in their tribe, reintegrating back in before commencing with their own life plans.
Many of the children that are now adults, some married, travel back to Full Moon on the weekends to spend time with their extended family there. There is a love and a warmth and a community here, a love of God and of one another that is truly a beautiful thing to behold.
Now that there is relative peace in the country, the biggest challenge for the new network of 20 Christian NGOs and churches in Myanmar is to restore separated children to their families or find long-term care solutions for those that have lost their families.
This will be done by working with the new government’s social welfare department and government to influence the way that policy is set up and implemented to care for children at risk.
This is a wonderful opportunity to create new systems that work, if the voice of practitioners can be heard. Therefore advocacy and relationship-building is also of key strategic interest.
Full Moon is one of the founding members of the network – its director Ni Sat (pictured right with a colleague) is also the network co-ordinator.
Elsewhere in the network, another member has started a full-time boarding school for children with disabilities who had been in abusive situations in their own homes and communities.
This project is caring for 80 children in a poverty-stricken area. The manager says that the network provides support and training and, when I asked him what he would like to develop through the network, he said that, with the nation opening up and funding opportunities becoming more prevalent, he needs to know how to write a funding proposal and for it to be translated into English.
Programmes like this in Myanmar are mostly family legacy projects currently being managed by the second generation. The manager’s mother started the project for children with disabilities even though she herself is blind.
The resilience and passion of Christians caring for children at risk in Myanmar was wonderful for me to witness! There are difficult challenges with government registration, substantial needs and a whole new environment in which to work, but there is a wonderful hope that things can get better.
Please join us in prayer that during this time of transition the country will give strong consideration to the needs of every child.