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Ely parishioners volunteer in Myanmar

Three parishioners from St Etheldreda’s in Ely have joined others to travel to Pathein, Myanmar to volunteer with a local charity organisation by teaching English and supporting local organisations. 


Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS)  is one of the Caritas umbrella organisations based in the country formerly known as Burma, which dispenses foreign aid including money from our own CAFOD. 

Last year Mary Durkacz raised over £1600 through generous friends and parishioners to help with flood relief in the area before leading the group of ten on what was her third visit. 

In January, over two intensive teaching weeks, more than 40 students, aged from 16 to 64, came to classes predominantly from the local junior seminary and the aspirants’ house of the St Francis Xavier convent in Pathein. 

Several other Christian and Buddhist students also wanted to learn English from native speakers: the teachers were delighted to have this rich cultural and religious diversity within the classes.

What struck members of the group most was the warmth and friendliness of the students, their eagerness to learn, their kindness towards one another, their spirituality which made them unafraid to say grace in public or pray for a safe journey and very importantly the delicious food.  Tony Sigrist summed it up, saying: “It’s still an age of innocence where happiness is found in the simplest of existences.” 

Katie Betts added: “I was impressed and delighted with the friendliness and welcome we received in Myanmar. The students we taught were delightful – so dignified, respectful and hard working. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

Myanmar is still in the process of emerging from a long, brutal military regime which lasted from 1962 until 2011 and this saw the significant eroding of education, social and medical services throughout the country.  It was the general election of 2015 and the success of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party in both houses that truly opened up the country’s borders and allowed more political and social freedom.  However a significant military presence within the government remains.

Mary, Tony and Katie intend to return to Myanmar to teach for another two weeks in January 2018.  The trip is likely to cost around £750 in total.  If you are interested in joining them please contact Mary, mdurkacz@hotmail.co.uk for more information.  Teaching experience is not necessary but a sense of adventure and a sense of humour are vital!

Mary has organised two events to raise money for and awareness of the charity Ahtutu in Ely during September.

Thursday, September 7, at 7pm in St Etheldreda’s Church Rooms – a meal and presentation about the work of Ahtutu in Myanmar.  Tickets: £10

Saturday, September 30, at 7:30pm in Ely Tigers Rugby Club – a Family Ceilidh for Myanmar.  Tickets £15/£7.50 (to include fish and chip supper)

More details of both from Mary, at mdurkacz@hotmail.co.uk

Pictured above, from the left, Tony Sigrist, Katie Betts and Mary Durkacz and, top with students in Myanmar visiting a local museum.

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