Two Orphanages in Mandalay, Burma

Children Support Initiative
Burma, officially called the Union of Myanmar since 1989, with its stunning landscapes and magnificent historical sites, could be a paradise. But civil wars, corruption, and misguided socialist policies have impoverished the nation. Of the many children who lost their parents in those wars, 197 boys and 200 girls have found a home in two Buddhist orphanages in Mandalay, one run by monks, the other by nuns. The orphanages are located on the grounds of the monastery and the nunnery respectively and are administered by a Chief Abbot and a Chief Abbess. They are the heads of two registered charitable support associations and are thereby responsible for the accommodation, feeding, and education of the children. Neither state-controlled nor government-supported, the orphanages are private institutions financed solely through donations from the private sector. The orphanages and the children, therefore, need assistance on a continuing basis from domestic and foreign donors. Toward this end our charitable nonprofit corporation has been established in the State of Hawaii, the "crossroads between East and West." Donations will help to ensure the continuation of the orphanages.

How are the children housed? What kind of training and education do they receive?

the old orphanage building
The residents of the orphanages, boys and girls, aged 4 to 22, come from many parts of Burma and belong to several different ethnic minority groups. Their religious affiliation is of no consequence; children of Christian and Muslim faiths are accepted into the orphanage as well as Buddhists, Hindus, and all others. The children do not undergo training to become Buddhist monks or nuns.

The some 200 boys presently live in a dilapidated old building with no sanitation facilities and no protection from bugs and mosquitoes. Three years ago the abbot had sold some land and had used the proceeds to build a new school. However, the building is lacking the necessary sanitation facilities like washbasins and toilets because the orphanage ran out of funds and the city's water supply was insufficient. The Boys' Orphanage draws its water from two sources: drinking water from the city's system and non-potable water from a nearby creek for cleaning and washing. Clean water is not consistently available. Children Support Initiative (CSI) has decided to sponsor (together with a German charitable association) the building of a new water supply and sanitation system with a deep well, water tank, water purification, toilets, wash basins, and shower rooms. CSI is receiving technical assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Yangon. A new 250 feet-deep well has already been drilled; much to our relief, it supplies water of high quality and sufficient quantity. The new water supply and sanitation system, which should be finished by November 2003, will greatly improve the boys' living conditions and level of health.

At the moment several basins that collect the yellow, sedimentary water from the creek serve as shower facilities. The kitchen is also in the open and is protected from the heavy monsoon rains by a corrugated metal roof. It consists of two large brick ovens and is equipped with institutional-sized metal cooking pots.

The boys and girls receive their primary education at the elementary school within the boys' orphanage. Some of them go on to secondary education in state-run middle and high schools outside. Over the years, a few students have succeeded in entering colleges or universities. The children receive practical training in vegetable cultivation, cooking, and bicycle repair. All work in maintaining the orphanages, including cooking for almost two hundred children, is carried out by the girls and boys.

the PC center
Because of the constraints imposed by the orphanages' limited financial base, not all children can receive a secondary or tertiary education. Most of the children do not go beyond elementary school and are, therefore, destined to become unskilled laborers. The meager wages they will earn will cause them to return to the conditions from whence they came, a life of poverty. What these children can accomplish if given even a small opportunity was demonstrated to us after a first personal computer (PC) was donated to the orphanage. Seven boys aged fifteen to seventeen needed only a few months to acquire basic computer skills, without books or teachers. A German charitable association, with which CSI cooperates closely, then decided to set up a PC training center at the orphanage. Today some 100 girls and boys are receiving regular instruction with the senior students having progressed to graphics and writing of software programs - a remarkable achievement for children whose hill-tribe parents probably could neither read nor write Burmese. At the PC center the girls and boys also receive English language instruction. English books and tapes were made available by the German association. The computer and English teachers regularly report to CSI on the teaching curriculum and on the progress of the children.

In competing for jobs, however, these orphans are handicapped because they have neither the requisite socio-economic connections to the business community nor the support of relatives. But we can compensate for these disadvantages to a considerable degree by making targeted training and improved education available to them.

The children's nutrition is adequate; however, overall they live in poor circumstances. Their clothes are shabby; books, toys, and sports equipment are not available, and pocket money for any child is far beyond the institution's means. The old classrooms are equipped with a blackboard, a few wooden benches, a clay floor and no protection from bugs and mosquitoes is provided.

Who runs the orphanages?

The orphanages are supervised and supported by two registered charitable support associations and their boards of directors. The abbot U Sandi Mar and the abbess Daw Khang Mar Nandi serve as chairman and chairwoman of the two organizations. They are also the heads of the monastery and the nunnery where monks and nuns assist in running the orphanages. Among their many tasks are soliciting donations to help support the orphanages and also searching for jobs for girls and boys who are leaving the school.

