“We can’t change the whole cycle. We can start with one family, one child.” -Daniel Nyan
With a proud smile, Tin Tin Oo beams that she built this new house with her own two hands. It’s the first one she’s owned, and as she sits against it’s bamboo sides with a daughter on each side and her youngest son in her lap, she talks about her desire to be a strong mother and example to all five of her children.
Tin Tin Oo has only been a single mother for two years. Her husband left when she was 8 months pregnant with their fifth child, forcing her to provide for and feed six mouths on her own, while taking care of a newborn. Her father had left her mother in the same situation when Tin Tin Oo was in the womb, so, sadly, this story is not unfamiliar to her. At eight months pregnant, she was collecting trash with her eldest daughter who helps her support the family when they met Joy.
“Joy and the rest of the community engagement team are like brothers and sisters in this land where I have no other family.”
Joy certainly befriended Tin Tin Oo at a critical time. At eight months pregnant, with no husband or stable income, it had begun to seem reasonable to her to sell her coming baby, Naing Lin Htun.
Reasonable? How might that ever be a reasonable option?
To her, it seemed selfless— a giving up in hopes of giving better life to the child, and earning a few Baht to support the ones she already had. The risks surrounding selling her baby may not have been considered since it is not uncommon in her community. Tin Tin Oo learned about the dangers of family separation from Joy in the knick of time, and Compasio provided Tin Tin Oo with dry food in the months after her baby was born when she couldn’t work. Joy and her team encouraged her to recognize all the ways she was already a great parent, and capable of loving her children.
When she was able to find a more stable job washing dishes at a restaurant instead of collecting trash, Tin Tin Oo brought Naing Lin Htun with her to work. As he becomes more mobile, though, it is increasingly difficult to have him there. Many children are sent to orphanages around Naing Lin Tun’s age, as it feels impossible for parents to both take care of their developing child and earn an income. We believe it is important and possible for these children to remain in their families.
As Tin Tin Oo continues working hard to earn money, Naing Lin Htun is going become one of the first students at our new Early Childhood Development Center. This school will meet the needs of working mothers like Tin Tin Oo, along with other Compasio staff with children who are still too young to attend Thai school, creating a melting pot of Burmese, Thai, and English-speaking children that represents Maesot’s culture as a whole. Compasio staff member Nitika will act as a capacity builder and vision caster for local teachers who will encourage these young children in the height of their development stages to build critical thinking through play, while cultivating senses of attachment, love, and discipline.
Both critical thinking and playtime are abundantly necessary in Thai and Burmese culture, where it is taught that crying is not an option and “no’s” and head knocks create unbased fears. The vision for the school follows that of Compasio’s wider mission: to keep children in families.
Tin Tin Oo now believes she can be a strong mother. Holding Naing Lin Htun in her lap, she speaks with excitement about him beginning school in a place where she knows he will thrive. She wants to be seen as independent and repeats, “I will always try my best and work hard for my children.” It is abundantly clear that she is.