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Update on Chaa Nay Choo – Karenni Refugee Camp Fire

Friday, 30 August 2013

I just saw an update on Chaa Nay Choo from my friend at Christian Far East this morning.

Here is what she wrote:
Chaa Nay Choo is back in the Refugee camp 2. For so many months, we only saw him in bandages and hospital gowns. He looks very care-free and well taken care of. What a blessing that he is able to sit comfortably between his mother and father once again. We want to thank all of you who helped giving towards his hospital bills, but most of all we want to thank God for what He has done for Chaa Nay Choo. God is Faithful!
Chaa Nay Choo with parents
It may be from my perception of things, but I can’t help but think that there are a couple of super happy and proud parents in this photo!

I have only seen a couple of somewhat recent photos of the camp, but I talked with a Karenni friend when I was up north a few weeks ago and they said that the camp was completely rebuilt. I imagine there may still be many details that will take time to iron out for the entirety of the camp to be back to how things were before, but it sounds like things have pretty much been brought back to a reasonable living condition (for a refugee camp in the middle of the mountains…).

For some background on the refugee camp fire and Chaa Nay Choo in my previous posts, click to read posts from the following dates:
25 March 2013
26 March 2013
12 April 2013

Praise God for his loving mercy!  And thank you all for your prayers and financial support of this camp and these people!

Update 2 on Thoe Reh

Monday, 26 August 2013

For the previous posts on Thoe Reh, please see here, for the first post and here, for the first update.

When I was at the Karenni Bible School I was able to talk with Thoe Reh about his health and experience through his ordeal. We tried to get permission to do a video so he could say thank you directly to the people supporting him, but were unsuccessful. The video will hopefully someday be allowed to be made and be shared. The school’s new policy is their attempt at protecting its students and their community from what appears to have been perhaps some zealous foreign Christian ministries and individuals who didn’t understand how much they were offending the cultural sensibilities and solidarity of the community by some of their actions. Thus the temporary (hopefully…) pause in being able to get more things like this video done. I had a number of ideas that I was really hoping to do on this last trip that will just have to wait for another time.

Thoe Reh is doing very well. He is extremely grateful to all who supported him in prayer and finance. He is still not fully recovered as his body still needs time to heal from the surgery. But he is able to continue his studies. He is now staying in a different building on campus so that he can get enough rest, not needing to wake up so early along with the rest of the students. And he cannot do a number of the physical activities like the daily gardening or occasional wood or bamboo foraging in the jungle. And of course sports are out of the question. He is looking forward to having more strength and energy.

He will be graduating from the school in March of next year. He has a desire to study further, but of course this would require total support since he has pretty much nothing. He has strong, natural leadership and I think his English is among the best of the bunch. I believe he would do well if God does indeed provide a way for him to move onward to study further. I believe he will prove a great asset to the Karenni church.

I was very surprised by the new school policy and without thinking, I more or less shelved my camera. So, while I did get a number of videos and some pics before that, I never got a pic of Thoe Reh! 😦  Well, take my word for it, he looks great! And it is always refreshing talking with him, as it is in different ways with all of the students there!

Linked here and here are a couple of videos in which you can see Thoe Reh along with a bunch of the other students singing on a Sunday morning at church. One of these days I might even understand these songs! 😀  Thoe Reh is the one with the white t-shirt that has a round graphic on it. I believe it’s a globe with children linking hands around its circumference. Enjoy listening! 🙂

Update on Phe Bu Htoo

Saturday, 3 August 2013

I have been wanting to write a more comprehensive update than I am able to at the moment. But since I haven’t been able to get in touch with Phe Bu Htoo to get more of the details that I was hoping for, I’ll just post what I have. If you aren’t familiar with this story, please see this post – Karenni Friend in Need.

Thanks so much for the response of some of you. We will be able to send a bit to help Phe Bu Htoo with the rebuilding of his family’s home.  In the whole scheme of things, it isn’t much, but it will be an encouragement and I am sure it will be stretched to its utmost effectiveness. As he still doesn’t have nearly enough to finish building their home, by all means, if you feel the urge, any help you may like to provide would be gratefully accepted. Phe Bu Htoo also relayed his thanks and blessings for anybody’s prayers and financial assistance.

Some people responded asking for what the total amount would be for the remaining rebuilding of Phe Bu Htoo’s family home. The best estimate that Phe Bu Htoo could give me was somewhere around $8,500. He said that the carpenters keep adjusting the price every time he talks with them. I imagine materials aren’t getting any cheaper as the months go by. I haven’t heard yet how much others have been able to raise for him yet, but I believe he will still be needing at least $7,500.

