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Burma: Winter Term '11
15 students and Director of Service-Learning Brian MacHarg ventured to Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Thailand for Winter Term 2011 where they engaged in community service work with various NGOs. The group spent two days in Bangkok where they met with Ending Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) and also received a briefing from a US Embassy official. They were also able to see some of the cultural sights of the city such as Wat Pho, Chinatown and Khao San Road.
The group left Bangkok for two weeks in Burma. Travelling first to the Irrawaddy Delta region by boat, the group witnessed the resilience and longsuffering of the people still recovering from the devastating effects of 2008's Cyclone Nargis. The Delta is beautiful and the people of the region are some of the most gentle and kind in the world. The group engaged with an organization dedicated to conservation and also the planting of mangroves which offer natural protection against cyclones as well as help with water issues. The group then ventured to the Mt. Popa region in central Burma where the group helped with various agricultural projects.
While travelling and serving, Eckerd students had the chance to witness the lives of ordinary Burmese people and see the majestic sights of an amazing country. The people of Burma struggle under an oppressive military dictatorship and a general feeling of suspicion and secrecy. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, recently released from house arrest stands as an important symbol for the possibility of democracy in the once-prosperous country. After days of serving and visiting with Burmese people, Eckerd students gathered many nights to discuss the events of the day, the value of service and the possibilities for Myanmar.
The group had the opportunity to end the trip with three days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where they worked for New Future for Children, an organization seeking to provide healthy opportunities for orphaned youth. The group painted a wall at the NGO's courtyard and had the chance to meet with the director and staff of the agency.
About the Course
Professor Brian MacHarg
Travel to beautiful and exotic Myanmar (Burma) where issues of justice, freedom and international community service will be explored. Meet with various Non- Governmental Organizations (NGO's) working on social problems that are particularly acute in Southeast Asia – poverty, refugees and human trafficking. Volunteer with various private and public schools in Burma and learn about life in this military regime while doing so. There will be time to explore Bangkok, Thailand, a major city in Southeast Asia, as well as to visit important cultural sites in Burma, such as Rangoon, Bagan, and the Inle lake region. Evaluation will be based on participation at site visit to NGO's as well as written reflective projects.
Joe Michaeloski created this video documenting the Service and Freedom in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Cambodia 2011 Winter Term course.