Mak held up a cassava-like root and showed it to her guests. The humble-looking root is a symbol of the hardship and burdens that Mak carries. The guests were visitors from overseas, led by local OM Mercy Teams International (MTI), the integral missions branch of OM in South East Asia.
OM MTI has been running a school in Mak’s village, located in a remote area at the Thailand-Myanmar border, for more than 10 years. She is from the Mon tribe, a minority group that has been oppressed and internally displaced for generations.
"I search for these roots every day in the jungle and sell them in the market. It is difficult to find them," says Mak. Two rambunctious girls, clad in dirty and worn clothes, ran around the home. It was a simple brick home with only a few pieces of furniture. The young girls, Win Win and Dan Dan, are only a few years apart but share an auntie-niece relationship. Win Win is Mak’s daughter and Dan Dan, her granddaughter.
She is their only guardian, as her husband is no longer with her, and Dan Dan’s parents are working in a plantation in Thailand. "Please pray that I can provide for our food," says Mak when the visitors offered to pray for her. Even though Dan Dan’s parents are supposedly working, they have not been able to send money back and are suspected to be victims of trafficking, common in the region racked by poverty.
Her financial situation was worsened when she sold her farm land that she used to own to build the house. Her only relief is that the girls are studying in OM MTI's School of Mercy, within walking distance to their home. When the girls are in school, she is able to go out to look for the roots to sell. The school is a haven for the girls for at least half of the day, where they can learn and be mentored in a safe environment.
Without proper parental and school supervision and protection, children like Win Win and Dan Dan are vulnerable to trafficking and other societal problems such as unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, as they grow up. In addition, their physical development will be impaired with the nutritional deprivation caused by poverty.
The School of Mercy aims to provide these children with a strong educational and spiritual foundation in their growing years. However, the school's staff recognise that they cannot solve all of the community's problems. With the support of child sponsors and overseas supporters, the school has been able to help these children. Moving ahead, the team is identifying ways to further improve the holistic well-being of the children and even their families, so that the love of Christ can transform their community.