Day 8/9: Let’s go to the Mall!

For the past two days, we have done some intensive work on the six-year Activity Report project for KWAT. After reading the many documents (over 100) that the KWAT staff has given us, we have compiled a lot of the information into a report meant to inform donors of the major projects that KWAT has undertaken since 2006. While the interns attended a lecture series on different land and political policies, we reviewed the work we had done so far on our 30-page document to compile a list of gaps for Mai to fill. After assembling a lengthy list, we were able to see what we have learned. Some of our learnings include:

  1. KWAT runs a ridiculous amount of programs, from migrant worker discussions, to reproductive health trainings, to advocacy work about the war in Kachin State.
  2. KWAT is one of the few NGOs working in the area since the Burmese government will not allow outside NGOs to operate in the region.
  3. It seems like their major programs of focus are anti-trafficking and migrant workers, specifically with respect to education and vocational training. While integral, their health programs are not as much of a focus of the Chiang Mai office. This is because most of these programs can run themselves in Burma with their internal staff, so there is not as much organization and oversight by the office in Thailand.
  4. KWAT knows how to collect monitoring and evaluation data very well. From the sheer number of donors they have, KWAT has become very efficient at monitoring and evaluating their programs for efficiency, making our job much easier!
  5. Perhaps the most important, we have begun to get a feel for just how complex the conflict in Kachin and Northern Shan States is. For Mai to travel to Kachin State, she must fly, take a car, and cross multiple borders, a trip of 3 days. The lack of information about the conflict and the ability of the Burmese government to cover it up astonishes us.

After assembling all of our information yesterday, we decided to go on an adventure (just like our friend, Robin Sparkles), so we asked our driver to take us to the mall. We wanted to see what it was like to go into a Thai mall, so we headed in the general direction of the airport to visit one of the biggest malls in the area. We were slightly overwhelmed by the size of it: five floors, with a ground floor that had a huge food court. Harrison and I followed Nina,Kristina, and Neelima around as they looked through all of the shops, gawking at the clothes that would “fit around my pinky” according to Nina. We wandered up the floors of the mall until we reached the top floor, which was supposed to have all of the food, according to Harrison. Famished after a day hard at work, we struggled to find a restaurant we wanted to eat in, so we settled for a ramen place. After eating there, we decided that getting food in small restaurants in the city was definitely superior. We continued to wander through the differnet parts of the mall, and satisfied our craving for good old American ice cream. Continuing down the route of reminsicing about home, we settled down at the hostel to watch “Bend It Like Beckham” (although some of us went to sleep part of the way in…. like the party animals we are!).

The next morning, we met with Mai this morning to discuss the information we needed from her, as well as our new Memorandum of Understanding, a document setting out the project for which we will fundraise next year. We definitely got really excited after throwing around potential ideas for projects and discussing the coming year (watch out GlobeMed at Dartmouth, we’re gearing up for an awesome year!). After a productive morning of discussion, Harrison and Neelima began to implement the changes that we talked about with Mai while Kristina, Nina and I headed over to the intern house for an afternoon of English lessons.

Lessons from the afternoon:

  1. Some people passionately love Toy Story (read: one of the interns), while many others just don’t really see what’s so cool about talking toys.
  2. Toy Story uses some pretty complicated vocabulary (how do you explain rendezvous, “to infinity and beyond”, or poised to non-English speakers?).
  3. One of the interns apparently had the same childhood as Sid, the boy who blows up and invents new toys (we chuckled).

We decided to keep the day abbreviated, since the interns seemed pretty tired, and headed back to our hostel this afternoon. With such a dynamic process unfolding with the Activity Report, we are excited to continue working on it and start our next project, the health programs brochure. We will be designing a pamphlet summarizing KWAT’s health programs to disseminate among donors and local communities to raise awareness about the health problems in Kachin State as a result of the conflict.

As we’re sitting here listening to the rain and sweating slightly in the heat, we can’t help but be excited for the next few days and reflect on how much we have learned since arriving in Chiang Mai a little over a week ago.


Here’s to the next week and a half!