EMPOWER ASIA Myanmar has four girls' homes, two of which are located in Myanmar's Shan State. This region has a population of 5.5 million people of which 99.9% are Buddhist. Shan people are staunchly Buddhist and fiercely independent.
The two Shan girls' homes care for 33 girls. They are located within the lawless region known as the Golden Triangle. This area is the world's second largest source of opium (and its refined product, heroin). It is also infamous for cross-border sex trafficking and is the world's number one producer of methamphetamine. The region has a recent history of civil wars and ethnic cleansing.
“Jenny” grew up in a military army camp Myanmar. She has two brothers and one sister. Jenny is the oldest child. Her father is a soldier earning a monthly salary of NZ$40. Because of their financial difficulties her parents decided that they could no longer afford to send Jenny to school. Then her father heard about our home and decided to try to meet with the house parents in the hope that she may be able to continue with her study. So in 2008 she came to live at our Shan girls’ home. At that time she was entering 9th grade.
When she completed her 10th grade national exams – held for students right around the country – we were shocked at her results. We estimate that she came in the top 30 in the country out of a pool of hundreds of thousands of students. At age 16 she gained entry to study at medical college. Unlike other poor children she was not able to receive a scholarship because she was a Christian. Instead, good friends of EMPOWER ASIA supported her for her six years of study. She has now just completed her 6th year of study for MBBS and having now completed her “class work” she is a house surgeon in a nearby local hospital. Of course she is very busy since she is working every day and some nights at the hospital.
Jenny says that she wants to open a private clinic for poor people. And if God is willing, she also wants to continue on with specialist medical studies.
In addition to our Shan girls' work we have homes in northwestern Myanmar and in Yangon city. In these homes we disciple around 40 teenage girls.
One of our other girls' houses (in Northwestern Myanmar) was established in 2009 to protect children (both boys and girls) from being press ganged into the army. Nowadays with the introduction of a more democratic national government these children are much less at-risk. But the poverty has not necessarily dissipated quite so quickly. We like to accept girls from the majority Barmar-Buddhist ethnic group. These are children who can often be from solo parent homes and where education for girls is not valued and poverty is common place.