It took us quite a long time to find the right school for Brookfield to link with. We wanted it to be an urban school like us, and one that is essentially non-denominational. It also needed to have some access to the internet and an ability to communicate with us in English. This was not an easy task. Very few schools have English speakers or computers let alone internet access.
Luckily we found out about Sandarama through a small British charity called Burma Children’s Fund (BCF), who were able to introduce us to the school and one of its key supporters, the president of the Sandayama School committee, Moe Naing.
What is Sandarama School like?
Imagine a school on stilts, made out of bamboo, wood and straw with a sandy yard for a playground. This is Sandarama school! It is on the outskirts of Yangon in a very poor area. Most of the people living there are migrant factory workers and casual labourers. Many were displaced from Yangon in 1992 in a policy to clear land for development.
Recently the area where the school is based is seeing an increasing influx of people from elsewhere in the country, pushed by poverty and drawn by the hope of jobs in the factories which are starring to spring up again in the industrial zone now that most economic sanctions have been lifted.
There are children from many different ethnic backgrounds, and some orphans too. The school also houses a heath care clinic for the local community. They currently only have solar energy, they use rain water for drinking water, and have an underground pump for water for cleaning and washing.
Sandarama’s school philosophy is “Fun, Focus and Wisdom”. Their day starts with 10 minutes of meditation. In a country where education has in the past meant learning by rote, Sandarama have an enlightened approach encouraging students to be free, curious and expressive.
Who Benefits from the link?
Everyone! Both the Brookfield Community – children, teachers and parents and the Sandarama school Community will benefit from this link. It will involve:
- Cultural exchange and building of relationships
- Gaining self awareness through learning about a different place and school and what it is like to be a child there through assemblies and classroom talks.
- Making a real and tangible difference through fundraising – see how much we have already raised and the difference it has already made.
Renowned artist and former political prisoner, Htein Lin, visited the school and talked to some of the children about his experiences and the artwork he made while in prison (see photo above). The children asked amazing questions showing how engaged they were in this meeting.
Former British Ambassador to Burma, Vicky Bowman, also showed the children slides and talked about what it is like to be a child in Burma today.
Documentary film director Charlotte Wells spent a morning at Brookfield making a short film which she then delivered personally to Sandarama school. She then filmed the kids and teachers at Sandarama to make a short film to show the children at Brookfield.
You can help…
Sandarama school is working hard to provide better opportunities for their children. They know that getting more and better teachers and training their teachers well is paramount. They are also constantly improving and expanding their buildings to make them more secure and to provide better facilities.
Where does the money go?
So far we have raised over £4,000. Every penny of this money goes to Sandarama school. We have helped the school with teachers salaries and teacher training, and with ongoing costs to equip their classrooms and feed the children (every child is fed for free every day).
To give you an idea of the difference your fundraising makes:
- £36 pays for a teachers salary for a whole month
- £103 pays for desks and chairs for a whole classroom
- £1290 would pay for access to permanent water
- £1600 would pay for a library and IT lab
If you would like to donate some money to Sandarama, please contact the school office: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a cheque payable to Brookfield Primary School, with Sandarama written on the back, to Brookfield Primary School, Chester Road, London, N19 5DH.
If you would like more information, have ideas for link projects or would like to help with our school link in any way please get in touch with Yvette Mahon or Sarah Sutcliffe (parents) via the school office.