Sunday 23rd June 2024

Saturday, 12th January

Up at 6:30 to have an early breakfast in preparation for a 7:30 pick up, we were collected by Anne, Albert and Marcellinus to head for Kaungyidaung and the boat to Phan Khar Gone village, where we have put in place a rice feeding programme at the ECCD School, created by KMSS. The school managers are anxious to ensure that children have sufficient protein in their diet and monitor the progress in this by weighing and measuring them each month.

We met Charles, a former KMSS project worker, in one of the shops, heading for a number of villages, one of which is PKG so looked forward to meeting him later.

We split into two groups to climb into the boats heading upriver to this lovely, tranquil place where around 120 families live around a church and a pagoda with an ECCD school and a primary school serving the educational needs. We have brought a number of toys and games for the ECCD school and letters from children in Ely St John’s School to introduce themselves to the children in the primary school in PKG, hoping to create a link and maybe more ….

It was so lovely to be back and in sunny weather instead of the overcast rain of June with the paddy fields stretching out towards the horizon. We walked the quarter mile or so to the ECCD school where the children, their parents and the managers were waiting. All had dressed up for us, ready to dance. We introduced the group and I said a little about how blessed we are to be there (true! true!) and how we get every bit out of our visit and links there, if not more, than they do. The children’s dancing was sweet and hilarious – I was almost undone! All with make-up and three costume changes! We met No Ei Lay, the teacher and her two assistants who all wanted photographs with the two beautiful students – and us too…. She it was who had her baby brought to her to be suckled in a training session in June. He is now a bouncing 9 month old! Adorable!

We then went to the centre of the village where the houses on stilts nestle around the church. The first thing I did was to go in and thank God for my safe deliverance in so many ways, from the last time I was here, six months ago and actually inside the church one year ago. So many blessings, so much to be thankful for.

We were given snacks while I spoke again to the assembled villagers about how fortunate we were to be there to see the great sense of community and support to be found in Phan Khar Gone – some of this was missing for us now in the UK and many other developing countries. We were given the opportunity then to walk around the village seeing the chilli grove and the animals roaming free. As we walking a dog came up and playfully grabbed the hand of one of our escorts. What’s his name? I asked. Jaggy, he replied, smiling – how lovely that in that very rural place, a dog is as valued as a companion and friend as mine is in the UK.

We returned to the central meeting place to a sumptuous lunch, served by women of the parish. Delicious and lots of veggie options for the three of us who prefer not to eat meat. When we finished, Albert took the group for a visit to the Buddhist monastery and then on a forest walk while Anne and I met with Mary Joseph and another of the ECCD managers talked about how well the project was going and gave me some action points to take to KMSS. By the time we had finished, we had had a call to tell us to meet at the new dock – very smart – and five minutes later we were on the boats home. What a wonderful and magical place Phan Khar Gone is!

Our return to Pathein, thank you Aung Tho our driver, brought us Danusia freshly delivered from Yangon. We went out to explore a little before coming back to rest and then dinner at Top Star. Blessed day.