Cre­at­ing a Burmese con­nec­tion

Build­ing a re­la­tion­sh­hip with Gei Lin’s home vil­lage

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - By VANESSA BURGESS

A RE­CENT trip back home with two friends has en­abled Bright’s Gei Lin Thang Kinta to set his sights on build­ing con­nec­tions be­tween his two com­mu­ni­ties.

Af­ter flee­ing from Chin State, Burma (Myan­mar) in 2004, the Kinta fam­ily moved to Bright in 2008, with the hope of cre­at­ing a bet­ter life.

Gei Lin has of­ten re­turned home to visit the ex­tended fam­ily and friends he left be­hind.

Af­ter mak­ing the trip to Burma ear­lier this year, Gei Lin iden­ti­fied some pro­jects within his small vil­lage, and a larger vil­lage up the road, and came up with the idea to ask two of his good friends in Bright, Travis McGre­gor and Rhett Chal­well if they would like to visit his home­town.

Along with Andy Sparkes, who orig­i­nally helped Gei Lin and his fam­ily set­tle in Bright, the trio headed off to Burma last month.

Gei Lin said he hoped hav­ing his friends’ ex­pe­ri­ence his coun­try first­hand might help them to un­der­stand what life used to be like for the Kinta fam­ily.

“It was re­ally good to have Rhett and Travis come to Burma,” he said.

“I’ve been go­ing back al­most 10 years now with Andy and I just wanted some peo­ple from here to know the sit­u­a­tion in my vil­lage.

“I would love for more peo­ple from Bright and the Alpine Shire to go over.

“I can’t ex­plain how dif­fer­ent the con­di­tions we live in here are to over there, which is why I wanted some­one else to see it.”

Dur­ing his visit in March, Gei Lin and Andy be­gan or­gan­is­ing a sta­ble 4km wa­ter sup­ply line for his vil­lage.

“We pur­chased some PVC pipe from the city which was sent to Min­dat, and dur­ing the visit in July, Travis, who is a plumber, spent time with the vil­lagers show­ing them how to prop­erly con­nect the pipes,” Andy said.

“Show­ing them how to place mark­ers in where the joins are in case there’s a prob­lem was also another great thing.

“We have also be­gun con­struct­ing con­crete wa­ter tanks for wa­ter to be stored in.”

Dur­ing his visit Travis said he couldn’t be­lieve the con­di­tion of the vil­lages.

“I have seen poverty be­fore, hav­ing been to the Philip­pines and In­dia, but it sort of gets to another level where Gei Lin is from,” he said.

“There are no tourists and it’s al­most like you’re step­ping back in time a lit­tle bit – it’s not just about rich or poor, but a dif­fer­ent sce­nario al­to­gether.

“It’s not that they don’t have things, they don’t even know the things they don’t have ex­ist; but they were so gen­er­ous and wel­com­ing to­wards us, it was quite amaz­ing.”

Hav­ing never trav­elled over­seas be­fore, Rhett ex­pe­ri­enced a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world.

“It was a real cul­ture shock. I have known Gei Lin since he moved to Bright and know bits and pieces about his story and other fam­i­lies that live here,” he said.

“I was re­ally glad to meet the peo­ple that Gei Lin and his brother had been talk­ing about for so long.

“They are all so giv­ing, de­spite hav­ing noth­ing; they gave us ev­ery­thing they had like we were some spe­cial peo­ple.”

Af­ter work­ing on se­cur­ing a sta­ble wa­ter sup­ply for the vil­lage, Gei Lin is look­ing to con­nect his home town and the Alpine Shire by build­ing vil­las’ for peo­ple to go and stay in.

“It will give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to go to my vil­lage and see a place no one re­ally gets to see,” he said.

“They can help out in the vil­lage plant­ing crops or teach­ing the chil­dren or what­ever they might like to do.

“My brother has al­ready made the signs and we are go­ing call the vil­las’ names like Bright, Pore­punkah, Wandiligong and Har­ri­etville and we hope the school will be called Alpine Shire so we can cre­ate a real con­nec­tion be­tween our town and the vil­lage there.

“There are some re­ally im­por­tant things to fo­cus on in the vil­lage and ed­u­ca­tion is a big thing.

“We have been sup­port­ing 45 chil­dren for quite a while with pens, pen­cils and book and for a start they didn’t even have a black board or white board.

“The school was fall­ing down but luck­ily dur­ing some pre­vi­ous vis­its we were able to do enough re­pairs so the chil­dren could keep go­ing to school.”

Both Travis and Rhett are keen to go back to Burma and hope to get a lit­tle more hands on dur­ing fu­ture vis­its.

“I would like to go back and use the op­por­tu­nity to help out as best I can,”

PHOTO: Justin Jenvey

BUILD­ING RE­LA­TION­SHIPS: (from left) Rhett Chal­well, Gei Lin Thang Kinta, Andy Sparkes and Travis McGre­gor have re­turned from a re­cent trip to Gei Lin’s vil­lage in Chin State Burma. Both Travis and Rhett re­ceived a tra­di­tional Burmese sheath and Min­dat cloth from vil­lagers.

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