Dave finds a call­ing help­ing Burmese

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By BRITTANY MANN

Vol­un­teer­ing in South­east Asia is com­mon­place for many New Zealan­ders, but not for those on the cusp of re­tire­ment.

Dave Young, 63, has been teach­ing English to Burmese refugees in Thai­land since March and the Tawa man has no im­me­di­ate plans to move back per­ma­nently.

The for­mer Ki­wiBank em­ployee has re­turned to New Zealand to re­solve visa is­sues.

He first vis­ited Myan­mar on hol­i­day last July and was struck by the Burmese’ re­silience to po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion un­der the mil­i­tary regime.

Hav­ing hol­i­dayed reg­u­larly in the re­gion, Young de­cided he would like to live there on a more per­ma­nent ba­sis.

It is Young’s first foray into over­seas vol­un­teer­ing. He is about twice the age of the next old­est for­eign teacher at his school.

He said his ex­tra years gave him an ad­van­tage.

‘‘The time is right. I’m not say­ing I should have been do­ing this when I was 25,’’ he said.

‘‘People with life ex­pe­ri­ence have got a lot to of­fer com­pared to a 20-year-old.’’

He un­der­took an Englishteach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion in Chi­ang-Mai, Thai­land, in Fe­bru­ary, and be­gan teach­ing at Thoo Mweh Khee school in the town of Phrop Phra, about five kilo­me­tres from the Burmese bor­der.

His school’s pupils are pri­mar­ily refugees of the Karen eth­nic group, the third largest in Myan­mar.

He said about 200,000 Karen refugees lived along the bor­der on the Thai side. Some of his pupils, who are aged 14 years and older, have never vis­ited their home­land.

He teaches from 9am till noon, af­ter which tem­per­a­tures of more than 30 de­grees Cel­sius be­come too much to bear.

From 5pm, he has one-on-one ses­sions with stu­dents, when he asks them about their back­ground and their hopes for the fu­ture.

‘‘If you’ve been in a refugee camp for a long time, at­ten­tion is some­thing you lack,’’ he said.

One stu­dent told him he wanted to be a sol­dier like his brother, af­ter he saw his mother shot in front of him and his vil­lage twice burnt to the ground.

But Young said it was not all doom and gloom.

‘‘It sounds hor­ri­ble – liv­ing in a refugee camp – but the sense of com­mu­nity is very strong.’’

Age no bar­rier: Dave Young, 63 ,has been teach­ing English to Burmese refugees in Thai­land since March.

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