Myanmar : Street children reunited with their families
“I don’t want to go back on the streets. I’d like to help my mother and support my family“, the 14-year old Thet Thet explains. She left her home two years ago when she was only 12 years old, and from then on lived on the streets of Myanmar. As a street child she had to collect plastic waste to be able to buy a little bit of food.
One day, Thet Thet was detained by the police and taken to the Htauk Khaing educational institution for street children. This is the way the Burmese government reacts to the issue of their street children: the police take children off the streets and bring them – unless family members or friends get in touch – to so-called educational institutions. For children who are involved in illegal activities on the streets or for those who are exploited, this seems to be a way out of their desperate situation. As a result, however, the children remain separated from their families. Terre des hommes supports the reunification of children with their families or their communities. From 2010 to mid-2015, we were able to reunite 470 children with their families.
Thet Thet (middle) with her mother, sister and little brother in front of their bamboo hut.
Thet Thet met Terre des hommes at this institution. With the help of talks and drawings, our experts were able to track down her family. Thet Thet was born and raised in a small bamboo hut under very poor conditions in Myanmar. Her father was an alcoholic. We met him often and tried to convince him to look after his children better. In addition, we supported the mother’s business. We try to find an optimal and individual solution for each child according to the circumstances. The primary goal is to prevent Thet Thet going back onto the streets.
His family long lost hope ever to see Thi Ha Aung again.
When Thi Ha Aung was eleven years old, he was sent to the Hegnet Aww San educational institution by the police and stayed there for three years. The boy lost his parents when he was six years old. His father died as a result of alcoholic poisoning; his mother was seriously ill. He was then sent to live with his aunt. However, when he was 8 years old, he ran away and lived on the streets of Myanmar for three years. “To survive I collected plastic, sometimes I had to beg”, the 15-year old explains. The time as a street kid was tough, as he was often hungry and exploited.
After many talks we were able to find his relatives. For six months we tried to develop a solution with all participants that respects the interests of Thi Ha Aung as well as possible. He wanted to go back to his family and is now living with his aunt and uncle. To make sure that Thi Ha Aung is really doing well after the family reunion, we further accompanied the family for a year. The support of Terre des hommes was manifold, tailor-made and successful. Psychosocial support, transport and food aid combined with the encouragement of life skills and positive upbringing have made it possible to stabilize the family’s situation.
Thi Ha Aung with his family. He dreams of having a car of his own when he is older.
Photo credit: © Tdh / Giuseppe Salerno