Living sponsorship: Sam Kat, the boy from Hsipaw

Sam Kat together with his wife and the baby in Hsipaw, where the young family now lives

This time we continue our series “Living Sponsorships” with a simultaneously shocking and encouraging self testimony. Sam Kat, as he officially calls himself today, comes from a bitterly poor background and is now a teacher in Hsipaw, a small town in Shan State on the banks of the Duthawadi. It is located on the Mandalay-Lashio railway line about 200 km northeast of Mandalay.
We’ll let Sam Kat have his say. In his autobiography he describes his path from child slave to the present day. Today he is a teacher in his hometown Hsipaw. What a tremendously important role sponsorships can play is strikingly expressed in this self testimony. One does not dare to imagine what fate would have befallen the boy if he had not had the opportunity to grow up in a monastery school and in the PDO. Another stroke of luck in his life was the sponsorship of GĂĽnter Hoffmann. Samkat himself, always full of initiative and the strict will to make something out of his life, found in this sponsorship the perfect combination of many educational institutions of the PDO (significantly initiated and supported by Förderverein Myanmar e.V. ) to use for his career. Here is his report:

About Sam Kat, Godchild of Guenter Hoffmann

Most of the villages in the Northern Shan State were destroyed and burned with by one of the biggest the civil war between Burmese Communist Party and the Myanmar Military Army. As soon as they formed a ceasefire agreement in 1989 everything had to be built. I am not going to write about the experience that my parents had. I will write about myself and how I am in this situation and I want to thanks to my god father Guenter for giving me the chance to write this article.

I was born in 1990, two years after the conflicts. When I was six years old, I was very sick. I seriously suffered from my illness nearly one year. As my parents believed in gods (Nats), I had to be sent to another family as a “god child”, but not to the hospital. Fortunately, I became better because I get treatment at the hospital which sent by new family. As soon as, I became better, they told me to work in their family for the rest of my life and I had to work as a slave. It may be very serious for you that I use a word slave. I, myself really didn’t know what slave mean at those time. However, most of the villagers said that I was a slave. At that time, I did not care what I felt and what they did to me. But after I had studied African History, it was comparable with how they treated me. The reason is that they had saved my life. They said to me often, “We dug you from the earth, so you are ours. You are not yours”. Therefore, I have to work as a farmer, a cowboy, a cooker, a cart driver, a cleaner and I had to do everything for them, I washed their clothes, I had to wake up very early in the cold season and had to service for them in my whole live. Sometimes, when I didn’t have anything to do or when I finished all the tasks I must do, I had to go and find a job from the other family because if I did not work or give them 100 kyats for a day, I would be beaten and I would have no food to eat. If I was in the city or town I might look like a beggar, plastic picker or rubber but there was no beggar, plastic picker or rubber in the village. However, they had trained me to steal crops from the other farm. Honesty, I have been being a thief in my life when I lived with them.

In July 1999, one of my cowboy friends came to visit me in the forest; I told him how the cow owner beat me. He was also working as a slave for the Chinese family. We shared our feelings. We cried a lot. I told him that I didn’t want to live and work for that family anymore. I wanted to escape from them. I wanted to go anywhere I could. We talked a lot about our suffering of being a slave. Finally, we decided to run away from the cow owners. We went to the town, which was 12 miles away from my village. In the town, I also had my relatives but I was afraid to go there because they would send me back to the cow owner. Therefore, I followed my friend and he led me to his relatives. Unfortunately, his relatives love him very much and I thought that they were going to drive me out. His relatives may be his uncle, called him to live with their family in the town. He was lucky because he had place to live, but I was nothing there. I thought that I was too young to work for them. Therefore, they did not call me to work for them. I was neglected. My friend was older than me. He was thirteen and I was nine years old. After three days I was driven out of the house. He destroyed my toy and he beat me on the head with a stick but I did not cry because I was used to being beaten by my cow owner. However, I was very sad and the tears dropped down my face. As I had never been to that town, I didn’t know where to go. But, I know that he had gotten a new owner. He would drive me out anyhow.

