We are a small charity with very low overheads.  The life-changing effects of a donation to S4SK can be enormous.  Please help if you can by donating here:

 Or you can set up a regular payment using our donation form, downloadable here.

Beginnings:

  S4SK began with two chance encounters in 2007 between Dr. John McConnell, who was at the time teaching conflict resolution with an NGO in Myanmar, and people begging in the street.  The first was with a young mother, begging with her baby on a Rangoon street:

 

  There, sitting in the street, was a young mother with her baby – Tan Tan and Nwe Nwe.  Coming closer it became apparent that Tan Tan was a victim of leprosy.  Her fingers and toes were all gone and her nose had started to tear.   Her baby rested ponderously in a corroded arm, cradled by the stumps of fingers.  There was a tragic juxtaposition of her love for her baby, and the fact that she had absolutely nothing to give the child.  

 

  She had never been to school.  Medical treatment, education, a house to call home were all things for other people in a different world.  Hers was this dusty patch of road, the shelter of a tree when it rained, and not much else.

 

  Over several weeks, John’s students helped Tan Tan and John to communicate.  John noticed that Tan Tan was often tired, and one day she was so drowsy that she nearly dropped Nwe Nwe.  John decided to try to help them find a place to stay:

 

  I bought a bamboo house for what one would spend on a garden shed here in the UK.  It was the first home she had ever had.  I have a photo of Tan Tan holding Nwe Nwe in her own house, her baby in her arms—looking so, so happy.  But there was to be no ‘ever after’.  After just three months Tan Tan died of a brain tumour.  She probably had had the condition for years, yet would not think to go to a doctor.

 

  It was the experience of trying to help this beautiful fragment of a family, before and after Tan Tan’s death, that brought me into contact with a class of people so poor as to be almost invisible—and led to the formation of S4SK, and later H4SS.

 

  The second encounter occurred on a day off between courses:

 

  One day, I was sitting in a cafe in the centre of Rangoon, writing notes for my next course.  There was a low wall between the seating area and the street, beyond which beggars would wait in hopes of receiving tips from customers as they left.  As I left, still thinking about the next course, a girl of about 13 tugged at my shirt sleeve in an attempt to sell me postcards.  I already had several packs of postcards from previous visits to the cafe and was somewhat irritated at having my train of thought disturbed.  I said: 'You should be in school'. 

 

  The girl, who like many younger beggars in Rangoon had picked up some English, replied: 'Oh, I would like to go to school, but I earn the money for the family, and my mum is sick.'

 

  I asked how much she earned in a morning, then said:

 

'OK, if I can find a class for you to attend, and if I leave that amount of money for your mum with the teacher, would you go to class each day?'

 

  We looked at each other for some mments, then she shouted, 'YES'.

We were both surprised.

 

  I managed to find a Chin Christian mission school which was willing to run the class.  I paid for the teaching time of the teacher, for the rent of the room and left money for the payments to families.  The condition was that the school should not try to convert the children to Christianity: rather we would respect their faiths. 

 

  The teacher kept a record of attendance and the first class started with the postcard girl and her sister, both Buddhist, and a Muslim girl.  The numbers soon rose to seven, then thirteen.

 

 While the state provides free schooling, there are some families who are so poor that their children have to work or beg to support the family income, and so are out of school.  It seemed that the most effective help I could give, to help such very poor people, was education. 

 

For more information of our NFE classes click here, and for more photos of that first class click here.

Tan Tan and Nwe Nwe as John found them begging on the street in 2007

The bamboo house

Tan Tan and Nwe Nwe in their new home

The girl with the postcards

Our first three students

An early class in session

The first class as it grew, with more out-of-school begging children joining

 

This year, H4SS is providing education to around 850 children through non-formal education (NFE) classes, scholarships and tutor groups.