News of escalating tensions between hostile local armies in Tung’s village spread like wildfire through her community. She and her family hastily packed a few belongings and made their way towards a house in a rubber plantation. The house belongs to their relative and was a safe place for the family to hide from the fighting that had threatened to erupt.
Tung, a demure and quiet 12-year-old girl with a sweet smile, belongs to an internally displaced people group living along the Thailand-Myanmar border. For decades, her people group has been living in politically sensitive territories, with threats of unrest as a constant background in their daily lives.
This time, the news proved to be untrue and no fighting ensued, much to the relief of the villagers. “We were happy to find out that we were able to go back to the village,” recalled Tung. “That meant that we could go back to school and our home!”
Tung is in the grade three class at the School of Mercy, operated by the Mercy Teams International (MTI) for more than a decade in her village at the Thailand-Myanmar Border. Her younger sister and brother are also students at the school.
Her mother passed away some five years ago, leaving behind her father and six children. At that time, the youngest child in the family was only 1 year old. When the tragedy happened, MTI assisted the family by providing milk powder for the infant.
The family’s hardships were compounded by Tung’s father’s drinking problem and his not working regularly. Recently, however, he has found work as a tapioca plantation worker, along with two of his sons.
Tung continued, “I was disappointed when I realised that my family was not going to return to our home in the village. We had to stay in the plantation home. I was also worried that I could not go back to school because I am now staying far from the school.”
Her family had lived in a small bamboo hut in the village, built on an empty plot of land beside their maternal relatives’ home. They could stay there without paying rent. Their relatives were angry at Tung’s father for not working well and did not allow them to return after the unrest quelled.
Situations like this are common for low-income families, and the stress of not owning land can cause many uncertainties. Tung’s fears about school were unfounded, though, because her uncle and elder brother offered to send the three young children to school, with some other schoolmates.
“I am so thankful that I can continue to come to school. I like school, because here, I can learn English and know more about God. I now know that Jesus gives us the gift of salvation. Here, I can also learn to read the Bible. I am currently reading the book of Job,” Tung shared.
Tung continues to excel in her studies at the School of Mercy and is one of the best students in her class. She completes her homework diligently and pays attention in class.
“I really miss my old home and friends in the village. I miss playing with them after school and wish that I could move back there again,” she shared. “However, I am glad that I can continue to attend school, and one day, I hope to be a teacher when I grow up!”