Sunday, November 29, 2009

London students build kindergarten for Myanmar refugees

THAILAND London students build kindergarten for Myanmar refugees

LONDON (UCAN) -- A school for Myanmar refugee children in northern Thailand has a new kindergarten classroom thanks to a group of London students.

Students from London pass cement down the line while building a classroom for Myanmar refugee children

The school at Phop Phra in Tak province is one of about 10 in Thailand run by La Fondation de la Sagesse, (wisdom foundation), headed by French Father Olivier Prodhomme, a Paris Foreign Missions priest.

The new classroom was funded and built - with help from local craftsmen - by residents of Netherhall House, a residence for international students at various London universities including the London School of Economics, University College, London, and the Royal Academy of Music.

The 93 students at Netherhall are of more than 20 nationalities. About 60 percent are Catholics and many of the others are not Christians. They raise money every year for a project abroad, and a small group then travels to do the work. Project countries have included Nicaragua and South Africa.

Their first "work camp" in Thailand was last year, at Father Prodhomme's All Saints Thandiaw School in Mae Sot, on the Myanmar border. They built a classroom at the school, which has 210 pupils.

This year, seven students including one Malaysian and one Singaporean spent three weeks in Phop Phra with Netherhall's chaplain, Father Joseph Evans, and its secretary, Alvaro Tintore. They build a kindergarten classroom at St Peter's, a school for 100 kindergarten and primary pupils.

"We raise all the money ourselves, enough to pay for building materials, local labor, and travel and living expenses," Tintore told UCA News. "This year the total cost was about £8,000 (US$13,300), and we raised that much and enough to leave a donation of £500."

Father Evans added: "Nearly all of it is raised by a raffle run by the students, with prizes donated by well-wishers. We make appeals from the pulpit at parish churches, then sell tickets outside. We also receive a generous grant from the Catenian Association, a social group for Catholic laymen."

                                                                                                  Volunteers pose for a photo with pupils

Although the students include budding economists, politicians and musicians, they do most of the work themselves.

"But we do employ local help to do the skilled work such as carpentry -- and the villagers join in too," Tintore said.

"By the time we left," Father Evans recalled, "we had grown in muscle power, shed some weight and been overwhelmed by the generosity of the villagers."

He added that Father Prodhomme has asked Netherhall to get involved in another project next year, "and we are already resolved to return."