The orphanages' income and expenditures are recorded by accountants and are examined by the boards of directors. CSI, as a contributing nonprofit corporation, can inspect the orphanages' bookkeeping on demand. Buddhist monks and nuns pledge themselves to poverty; personal possessions are not permitted. CSI can assure donors that their donations go directly to the orphanage and are used exclusively for the children's welfare.

How are the orphanages being financed?

Boys preparing food
Most Burmese are devout Buddhists. According to the teachings of Lord Buddha, the faithful believer can accumulate merit during life that will allow rebirth on a higher level. Donating to Buddhist monks is such a meritorious act. Burmese therefore tend to donate little to secular charities, but they give generously to monks (and to a lesser degree to nuns). It is believed that a donation to the orphanage, made to the monastery or the nunnery, will bring special merit to the donor. The orphanages receive no financial support from the government. They can survive only because of their direct association with the monastery and the nunnery. The abbot and the abbess are well known even outside Mandalay because of their extensive efforts on behalf of the orphanages.

Making their daily requests for donations is an arduous task. Despite the country's pronounced poverty, U Sandi Mar has succeeded in persuading some thirty men and women in Mandalay to finance most of the boys' food expenses, but financial difficulties arise repeatedly when repairs or purchases become necessary.

What are the next projects for the orphanages?

Girls working in the kitchen
The Girls' Orphanage has received a generous gift from a Japanese family: a brand new building. At the Boys' Orphanage a new water supply and sewage system is being constructed. Together with the German association and with the technical support from WHO, the non-profit corporation (CSI) is funding this new water supply and sanitation system. When the UN World Congress on Sustainable Development met in Johannesburg in August 2002, it decided to assign top-priority to the supply of clean water for people in developing countries. We are taking its concept a step further by adding sanitation and hygiene to it.

The "unfinished" school will also be connected to the new water system. Washbasins and toilets will be added, so that the school should become fully operational in the coming months.

Together with the German association CSI is supplying the Computer Center with additional computers, new equipment for the classrooms, a library and a reading room. We want to improve the quality of the children's education, thereby offering better educational opportunities and opening the gates to colleges and universities.

The next project is a new dormitory for the 230 boys plus a small clinic and an apartment for foreign teachers. If both organizations can raise the necessary funds for this project, construction could start in November 2003.

Not all children are equally gifted, however. For those who cannot attend institutions of higher learning, CSI intends to offer targeted practical training: a facility for tailoring at the Girls' Orphanage and an automobile repair shop near the Boys' Orphanage. The implementation of these projects will take several years and depends largely on the financial support received from private donors and foundations.

What is the purpose of CSI's status as a charitable nonprofit corporation?

Contact with the orphanages was established by Mr. Klaus Schroeder on one of his several journeys through Burma. Mr. Schroeder is Vice President of our corporation and Chairman of the German association. His American and Burmese friends in Honolulu recommended the establishment of the Children Support Initiative as a nonprofit corporation in Hawaii to support the two orphanages in Mandalay. CSI's mission is: to improve the living and health conditions of children in need; and to offer them targeted practical training and better educational opportunities. The administration of CSI is organized on a strictly voluntary and uncompensated basis.

CSI has appointed Mr. Min Lwin Oo, manager of a Yangon-based travel agency, representative of CSI for Myanmar. He regularly visits the two orphanages, monitors and controls the progress of our projects and reports back to us. Mr. Min Lwin Oo performs this task on a voluntary and uncompensated basis. He accompanies our directors and officers, as well as visiting donors on their visits to the orphanages.

The President of CSI has set up an Advisory Group of eight women and men who advise our organization on such issues as health and hygiene, education and training as well as fundraising and public relations. All advisors work on a voluntary and uncompensated basis.

CSI has raised $ 20,300 in donations from individual sponsors since it received IRS-approval in Sept. 2002. Of the total income $ 8,500 have been donated towards the new water supply and sanitation system and $1,500 towards the Computer Center and the library. The remaining funds will be reserved for the next project, the new dormitory.

How can you help the children?

CSI's present project, a new water supply and sewage system, will cost $17,000. Half of the amount has already been donated by CSI, the other half by the German association. After that CSI (and the German association) would like to build a new dormitory for 230 boys at a cost of $ 150,000. CSI welcomes donations of any amount because every dollar helps. You can be assured that your donation will reach the orphanage and will be used exclusively for the benefit of the children. Your contribution is tax-deductible as permitted by law.

Please make checks payable to: Children Support Initiative

Thank you for your generous help and support.

Norman E. Towle Jr.
Klaus R. Schroeder
Children Support Initiative

2895 Komaia Place
Honolulu, HI 96822
[email protected]
Bank: First Hawaiian Bank, Manoa Branch, Honolulu, Hawaii, Acc. No. 44 050 331

Children Support Initiative is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) corporation incorporated in the State of Hawaii, USA.

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