Regarding his father’s health – Although Phe Bu Htoo did tell me that his father is doing better, the doctors are recommending some kind of surgery on his back, which was new information for me. He said his father’s back was “fragment”. I was hoping to get more information on this, but that was about the extent of our last communication. Phe Bu Htoo lives in an area that does not have any kind of internet access and I’m not sure how often he travels to the capital city (Loikaw) of Karenni to get to the internet. I will update with more details as I am able.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Contact as below for any questions and/or on how to send funds to me. Funds can be sent via my home church or directly to me.
– Leave a message with your contact information at the end of this blog post
– Leave a voice message for me at 1-925-322-4457 (be sure to leave your number)
– Call me direct or text me at 66-87-906-1755 (my phone’s ringer and vibration mode is broken, but I’ll do my best to have my earplugs on when practical) I can’t text back, but I can call you if you leave your number. Please remember the time difference to Thailand if calling. But I’m open for text messages 24 hours a day! :)
I can call the U.S.A. and Canada for free. If you are from elsewhere, we can probably connect better as follows:
– Skype – My ID is HelloFromDale
A bit slower contact, but still fine:
– Email me at sigmundson@yahoo.com (slower mainly because I don’t consistently use email as often as seems to be the norm these days. I sort of treat it like snail mail)

Karenni Friend in Need

Thursday, 25 July 2013

This is regarding a Karenni friend who I know from the Karenni Bible School.  His name is Phe Bu Htoo. He was teaching there when I got to know him and has since returned to work in his church back home inside Karenni. He is now a Pastor there. Just for the heck of it I’m linking to a clip of him playing a bit on the guitar.

Phe Bu Htoo a little over 3 years ago when we were at the Karenni Bible School

A little over 3 years ago at the Karenni Bible School

Phe Bu Htoo’s family home was accidentally burned down 7 months ago by orphans and extremely poor children his parents were caring for. This is a tragedy anywhere in the world, but Phe Bu Htoo lives in one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest countries in the entire world: the war ravaged land of Karenni, forcibly annexed by Burma in 1948. They began raising money for the house, and had made good progress but have since run out after simply getting to the foundation.

Since then, tragedy struck again. Phe Bu Htoo’s father is now in the hospital with malaria, the flu, and a gastric problem. Without immediate medical attention, he may not live much longer. My friend’s devastation is heartbreaking, more so because I know there is a way to help… and that’s why I’m appealing to you. Building a house and getting medical attention in Karenni State can be done for a fraction of what it would cost here. That being said, it is still not cheap. But with the people who may read this, combined with a couple of other friends who I know posted about this, we should be able to make a significant difference, if not maybe even find a person God has led to foot the entire bill! Maybe you know someone or an organization that may be interested. Feel free to pass this along to your heart’s content 🙂

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Click on photos to see full size images

It may seem trivial in comparison to the rest, but Phe Bu Htoo also lost all of his books. Anyone who knows any Pastor knows what a loss that would be! I know he would also really like to be able to acquire at least some of the books that were lost too.

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Click on photos to see full size images

Please pray for Phe Bu Htoo and his family. And also pray and consider if you may be able to help. Maybe you aren’t a person to foot the whole thing, but 5 bucks makes a difference, especially when a couple hundred people or more chip in the cost of a couple of Happy Meals or a couple of cups of coffee at Starbucks. No, I’m not joking. Small amounts make a difference. The main point is if you want to do it or not. No guilt trips here… I would just like to encourage people who may really want to help, but feel like they don’t have enough to make any difference. And of course prayer is a help also! I am not intending to say that financial help is the only possible kind of help to be given.
For my friends who don’t pray, obviously you can help too! And your thoughts, concerns and/or financial help are greatly appreciated!

I have a way of getting the funds to Phe Bu Htoo with no fees at all. All the way from America to his remote location. So, every penny will be directly delivered to Phe Bu Htoo. There is a narrow window of opportunity to get funds to him with no costs coming in the next week or so. I’m not sure when the next opportunity will arise, but if this one is missed we can get more to him at a not too distant date again. Barring a huge outpouring this will be an ongoing effort, so don’t worry if you want to contribute but can’t make it this week or even this coming month.

