Myanmar: An Overview
ACTS carried out its maiden mission to Myanmar with 33 participants visiting the homes of the Salesian sisters at Anisakan, Pyin Oo Lwin and Chanthagon in central Myanmar, from 22 to 29 November 2014. The purpose of the mission was to reach out to the poor and needy as well as support the Salesian sisters in their missionary work.
The sisters at the Anisakan home care for 49 girls, providing them with vocational training in sewing, knitting and embroidery so that they will be able to earn a living. They also run a kindergarten attended by 150 children at the Anisakan home. 58 secondary school girls reside in the Pyin Oo Lwin home, where the sisters provide assistance in their education. At the Chanthagon home, 20 girls at college level receive help from the sisters in their studies, which includes English, accounting and computer lessons. In all the homes, besides providing assistance in education and vocational training to these girls who come from poor families, the sisters also place emphasis on religious education and value formation.
The 33 participants were involved in various initiatives during the mission. There was a social enterprise team teaching the vocational girls how to sew table mats and hand bags for sale in Singapore. The team also taught baking of cakes and cookies so that the girls would learn a new skill. An education team conducted English lessons and taught skills in preparing for work such as resume writing, interview skills and grooming. The mission catechists conducted a one-day CGS (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) workshop for the sisters as well as daily catechesis with the girls. There was also fun and play for the girls and kindergarten children as the Activity team engaged them in games and activities.
A medical team conducted health education and provided health screening for the kindergarten children and girls from the homes while also treating villagers. Through the effort of the painting group, several walls in the Anisakan home have been given a fresh new look while the kindergarten in the Pyin Oo Lwin home has been transformed by the painting of a mural. Visits were made to the homes of poor villagers, to whom the participants distributed parcels containing food and essentials. Responding to an appeal by poor villagers in an isolated area without proper water supply, ACTS made a donation to them for the construction of a well. Spirituality during the mission was emphasized with the participants attending daily Mass and reflection sessions.
The mission ended with a farewell dinner, with laksa and bak kut teh prepared by the Singaporeans and local Myanmar dishes contributed by the sisters and girls. Dances and songs added to the joyous and happy exchange before that evening ended. The 33 participants were mainly Catholics from various parishes in Singapore while there were a few non-Catholics. They had a significant experience during the mission, arising from their interaction with the sisters, the girls, kindergarten children and villagers. To some, it was a milestone in their faith journey. It was a two way encounter for the girls, children, sisters and ACTS participants as they found encouragement, warmth and love in new friendships.