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Thailand June Trip June 5

Thailand Update - June 5, 2017

We spent today in Huey Wai, another Palaung village of refugees from the hills of nearby Myanmar. Unlike yesterday, this village is strongly Buddhist. UHDP has built a relationship with these people over 20 years - showing them techniques for agroforestry, backyard gardening, raising pigs and honeybees, and maximizing water usage, among many other things. In fact, today we saw the well and water system members of 2BC constructed in 2014.

UHDP's goal is never to enter a community with a "quick fix." Rather, it walks alongside communities - teaching and gradually empowering people to responsibly sustain improvements. UHDP's loyalty and positive influence were so evident today by the smiles of the women anticipating our arrival. As we walked into their wat (their temple is the only structure in their village large enough for such a gathering), they were bustling about - sweeping and setting up chairs.

Pi Maow and Wah, the two sweet ladies guiding our week here, had asked us to share information with the Huey Wai women on healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding, and introducing solid food to infants. Through a long conversation with them last night, we learned that many of these Palaung women work in fields covered in pesticides (that have been outlawed in the US for years), can not afford to take time off after birth, stop lactating early, have poor nutrition, and often significantly dilute formula or sweetened condensed milk to feed their babies. Due to cultural traditions, mothers often chew up food and then feed it to infants only a few months old. These practices have grown from situations usually beyond their control. Our hearts break for them.

Today we tried to focus on simple suggestions. Through Wah's translation, we:

- explained the 5 food groups
- gave examples of vegetables, fruits and proteins indigenous to this area and described exactly how they help our bodies
- explained why drinking more water helps moms produce milk longer
- demonstrated how to mash fruits, cooked vegetables, and eggs to feed to infants
- described how a mother's mouth and unclean hands can contaminate food

Wah then spoke about and demonstrated washing fruits and vegetables in water with salt or baking soda to strip away pesticides. She also promised to share seeds from the seed bank she manages (through an organization closely affiliated with UHDP) so the families here can try to grow more of the healthy foods we discussed.

There were around 30 women of all ages in the room (plus a handful of curious men in the back), and most of them showed interest and much appreciation. Much of this was completely new to them. They plan to share what they learned with other women in the village and even asked for another presentation like this sometime for the men!

Afterward we shared toy cars with the children who were there and painted many of the women's nails. This afternoon we spent time in conversation with Pi Maow, Wah, and one of the village women learning more about the Palaung people's unstable and grossly unjust situation. One of the women then walked us through the village, proudly showing some of UHDP's techniques they've implemented.

Interestingly, as we were about to leave, another group of college students working with an international aid organization arrived and begged us for strategies to help this village. We simply motioned toward Pi Maow and Wah and explained that our only suggestion is to link up with UHDP to learn from the years of experience it has invested in this area.

It was disappointing but not surprising that the group's vehicle caught up with ours on our way back to UHDP. We didn't want to judge their good intentions and have no idea if perhaps they will return to help in some way. But it reminded us that we too often forget that to seek justice is to take time to seek understanding. To love mercy is to show up again and again to share compassion. And to walk humbly with God is to look at others not with pity but with love.