Finally, I went out of their family and I walked around the town. I wore short trouser and a very ugly shirt which I brought from the farm. I just went around the town the whole day; I was very hungry and thirsty. I was very shy to ask for water and food. I saw a novice who came from market. He was carrying pack of books and pens. I remembered one thing. Last three year ago, I had a cowboy friend who was currently a novice. I asked the novice who come from the market if he knew my friend. He said that he knew him, so I followed him to the monastery. I saw that my friend who previously a cowboy, was attending school. I told him that I wanted to be a student and attend school as he did. He gave me a book and a pen. From that time on, I became a student at the primary school. I lived in that monastery for five years; I study the Shan, Wa and Burmese languages at the same time. I was outstanding when I was in grade four; I got the third prize of 50 students from the school. When finished Grade four, as it was the last level of our school, I seriously wanted to continue my school anywhere I could.

Although the family and my community wanted me to work and help in the farm, I came to Mandalay in May 2004. I continued my schooling at the same time I studied English and vocational education. For example, I studied four technical skills: English, Carpentry, Computer and agriculture & forestry. One of those training had changed my life. Actually, I had never thought of attending high school; the standard tenth as the tuition fees was very high for me to continue. I just thought of finishing grade nine would lead me out of the school with the vocational education. However, one of those I had mentioned above had changed my life, the carpenter work shop. I met many teachers from carpentry training. Most of them were sent by the Fortherverien Myanmar from Germany. Teacher Marlene Weck or Ma Chit Su was my first English teacher. Teacher Christel Phillipi, Teacher Cornelia Franken, Teacher Jager Woole and Teacher Vera Obermann are some of my carpentry teacher who were sent by Foerderverein. Teacher Phillipi was the most systematically teacher. We were fed the snack by Phillipi every Friday. Among all the teacher spoke more about my future or myself to Cornelia. I guessted, she discussed about me with Thandar Win Shwe or may be with her organization, Foerdererverein. Thus, the reason I got to connect with my god parent, Mr Guenter Hoffmann and Miss Ingrid. I got the support from god parent from April 2009 to June 2017. I received my education fees, birthday presents, and New Year gifts from Guenter nearly every year. Guenter Hoffman had brought me up for over eight years long as I was not able to continue my school or about to leave school in the early of 2009. It was Guenter who recused me from being less educated, from being poor of education. Consequently, I finished high school in March 2010. I decided to study English at the university and graduated in 2015 which the support of Guenter. I worked as a volunteer in Phaung Daw Oo Office and clinic. In 2012, I joined PDO PCP ( Phaung Daw Oo Pre-college Program) than I become an English teacher in 2013. I worked as a volunteer in PDO from 2010 to 2016. In September 2016, I signed the contract to work with MEDG (Monastic Education Development Group) for one year. I had learnt a lot such as school management, administration and school policies. I had gotten wider education from my experience within one year. Fortunately, I married with my university classmate, Miss Laymyatphyu in February 2017. As soon as I resigned from MEDG in September 2017 I lived with my wife and her mom in Hsiphaw, a very interesting small town in Northern Shan State. Now, we have a daughter named Yex Kat Yoon who is 20 days old today when I write this article. I have gotten a peaceful family. I am happy with my wife and our daughter. I am currently working as a teacher in one of the private school in Hsiphaw.

I want to see and to learn more education process, theories. I have accepted that education is everything for life as the popular Burmese writer Saya Aung Thin said “Less Educated had brought Myanmar down as a slave country.” I know this quotation by my experience. There are still many children suffering as I was. They don’t even want to be or wish to be. I am a teacher. I have responsibility to perform in my role as a good citizen to bring them up as much as I can. I volunteer in Ye Haw Monastery in Hsiphaw. I try to find out some local organization in Hsiphaw or in my native town. I am sure I will never waste the supporting that I got from Guenter. Thanks to him again.

I have three name in my life. My really, legal name is Sam Kat. When my parent sent me to another house. To let me be their own son. They changed my name “Aik Yawn or San Yawn” but this name was not legal. Because they did not change it in my birth register record. When I become a novice at monastery they give me the new name ” Panticca”. When I change into man life after I finish high school. I use Sam Kat. In school register and my family record my name is Sam Kat. This is Myanmar name, Wa Name and English name.