Mandalay, Myanmar, 31 May 2017 -- Maung Zaw Oo knows what it means to be alone. To have no parents who care about one and live in a strange city. He grew seven bus-hours away from Mandalay in the Shan State. The parents have already separated very early.
Until he was nine years old, he lived with his brother and sister with his mother. The mother then took him to Mandalay, a city of more than one million of population, to a friend who led a tearoom. There he wiped the tables, took water, washed the dishes. When he returned to the village after a few weeks, his mother had disappeared. She had gone to China. Forever. He has never learned anything about this. The sister and brother were accommodated by an uncle. There was no room for him there. He had to go back to the tea-house family in Mandalay.
Survival as a street child in Myanmar
When Maung Zaw Oo lived with his mother's acquaintance at the time, he was not bad at all. He slept at home in the tearoom or at the landlady. It pleased him there, the people were nice to him. He did not attend a school. After a year, however, he left the family and joined other children living on the street. In the street, he had to fight for survival every day. It was a hard life and soon he regretted his step. Then he met someone who knew the Don Bosco youth center in Mandalay and arranged it there. The then eleven-year-old liked it very well and so he liked to stay.
At the next sound of the bell everyone goes into the dining room and uses the standing steaming pots. As every day, there are rice, beans and some vegetables with sauce. Three times a day, the boys receive a simple, full-fledged meal. When they were still living on the street, they hardly had anything to eat. Often they fed themselves from food waste from the garbage.
Its school consists of several four-storey concrete buildings painted in friendly turquoise. There are also traditional mud houses. 8000 children learn at school, which is run by Buddhist monks. But also many secular teachers teach here. Maung Zaw Oo is lucky because he is in a class with only 25 youngsters. In other classes up to 100 children are taught.
A very special day for Maung Zaw Oo
Today is a special day, because he can visit the teas, where he has worked and lived as a nine-year-old. The Don Bosco employees take him there. He is excited to see everyone. A bit timid and awkward, but with obvious joy they are all opposed. Maung Zaw Oo proudly tells that he lives with Don Bosco and what he has achieved. He would have liked to tell his mother - but no one knows where she is now. No one has more contact with her.
Happy in everyday life and in the community
For several years, Maung Zaw Oo has been living in Don Bosco Youth Center in Mandalay. Here he is no longer alone. With other former street children he lives in the establishment. A regular daily routine, learning and resting phases for meditation and praying characterize his everyday life. The sleeping place is tidied up every morning. All materials are stowed in green metal boxes, which are in the dormitory. The box contains all the possessions of Maung. He has no more. It is a humble life, what he leads, but he is happy! Happy to live in a community. Everything is perfectly organized and well structured. When a small bell rings, the boys, many of them are Buddhist faith, in empty sleeping-room.As always before the entrance of the room the sandals are pulled out and the boys sit in two rows in the Schneidersitz on the floor. On the signal of Maung Zaw Oo all begin to pray with his eyes closed, quiet, seriously sunken and still somewhat sleepy.
After the meal, Maung Zaw Oo packs food and cutlery, washing his dishes in the yard and putting them back in the dining room. From the green metal box in the dormitory, which contains his only personal belongings, he brings out his school uniform, a green wrap skirt (Longyi) and a white shirt. Carefully rub the face with the Thanaka paste. Finally, he places a striking swab with the paste on the nasal tip and settles his hair for the last time. In the meantime it is bright. As always, it will be hot again today.
School lessons for street children in Myanmar
Since Maung Zaw Oo is with Don Bosco, he goes back to school. Because he lacked the necessary papers, he could not attend a state school. He now goes to a Buddhist school near the Youth Center. In the beginning, it was not easy for him to take part in the lessons and to learn. In the meantime, he has done a lot of teaching material and is learning with joy. He has also found friends here. His favorite subject is English, his fourth language, Palaung, Shan and Burmese. He speaks it almost fluently. After school he would like to become a tourist guide.