Martin’s 70th Birthday Gift Teaches Karen Students Valuable Lessons

Children from 21 villages in Karen State will reap the benefits from an Australia family’s wish to make their father’s 70th birthday extra special.

David Ziegler from Sydney, Australia wanted to make Martin, his father’s 70th birthday memorable. David contacted Kanchana Thornton, the director of the Burma Children Medical Fund to see if there was a project he could support as a gift for his father.

On behalf of David Ziegler, the BCMF team got in touch with village leaders in Kyarinseikyi Township, Karen State to work on creating the perfect gift for Martin.

The people in the region had been hard hit by more than 60 years of civil war. Burma Army offensives were a constant threat, robbing the people and children of stability, security, education and health. The Burma Army attacked villages and burnt down homes and schools. A villager told Karen News, the Burma Army attacks were so regular it was pointless to build permanent structures. “We did not bother building wooden buildings, as we feared and knew they would be burned down as soon as we built them.”

The villager explained that despite the official ceasefire between the Karen National Union and the government’s military, and the area no longer being classified as a shoot-on-sight zone, the state is still heavily patrolled by the Burma Army. Foreign aid is restricted and requires special permission from authorities just to enter the area, this means many villages have little access to basic infrastructure, health care or education.

Ms Thornton said BCMF – working together with the Zeigler family, village leaders, parents, teachers and health professionals – decided to improve the student facilities at Noh Paw Wah School as Martin’s birthday gift.

Ms Thornton said Noh Paw Wah School serves 21 villages with a total population of approximately 14,000 people. “The project benefits 80 students who attend the school, 40 students who reside at the school, and 7 teachers. As the only middle school offering grade 5-8 classes in the region, we expect the school to increase the number of students attending each year.”

David Zeigler a supporter of BCMF for many years told Karen News that his father’s birthday was a “good opportunity to provide more impact to Myanmar communities by developing resources within the community – provides much needed resources to help the community help itself.”

David pointed out that it was important for funders to make sure their donations were well spent. “BCMF’s expertise and close relationship with the local community was critical to enabling the project – it identified the community’s needs and supported the implementation of the project that they wanted.”

Ms Thornton explained to Karen News that the overall aim of the project was to add to the existing school infrastructure. “We wanted to improve the quality of life of students studying at Noh Paw Wah School, by building out of concrete two dormitories, a concrete kitchen and dining hall, hygiene facilities, installing a water filtration system, laying a pipeline for water supply, building a water storage tank and installing a solar panel system.”

The Noh Paw Wah School headmaster, Saw Sai Dee said Martin’s gift is a welcome boost for the local community. “The water will benefit not just the students who stay at the dormitory and who study at the school, but also the local farmers who need water for their plantations. The new buildings will encourage my students about trying harder in their studies.”

Naw Paw Wah Wah, a 7th grade student at the school told Karen News that the new buildings will benefit all students. “Before our dorm had a thatched roof. Our dining room had no proper door. Running water and electricity are important. Our very small solar panel did not provide enough electricity. Sometimes, we had to get water from faraway places if there was no rain. The reason I stay at the dormitory is because in the wet season we can’t cross the river.”

Naw Mu Kee Lar has both a daughter and son attending Noh Paw Wah School and paid tribute to the Zeigler family. “My daughter and my son studied here for two years already. I’m happy that they now have these beautiful buildings. When they built the dormitories, I came to see. I’ve never seen buildings like these before. I’m also happy because if I have to take my children to government school I cannot afford the costs. Thank you very much and may God bless the [the Zeiglers] donors.”

Martin Ziegler, visiting the Thai Burma border, told Karen News that he appreciated the effort many people made to make the school project a reality. “I’m really pleased and satisfied that this project is up and running. Thanks to David for being the inspiration for it, but also to all the people who got involved to make it happen. Education is critical, that’s why this is so important. On behalf of the Ziegler family, I hope it brings great benefit to the community and I repeat, a big thank you to all who contributed to make it a reality.”

Martin’s son, David said it was important for his father to know the local community is pleased and energized by the resources donated on his behalf. “We hope it provides many opportunities for the children and families of the community. We hope to support some of the needs of the school into the future and wish to follow the outcomes for students and families in the years to come.”

This academic year, there are currently 80 students studying at Noh Paw Wah School. Ms Thornton said that from these 80 students, “22 boys, 18 girls and 7 teachers will live in the newly-built dormitories – the 80 students come from the surrounding 21 villages.”

The Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) was set up in 2006 by Kanchana Thornton in response to help children who needed complex medical treatment and surgery not available at local clinics or hospitals in Burma.

The BCMF has expanded its programs to now include special adult and women’s cases, wheelchair donations to children and eye screening programs. Please see Burma Adult Medical Fund (BAMF) and Women’s Gynaecological Surgery Fund (WGSF) for more information.

For people wanting to make a donation go the BCMF website:

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