Working together to provide educational opportunities for very poor children in Myanmar (Burma)

S4SK is a UK-registered charity, No: 1131559

S4SK began with a chance encounter in 2007 between John McConnell, who was at the time teaching with an NGO in Myanmar, and a young mother, begging with her baby on a Rangoon street:


“There, sitting in the street, was a young mother with her baby–Tan Tan and Nwe Nwe.  Coming closer it became apparent that Tan Tan was a victim of leprosy.  Fingers and toes were all gone and her nose had started to tear.  Her baby rested ponderously in a corroded arm, cradled by the stumps of fingers.  There was a tragic juxtaposition of her love for her baby, and the fact that she had absolutely nothing, to give the child.  

She had never been to school.  Medical treatment, education, a house to call home were all things for other people in a different world.  Hers was this dusty patch of road, the shelter of a tree when it rained, and not much else.”

S4SK and H4SS work together to improve the lives of very poor children through provision of education attuned to children’s needs and situations.


“I bought a bamboo house for what one would spend on a garden shed here in the UK.  It was the first home she had ever had.  I have a photo of mum holding baby in her own house—looking so, so happy.  But there was to be no ‘ever after’.  After just three months Tan Tan died of a brain tumour.  She probably had had the condition for years, yet would not think to go to a doctor.”

“It was the experience of trying to help this beautiful fragment of a family, before and after Tan Tan’s death, that brought me into contact with a class of people so poor as to be almost invisible—and led to the formation of S4SK, and later H4SS.”

Beginnings

“While the state provides free schooling, there are some families who are so poor that their children had to scavenge or beg to support the family income, and so are out of school.  It seemed that the most effective help I could give, to help such very poor people, was education.  With the help of some friends who were already involved in education, I sponsored an informal education class for street kids in central Yangon.  It began with three girls, two Buddhists and a Muslim, and the number soon rose to seven, then thirteen.  This year we have around 440 in 23 classes and study groups.”


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Over several weeks, John’s students helped Tan Tan and John to communicate.  John noticed that Tan Tan was often tired, and one day she was so drowsy that she nearly dropped Nwe Nwe.  John lay awake that night thinking about the family’s situation.  By the morning, he had decided to try to help them find a place to stay: