Making progress in Mindat
WHEN Bright’s Gei Lin Thang made a new life for himself in Australia he began working to send money back to his mother and brother in Mindat in Chin State, Myanmar with one goal in mind.
That goal was, and still is, to improve the living conditions in his village and to educate the youngest generation to allow them to live more comfortably into the future.
Long before the Mindat Project was initiated last year, Gei Lin had been putting his own money into projects in the village and now with the help of the Alpine Shire community more progress is being made.
Last year an online crowd funding campaign raised more than $20,000 which went towards installing a water tank and a 10-kilometre long pipeline to provide fresh water to Mindat and surrounding villages.
That’s just one of several projects that has been completed in the past 12-18 months and Rhett Chalwell along with Travis McGregor, friends who are now working closely with Gei Lin, recently travelled back to Mindat for the second time where they got a firsthand look at the progress.
“When we arrived back at the village for the first time Gei Lin’s mum walked up to Travis and gave him a big hug,” Mr Chalwell said.
“The appreciation for not only what we’ve done but this whole town (Bright) has done to support these guys is amazing really.”
Along with paying for the pipeline the money raised from crowd funding and ongoing donations have helped make further improvements to the school.
Gei Lin has also payed for the excavation of a sports oval on the side of a hill below the sight where he and the two others helped built a fence during their recent visit.
Gei Lin now has his sights set on further ventures with villages clearing land to prepare for crops to be planted.
Yams have been chosen as a food to farm which were once a staple for Burmese people before they were introduced to rice.
The vegetable is now hugely popular in China.
“The big thing is we’re getting the locals to clear the land and plant crops so they can have make an income,” Mr Chalwell said.
“It’s going to take a few years to fully establish but it’s a longterm investment.
“We’re buying the yams now and planting out maybe a bit under half the area and then in three years’ time there’ll be enough seeds to plant the whole lot.
“Traditionally people in Min- dat have worked for food or just farmed their own crops but we’re giving them the chance to be paid a wage if they want to.
“It will be $5.50 a day which doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s above the award wage in the country.”
Mr Chalwell said people from other villages are taking notice of what’s happening in Mindat.
At the school young children are also being taught three languages, Burmese, English and the native dialect Cho, which Gei Lin and many his age don’t know how to read or write.
“Gei Lin’s big vision is to educate the kids, not so much our generation but the next generation so that when they are our age they won’t need us to help them anymore,” Mr Chalwell said.
Mr Chalwell said the Mindat Project will soon be registered as not-for-profit organisation.
They’re also hoping to spread more word about the work they are doing and have planned in Mindat.
The group is looking for ongoing support from local businesses and community organisations some of which they have already attracted here and in other parts of the state.
They’re also hoping locals will donate basic medications like pain killers which will help stock the hospital in Mindat.
People can continue to donate to the Mindat Project by visiting the Bendigo Bank in Bright.
“One-hundred per cent of the proceeds that have been raised so far have gone go straight over to Mindat, we don’t have any administrative costs,” Mr Chalwell said.
CLEAN: Travis McGregor, Rhett Chalwell and Gei Lin Thang fill up a pot of water from the tank and pipeline which local funds helped deliver to villages in Mindat in Chin State, Myanmar.