Burma Children Medical Fund


April 4, 2013

While in Thailand we were planning on visiting the Mae Tao Clinic,  a medical clinic serving displaced Burmese refugees in Western Thailand. Scheduling issues and needing to have a surgery of my own prevented us from making a trip to Mae Sot, where the clinic headquarters is located, but we did get to visit with some of the children of BCMF (Burma Children Medical Fund- an independent organization that facilitates treatment for seriously ill children in Chiang Mai, and is a partner of the Mae Tao Clinic) who had been sponsored to travel to a safehouse in Chiang Mai to attend the hospital there.

When we visited, there were 13 children living at the clinic, accompanied by a family member or BCMF caretaker, in the process of receiving or waiting on treatment of serious medical conditions ranging from needing a specific, single surgery to chronic issues such as liver failure or brain cancer. Any of these children’s illnesses would be considered catastrophic in the US, but a lack of funding requires all but the most serious issues to be treated in Mae Sot at Dr. Cynthia’s clinic. Children with conditions that cannot be remedied in the refugee clinic are transported to Chiang Mai for treatment, with permission of the Thai government of course.

Since these children are technically refugees, once admitted to the safe house in Chiang Mai, they are not allowed to leave the premises of the property except for hospital visits for the duration of their treatment. Some of the children had been living in the safehouse for months. While we didn’t have much to offer from a medical expertise, we provided the kids with a bit of comic relief to break up their day (we hope!). We had an amazing time playing with the children and babies, taking their photos and getting ourselves thanakha-ed!

The Burmese are a remarkable people; they have endured tragedies and hardships, both individually and collectively. They are incredibly tough people, taught not to complain and to always focus on and articulate the positive perspective. It was clear many of the children we were visiting had very hard lives, but there was not a complaint to be heard and only the smallest babies cried. However, despite their hardships, or maybe because of them, I have found the Burmese to be among the most generous, caring, friendly people I’ve ever encountered in my trips around the world.