(From left: Zoe, San, Nom and Tina)

 

She can dream again

By Erica Cheong

There was a time when Tina, 13, thought that she could never go back to school again. But after a year away from school, her prayers were answered and she could go back to the School of Mercy at the Thailand-Myanmar Border again!

The school is located in a remote village, populated by people from the Mon and Karen tribes. Marginalised and living in villages still afflicted by political unrest from time to time, many families are trapped in rural poverty.

Tina and her three sisters’ lives are illustrative of the challenges that broken and blended families go through in such villages. Among the sisters, three of them share the same biological father, who had abandoned them in the village, with Tina’s mother, Pha, about two years after their divorce. Pha is now remarried and has a son with her current husband. The girls’ troubles did not end then, but instead escalated as their current stepfather favoured his own son. In addition, Tina’s brother bullied the girls relentlessly.

“He treated us like his servants. If we disobeyed him, he would get angry and beat us. My mother could not stop him as she had to work in a rubber plantation in another village,” Tina shared about her brother.

To ease the family tension, Pha tried to enroll two of the older girls, Tina and Zoe into the School of Mercy dormitory, which provides food and lodging for some 30 students.

Unfortunately, they were turned away as there was no vacancy. When the family situation continued to deteriorate, their mother took the four girls to stay in another village, one hour away from the school by motorcycle. After only one year, Tina had to stop schooling to help her mother with work in the rubber plantation, as well as to take care of her youngest brother.

Although Tina’s sisters could continue with school, they did not have an easier time. Zoe, two years younger than Tina, said, “It was very difficult to go to school. We had to ride along a dirt road through the jungle every day. Very often, we did not even have time to eat breakfast. My mother found it very hard. She spent a lot of time travelling and money buying petrol. At times, we did not go to school.”

Worried that she could not continue to study, Zoe asked her teacher to pray for her. Her eyes lit up when she added, “Then, my school principal asked my mother how the school could help. When my mother asked again if we could stay in the dormitory, my principal agreed!”

Tina’s teachers also convinced Pha to allow the young girl to return to school. She had been a fast learner and exhibited great potential. Her talent in learning languages had also been evident, being able to communicate in six languages (Mon, Burmese, Thai, Pwo Karen, Sgaw Karen and basic English)!

“I am so happy to be back with my friends and teachers! Jesus has answered my prayers. I have also been healed by Jesus. I used to have [nocturnal incontinence] since young. My teachers prayed with me, and now I’m healed!” Tina exclaimed.

Before Tina and her sisters attended the School of Mercy, they had not heard about Jesus, but now, all of them believe in Jesus and find hope in Him.

Being able to be educated also means that Tina can continue to pursue her dream – to be a teacher. “I want to be like my teacher. She teaches me about Jesus and loves me. One day I want to be a teacher like her.”

 

Erica hails from Singapore and is OM MTI’s education specialist and communicator. She is based at the Thailand-Myanmar Border and most days, you will find her teaching and playing with the village children in OM MTI’s school.