Please contact me if you have any questions or for information on how to send funds to me. It can be done via my home church or directly to me.
The best ways to reach me with any kind of speed would be:
– Leave a voice message for me at 1-925-322-4457 (be sure to leave your number)
– Call me direct or text me at 66-87-906-1755 (my phone’s ringer and vibration mode is broken, but I’ll do my best to have my earplugs on for the next few days…) I can’t text back, but I can call you if you leave your number. Please remember the time difference to Thailand if calling. But I’m open for text messages 24 hours a day! 🙂
I can call the U.S.A. and Canada for free. If you are from elsewhere, we can probably connect better as follows:
– Skype – My ID is HelloFromDale
A bit slower contact, but still fine:
– Email me at sigmundson@yahoo.com (slower mainly because I don’t consistently use email as often as seems to be the norm these days. I sort of treat it like snail mail)

With Phe Bu Htoo at the Karenni Bible School just over 3 years ago

With Phe Bu Htoo at the Karenni Bible School just over 3 years ago

Thanks to Tim Hedberg for additional information on this.

Mosquitoes, Dengue Fever, and Malaria

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

As I head up to northern Thailand, I wouldn’t mind prayers for safety.  Not only is it the rainy season with slippery roads, on top of already not so safe road conditions, with a long bus ride from Bangkok to Chiangmai (about 10 hours) and curvy mountain roads to traverse to Maehongson (another 6 hours). But just now I read about an outbreak of Dengue Fever going on in the country, primarily in the northern border region – guess where I’m going ;). Dying from Dengue Fever is not so likely, but I’d rather write posts about other things than having some kind of really nasty sickness!

Oh, and malaria is another nasty bug I’d rather not write an experience about. To this day many of my Karenni friends express surprise that I haven’t gotten malaria yet because the mosquitoes bite me about 20 times more often than they get bitten. I’ll never forget the time when I counted more than 150 mosquito bites on my body! From what I’ve read, Maehongson and the province bordering to the south compromise something like 75% of the malaria cases in the country. Oh, and just for an extra added bonus, malaria parasites in southeast Asia are the most drug-resistant in the world. Again, not a disease that many die from if treated reasonable soon, but I’d rather be able to continue studies in a less stressed state.

And, of course, there are a LOT of people who live their entire lives in those areas, don’t forget to pray for them and the Karenni while you’re at it!

The below are clippings from a Bangkok Post article I just read.
In the past week, 5,276 new dengue fever cases and six deaths have been recorded throughout the country, with the highest concentration of cases in the northern region.
Dengue, also called hemorrhagic fever is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito which thrives in places where stagnant water is present.
There have been 59,318 reported cases and 68 deaths so far this year.
For the whole of 2012, 74,250 people were infected with the disease nationwide with 79 deaths, according to the Department of Disease Control.

Weather in Thailand

Monday, 8 July 2013

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive post about the weather in Thailand at all.  But I just got a kick out of how the news media was making the little heat wave that the western region of America was having recently sound like some kind of earth shattering experience.  I guess I also once felt that way before I got more or less acclimated to the weather over here… but nonetheless, it cracked me up.

As they continually reported about TRIPLE digit temperatures!  I thought… well, that’s pretty much what it’s like every day here.  What’s the big deal?  And when one takes into account the Heat Index (felt temperature) rather than relatively meaningless temperatures, it’s much hotter here than even that!  I remember that recently when I checked the weather every day for a few weeks, the high of the Heat Index only dipped down to 105 a couple of times, while usually hanging around 107 and a few times up to 112 or more.

I just checked out the average temperatures for Maehongson province.  That is where the Karenni refugee camps are.  It is even hotter there than Bangkok, during the hottest month of the year, April.  The average high temperature for the month of April in Maehongson is 100.4.  Now remember that this is the average high temperature.  The Heat Index will be higher because it is humid over here.  Sometimes it can drive the felt temperature very significantly higher, even by more than 15 degrees.  Also remember that this is not the high, but only the average high.  I checked out Las Vegas temperatures during this recent “Heat Wave” and found that the Heat Index was actually lower than the temperature because it is so dry there.  I wish that were the case here!

I’ll be in Maehongson shortly and thankfully it is not the hottest time of the year.  But I will be there during their wettest time of the year, averaging 8.4 inches of rain in July and 9.9 inches in September.  By the way, where they are living the roads, foot paths, etc. are dirt, but not during this time of year when they pretty much stay mud.  Then when I get back to Bangkok to start studies again, I will arrive just in time for Bangkok’s wettest time period!  Bangkok averages 13.5 inches in September and 9.5 in October.  A little wet….  To put that into perspective for where many of my friends live back home, the city of Pleasant Hill, California averages about 19.6 inches of rain per YEAR!  And it floods a bit here and there sometimes with that miniscule amount of rain!  And the hottest time of the year there averages 87 degrees, which is only 1 or 2 degrees warmer than the room temperature of my room when I don’t turn on the air conditioning!  And of course, during the hottest months it gets a bit warmer.  And although it is cooler at night, the nights don’t cool off all that much like we are used to in the San Francisco Bay Area.  And it often doesn’t cool off enough to appreciate at all until very late at night.

