Brigid Weir is currently in Burma and Thailand, visiting several projects supported by the Diocese of Meath. Ms Weir coordinates an initiative linking 10 primary schools in Meath, Westmeath and Offaly with 10 schools for Burmese migrant children.
In the course of her travels, Ms Weir met the Archbishop of Yangon and several members of the Bishops’ Conferences in Burma and Thailand. She has also visited the offices of Burma’s Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The high point of the visit has been the days spent with the children and teachers in the migrant schools. Many of these are temporary schools, with children as young as 7 and 8 struggling between attending school and working on the fishing boats. While at school, the children study languages as well as maths and science. It is hoped that their time spent in the migrant schools will equip them to enrol in mainstream education at some point in the future. However cost factors are the principal obstacles they face.
Support from the 10 schools in the Diocese of Meath help to provide school lunches, some pencils and books. The schools involved in the project are Scoil Mhuire Navan, Donacarney GNS, St Michael’s Trim, O’Growney NS Athboy, St Colmcille’s Gainstown, Kilbride NS, Durrow NS, Our Lady of Mercy GNS Kells, Rathwire NS and Enfield NS.
Speaking from Burma, Ms Weir explains that the local Catholic Church is doing great work in helping the children to have a better future. “I’ve met remarkable priests, religious sisters and lay people who are working really hard to give the children a chance in life. The families are sometimes forced to flee from desperate situations and they experience a lot of hardships. Although the Catholic Church is a small minority in Burma and Thailand, it contributes significantly to the well being of people’s lives.
Ms Weir is visiting Burma at a time of considerable change in the country. The recently elected government has been applauded by USA and Europe for its initial efforts towards reform and democracy. Violence and tensions are still a reality, however, in many parts of the country. In these conditions, children often suffer the greatest neglect.