In the fall of 2013 Laurie Dawson, went on a in depth tour of WCCW with a Corrections officer from Thailand ( Khun Natee) and pastor Megan Hackman and members of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor. During that tour we met the Recreation Director/Craft Room & Charity Program Supervisor, Lynne Newark, and Inmate Jeannette Murphy and they told us about the wonderful work done through the Sisters of Charity and other women in the prison who are dedicated to helping those in need.
Laurie and another inmate inside realized that the women at WCCW would be a tremendous gift of support and encouragement for those in need within the country of Burma ( Myanmar) and on the Thai -Burma border . Burma has faced over 65 years of civil war. Landmines, violence, poverty and displacement have devastated many communities. But the people of Burma have not given up. There are over 135 different ethnic groups in Burma, one of these groups are known as the Wa people or Lawa-Wa people and they live within the Wa State and Shan State of Burma that borders both China and Thailand.
The Sisters of Charity reached out to support those in need across the water in Thailand and Burma and decided to make hats and scarves to donate to those who have been displaced. The first donation was completed in March and Laurie Dawson decided to send the donated hats and scarves with her son David Dawson to Thailand in May 2014, so that he could personally deliver these wonderful gifts to former Wa soldiers and others who were victims of landmines in the conflict areas of Burma and who were receiving care and new limbs as a part of the Thai Christian Foundation’s 2014 Wa Prosthesis Project
The Thai Christian Foundation (TCF), based in Dallas, Texas was started in 1980 by Allan and Joan Eubank ( Laurie Dawson’s Parents) who have served over 50 years in ministry in Thailand. TCF has grown since 1980 to include mission work support for many different efforts in Thailand and Burma (Myanmar), including Lawa-Wa Ministries in Thailand and on the Thai Burma Border.
The focus of the Lawa-Wa Ministries is to share the good news of Christ with the people of Shan State, Burma (Myanmar). This is carried out through support of education, medical care, local churches and evangelism outreach, as well as this prosthesis project. In addition to changing the lives of the amputees, this prosthesis project opens many doors with leaders and officials.
The Wa Prosthesis Project originated in the late 1990’s as a joint effort between the Thai Christian Foundation (TCF), David Eubank with Christians Concerned for Burma (CCB), and the Queen Mother’s Foundation, a Thailand based Royal Project humanitarian effort. At that time, Thai Doctors working with the Royal Project fitted approximately 100 landmine victims from Burma with new legs.
Pastor John, is a Wa Christian pastor and one of the main directors for the Wa Christian Fellowship, together with Allan Eubank the Director of TCF and Tom Robinson, the Wa projects coordinator. In 2011, they received requests from inside Burma for another prosthesis project in order to provide help for individuals whose prosthetic legs had deteriorated since the first project.
In 2012, TCF and the newly established Pan Rak Foundation (PRF) in Thailand helped organize the second prosthesis project working with Thai doctors from the Queen Mother’s Foundation to help over 60 people including a young girl from Burma receive new prosthetics. This experience was powerfully uplifting for all involved.
The Pan Rak Foundation (PRF) in Thailand was established in 2012 to become the direct partner for TCF in order to help carry on the incredible work that Allan and Joan Eubank have inspired. Allan Eubank is now 84 and Joan Eubank is 82.
Allan Eubank and Laurie Dawson, his daughter, are the Co-Executive Directors for both the Thai Christian Foundation and the Pan Rak Foundation. The US based TCF board of directors and the Thailand Based PRF board of directors work closely together in support of all joint projects. PRF provides oversight and leadership in Thailand to help support the people and programs TCF helps.
The May 2014 Project:
Over the course of a week the Queen Mother’s Prostheses Foundation fabricated 184 legs for amputees from Wa state and Thailand. In total there were 119 patients 63 from Wa State, One from Karenni state, and 55 from Thailand. The Patients from Wa and Karenni state did not have legal citizenship papers from Myanmar/Burma but were allowed to cross the border because of the generous hearts of the Thai people. They stayed at the Seven Day Adventist Church near the Mae Lao hospital in the province of Chiang Mai. On the Basketball courts of the hospital the Prostheses Foundation set up their mobile factory to measure, fit, and build new legs for these people. I went over to document the project, support the transition of these patients, and my help family’s organization Pan Rak who was hosting the cross border patients.
“He say, I cannot talk about that” explained our Chinese translator for the fourth time that day in May. Impatient lines must have formed around my smile as Miss. Phonnatcha bowed her head in condolence. How could her interpretation get Le Goh Way and the other Wa soldiers to share. Every question in pursuit of how their limb was lost was met with a shorter response than the last. A camera and a notepad compelled me to interrogate these people so I could share their story with our supporters and my hand was sweaty on that half empty journal. With a sigh, I shook Goh’s hand to which he ambushed me with a hearty “thank you” and a bright eyed smile. Genuine unexpected joy can do wonders for a clouded mind. Almost instantly I could see that this warrior’s story was not about what a crippling loss he had suffered but about the blessing he had been given and how much more thankful he was I. It was all too easy to think of this Prosthesis Project as a one-sided hand out from those who have to those who have not. We may have given them legs to stand on but they gave us hearts to love them. Pity is not love and Goh helped me realize this.
On the day of our departure I was not only by the gleeful smile of Goh but all of his fellow comrades as they received the wonderful scarves and knitted hats from the Women at the correctional center in Washington. When I told Goh about the heroic efforts of these women in prison, he explained it to the rest of the men and though I did not think their smiles could get any bigger they visibly were warmer. Goh told me that they all were so excited about these gifts because in the coming months it would be very cold in Wa state. But he didn’t have to tell me they were thankful. These amputees wore those hats and scarves in 85 degree weather as they waited patiently for their turn to get a new leg. These men were ambushed by grace and so were we the Lord truly made it possible for these men to cross the border into Thailand and stay at unknown church for entire week, where my grandfather and others could share God’s good news. I did very little other than document that grace before our eyes. It humbled me to give away the hard work which those women in prison in America toiled to make. They were seemingly as far away from community as one can get yet they were able to touch the lives of these men in a way that I could not. It was love that compelled them to give not pity and God helped me realize this.
The Prostheses Foundation trained the staff at the Mae Lao hospital, which is very near to the Thai-Burma border. It is now a regional site for the Foundation. This means that patients can come across as they need, rather than waiting a year till another large project. We are so thankful for the incredible work of these skilled technicians and hope to work with them more in the future.
Attached is a Powerpoint of the May 2014 Project