It’s a little different over here….

Update on Thoe Reh

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Thank you for your prayers for my friend, Karenni refugee Bible school student, Thoe Reh. I’m sure Thoe Reh would also send his thanks. And, of course, thanks to God for answering our prayers as he is always faithful to do. Please continue praying for his continuing recovery from the surgery as well as for its complete success. He is a conscientious student and I am sure he will be anxious to not miss class time and fall behind. So please also pray that he will heal up in time to resume classes with the other students.

Thoe Reh was moved out of ICU today. Below is a picture of him from today (Thanks Wai Lin Aung for the photo).

For a little more of a timeline of how it went, I’ll copy the updates from our friend Mommypaw, at Christian Far East, who has been at his side. And one update from Christine, who was teaching English at the school for a full year (more?) and returned to the States recently.  I am copying a bit from Christine’s blog entry regarding Thoe Reh. She is really good at writing about the students, I recommend reading her blog to get another flavor of the life and people at the Karenni Bible School there in Nai Soi, Maehongson.

From Christine regarding Thoe Reh the night before the surgery:
They have now decided that surgery is the only option for him to survive and it is scheduled for 9:30 AM Thai time, or 10:30 PM EST tonight. The doctors have expressed the seriousness of his condition and have explained that he might not live through the dangerous procedure. As he went to sleep tonight he had a temperature of 104 degrees and was very weak as he’s lost a lot of weight in the last few weeks. Although the doctors have expressed the possibility of a bad outcome, they do not know our God and the power He has to guide the surgeon’s hands and to heal Thoe Reh completely.

The following comments from Mommypaw:
After the surgery:
Lost a lot of blood during surgery. Got blood transfusion. Was in critical condition after surgery. But his condition is stable now, still in ICU. He just woke up for about a minute, he had pain and needed to vomit. Has stronger painkillers and is sleeping again. I am allowed to sit beside his bed in ICU.

The evening after surgery:
I was about to take a break, it has been 9 hours now after Thoe Reh got his surgery. But he is in too much pain, groaning a lot.

And from early this morning:
After he got more painkillers last night, he had a good night sleep.
He was awake at 5.00 AM and we were able to communicate. He is still in ICU, but hopefully he can go back to his room later today. Thank you all for praying for Thoe Reh. Believing God for a quick and smooth recovery.

My friend (and Karenni linguist in training there in Chiangmai), Wai Lin Aung, updated this afternoon as follows:
He was moved from ICU to a patient room. By the grace of God, he’s getting better now. Keep praying for him. PTL!

By the way, being a refugee, Thoe Reh is completely dependent on the love of others to support him in the financial costs incurred for all of this, and of course for everything else in his life, such as food, clothing and his present studies at the Bible school. If anyone has any interest in helping him financially please let me know. I have a way of getting funds here from America with no transfer fees or any other cost. You can find my contact information in the sidebar of my blog.

Thoe Reh, 16 May 2013 giving a smile, but I have to imagine that he is still in a good amount of pain.

Thoe Reh, 16 May 2013, giving a smile, but I imagine he must still be in a good amount of pain.

Karenni Bible School Student Headed for Major Surgery

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

One of my friends at the Karenni Bible School at Nai Soi, Maehongson, just outside the refugee camp there, is headed for some major surgery on one of his lungs tomorrow morning.

Thoe Reh has had more than his fair share of health problems for quite a while now. I don’t remember how long ago he had TB, but I believe it was maybe something like a year ago. I remember talking with him about it last October. He was supposedly clear of it. Now after spending a couple of weeks in a local hospital and having pain killers and some kind of antibiotic given him, with apparently no worthwhile improvement, a member of Christian Far East (You can see the Christian Far East Facebook page here) brought him to a regional hospital in Chiangmai, a neighboring province. They determined that he needs immediate surgery in order to live more than another month or so. He is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning. They will be splitting his rib cage to operate on his lung, which is apparently full of TB.

The best picture that I have of Thoe Reh is nearly 3 years old, the most recent picture of him, from Christian Far East, is below that picture.

I Pray that God would heal his body and bring him on further towards being one of Karenni’s church leaders.

Please pray for Thoe Reh.

With some Bible school students in July, 2010.  Thoe Reh is on the far right.

With some Bible school students in July, 2010.  Thoe Reh is on the far right.

