Welcome To The Jungle

We had a Wellington-to-the-Burmese-jungle Messenger conversation with 28-year-old Kunu, to learn how our 1% donations to SpinningTop help bring education and opportunities to the children in her village. In a country with minimal government support towards education, Kunu can make a little go a very long way.

Talk about not letting the world get your down. Naw Hsa Thar Moo (a.k.a Kunu), was born into military-controlled Burma in 1990. When she was six years old, Kunu’s village in the Karen State was invaded by Burmese soldiers, who were in battle with KNU (Karen National Union) soldiers, of which her father was one. Terrified for their lives, Kunu’s family fled to Thailand along with hundreds of other Karen refugees. Kunu attended SpinningTop-supported TMK School for six years, but left after she got together with the man who would later become her husband. Kunu continued her study at a Umpiem refugee camp. In 2012, married and with a baby on the way, Kunu and her husband moved back to Burma.

A half-century of military rule has left the Burmese education system in shatters. Inspired by the schooling she had received in Thailand, Kunu set about building and running a school in a small village in her native Karen State. The school opened in 2013, with 24 registered students. Kunu hoped to give her students a vision for their future. “Most of them never had hopes and dreams in their lives before,” she says, “because they don’t have anyone to persuade them to go to school.”

Five years on, things are much improved in Kunu’s village. With help from our partner charity, SpinningTop, Kunu has been able to hire four other teachers to help her out at the school (a teacher’s monthly salary is around 2000 Baht, or NZ$90), as well as buying books, pencils and notepads for the students. The children are taught Karen, Burmese, English, Maths, Thai, History and Geography. “They are great students,” Kunu says, “They really are enjoying learning.”  

Although the school has a good number of students, the limited funding available in Burma means teaching cannot go beyond grade four (14 years old). Kunu is talking to SpinningTop about buying a piece of land in her village on which to build a second school room for teaching Grades 5 to 7. “If we do this, the children continue on with school and will be better prepared for the world,” Kunu says.

Kunu and SpinningTop have worked together on a number of sustainable income generation projects that help the school raise their own funds for teachers salaries. These include a pig raising project and a sewing project with local women from the village.

Despite the difficulties ahead and the constant health challenges the jungle throws at her (rabies and malaria, both in the past few months), Kunu assures us that things are going well. Her children – she has two now – are doing great and she and her husband are very happy.  “My dream is to share every knowledge that I have and to help people whose lives are locked,” Kunu says. I think it’s fair to say she’s made this dream come true as well as many, many others.

Words by Telford Mills and photography by Pat Shepherd.

SpinningTop gives balance to vulnerable children living in poverty, whose lives have been thrown off balance through war, oppression, natural disaster and other circumstances beyond their control. You can support these children on the regular by clicking that oversized blue button below. Thank you!