For 8 days from last October 13th, Miral Welfare Foundation visited Phitsanulok Chiang Mai workplace in Thailand. Following the visit to the place of business in Phitsanulok, this introduces the workplace in Chiang Mai.
A visit to the workplace in Thailand ②
Mae La Noi people who are thankful for small things.
Writer⋅Photographer Eaststone Park of International Cooperation Team
The major business region of the workplace is in the Mae La Noi region which is located in Mae Hong Son, west of Chinang Mai. This area is commonly referred to as Chiang Mai for convenience sake. Mae Hong Son is located in the westernmost area of the north Thailand, and thus close to the Myanmar border.
A large portion of the area is made up of mountainous geography and over 63% of the population consists of mountain tribes (Hmong, Yao. Kyaren, Shan etc.). Miral Welfare Foundation currently sponsors 177 children of the Kyarn tribe which is one of the major tribes in the area, so that these children may grow both physically and emotionally.
A four-hour drive along winding mountain roads from Chian Mai city will take you to Mae La Noi city surrounded by mountains. Mae La Noi city is the second largest city in the Mae Hong Son province. The city is not well known among foreign tourists but among the natives, it is considered to be one of the must-see tourist site because of the various natural beauties (stalactites cave, wild flower colony etc.). However, due to the face that most of the residents in this region are people of various tribes from adjacent countries (Myanmar, Laos etc.), it’s economy level is one of the lowest in Thailand. Basic infrastructure such as water and sewage, electric installation is nonexistent, and it is impossible for these people to receive any education or health care benefits. Currently, Miral Welfare Foundation selects children from eight of the most underprivileged villages to conduct our programs.
This time, the foundation visited 4 regions; Messu, Namme sampaeng, Mont Mela, omret among the chosen villages to supply necessities (shoes, school supplies) and snacks. It took 40 minutes by car from Mae La Noi city to the first visiting location, Messu village. Reaching this area was easy due to the paved roads which connects Mae La Moi and Messu. The foundation helps children’s growth by supplying various items as well as conducting art, music and physical education programs to 20 children in Messu elementary school. Our visit to this village coincided with their break, so many of the students had gone home.
Our travel to Melamong, on the other hand, was rough and difficult. We made our visit during the rainy season and periodic rain resulted in horrible road conditions. There was successive uphill and downhill road with slopes over 40 degrees and mud pits which resembled swamps were everywhere, causing the car to get stuck. Eventually, we had to get out of the car multiple times to dig the mud away with pickaxes which we had prepared for these situations, and push the car out of the mud. These obstacles delayed our travel and it took us 3 hours to reach Melamong which was twice the time we had initially anticipated.
When we arrived at the village entrance, we could see small groups of villagers and children gathered around the community hall. Perhaps they heard our vehicle as we approached the village. This time the supplies included shoes, school supplies and snacks. The shoes were really popular among the children as most of them had never owned their own shoes. We felt great pleasure as we watched delighted children returning to their homes. The whole episode was very rewarding.
It was way past late afternoon once all the supplies had been distributed in Melamong, and we were very short on time to return to the city. We has no choice but to rush through the meal that the village kindly prepared for us before quickly making our leave. We dropped by Nammesampang on the way back to distribute the rest of the supplies. By the time we returned to our housing in the city, it was already 10pm.
The next day morning, we moved diligently to the final destination, Omret. It takes 2 hours from Mae La Noi city to Omret by car. Like the day before, the trip was nowhere near easy. Fortunately, we did not run into any mud puddles this time. However the uphill and downhill roads with slopes that nearly reached 70 degrees and the sheer cliff beside the road was enough to keep us anxious during the entire trip. We finally arrived at Omret after two thrilling hours which was almost like being on a rollercoaster ride.
Omret is located at an altitude of 1,700m, surrounded by mountains and has beautiful scenery. However, the lives of the residents who live in this town is not so beautiful. During the dry season (November~April), people fetch water from streams at distances of 20km due to lack of water. This prevents proper agriculture which ultimately may lead to shortage of food. Even through these difficulties, the residents are full of bright smiles instead of worry. We conveyed our concerns to the chief of the village who was over 100 years old, but he only smiled and replied there was nothing to worry about because they can “always live according to whatever situation they may face”. Experiencing this, I was very ashamed of myself for complaining about even the most minor things. We shared shoes, school supplies for children and additionally prepared toothpaste, toothbrush and soap for residents who live in poor sanitation environments. Children and adults alike were delighted at gifts which were considered to be minor convenience products in Korea. Through these people, I was able to realize that true happiness came from appreciating the small values.
People who live in Mae La Noi Mountain think positively even under difficult situations, and keep their happiness. Thanks to the love that our sponsors are willing to show, they are able to live in a happy life and better environment. I am grateful for our sponsors and your warm actions and hope that you will continue to show interest and participate in supporting disadvantaged neighbors all around the globe.