Thoe Reh in the Hospital

Thoe Reh in the Hospital

Karenni Refugee Camp Fire Relief Efforts

Friday, 12 April 2013

This post is in followup to my last 2 posts regarding the Karenni refugee camp fire.

There are many organizations and individuals from all walks of life from around the world who have expressed their concern and desire to help.  It is largely foreign NGOs that are allowed to assist directly, as well as some Karenni groups.  The Thai government keeps the camps sealed off from the public at large and nobody is allowed to visit without permission, which is not easily obtained.

It is interesting how the Thais seem to be treating this disaster.  Although the King sent an aid package to the camp, the Thais at large seem to be quite unaware of the tragedy. I have asked about a dozen people about it and none of them had heard anything about it. Maybe my sampling is poor… but when nearly 400 houses burn down and 39 people die, in a country as small as this you would think people would hear about it.  I have seen a few small articles about it in the English newspaper.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if most here didn’t know about it, and I believe it is telling of the attitude toward ethnic minorities prevalent at this time here.

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With aid package from the King, along the requisite photo of him.

This recent article was published (click here) giving some insight to a trip into the camp by the Free Burma Rangers.  They are a well known organization here and were able to get into the camp with relief supplies.

There is also an update on Chaa Nay Choo (click here), the 14 year old boy who repeatedly went back into the raging fire to rescue people, who is recovering from 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 50% of his body in a hospital in Chiangmai.  Thanks to generous donors, he has a better chance at surviving.  The hospital was only giving him the most very basic care until people stepped up for him and obtained the nutrition and medicine that he needed to make his survival more possible.  He is doing ok so far, but is on a long road to some kind of recovery.

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Photos from:
http://www.thebestfriend.org/
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/karenni

Karenni Refugee Camp Fire – Update and Donation Information

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

As with any emergency situation, communications are frequently less than desirable. This situation is no different. There have been many reports of possible causes, with the seemingly likely and common ones that were the first to be reported, such as a kitchen fire and then embers being blown to the rooftops by forest fires in the province, which at this time of year are everywhere, and now a mysterious helicopter that dropped some suspicious smoking/burning/sparking object onto the rooftops. The first reports were that this helicopter came by a few hours before the fire, then later it was reported that it came by only a few minutes before and now there are witnesses saying that they saw it drop something. Anyway… at this point there are all kinds of speculations flying about. The district police chief has been reassigned already. It looks like a hatchet job since he got to the scene quickly and apparently did what he could, but politics is politics. While I believe anything is possible, I don’t believe in fanning the flames of suspicion when there is no solid evidence (yet) and eyewitnesses have provided varying and morphing accounts. In trying to understand people in this kind of situation, who have escaped from a very hostile environment and now live in a less than welcoming one with Thais who would rather they not be here, I can understand how it can be very easy for their minds to quickly jump to conclusions that may not be warranted. While I won’t hold that against them because I can understand why they may think that way and also because I believe that there is always the possibility of some kind of amazing wrongful actions, I don’t think it is particularly wise or useful to join in the conjecture when there is no way at all of knowing what the facts are when so far removed from the situation. There is only a very small handful of people who can really have a good grasp of what is really going on. I wouldn’t expect for that information to be very obtainable for some time yet.

Khu Ooreh – Secretary of the Karenni Baptist Association

For any of my Karenni friends who may read this, I hope you can concentrate more on relief efforts and community building than creating more stress and tension by engaging in futile speculations. Instead of using time for that kind of conversation, how about conversing with God instead, and appealing to him for help in all these things.

For anyone who may feel the desire to help in a material way. My Karenni friends recommended this group (Link below) as the best place to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Their overhead is virtually nil and this is a trustworthy group. The workers here are Karenni, working from a bare bones office and environment and have all that much more incentive to help their fellow Karenni relatives as opposed to many of the NGOs that have good intentions and do many good things, but typically have a lot of organizational things that cost a lot more and aren’t as motivated as they would be if those people were their family. Also donations directly to the Karenni would be a great encouragement to them as well.

Click here for the emergency donation website of KnRC (Karenni Refugee Committee)

If you are in America. I have a way to get ALL of your donation from America to the Karenni with NO fees (e.g. Wire Transfer Fees, Moneygram Fees, etc.).  Please contact me directly if you would prefer to do that.

And of course, as mentioned above, prayer is valued. In my estimation it is more highly valued than material support. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want people to help materially. But I want people to get on their knees and understand that this work of prayer is more vital than perhaps many often realize.

And for any that would like to send a note to them, there is a space to send them a comment on the Emergency Donation Website

Bodies of the dead prior to the funeral and burial services

Photos from:
http://www.thebestfriend.org/

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