Grinding poverty fractures families too, leaving children vulnerable. 11-year-old Thet’s story would be familiar to many. After his mother died of a heart attack, his father turned to drink before being hit by a train. Rejected by his aunts, he lived on the streets of Mandalay, collecting rubbish and sniffing glue.
He arrived at a ChildFund-supported street children’s centre in Sagaing a few days before my visit. Thet Tun Nuang says: “I’d like to stay here as long as I can if the monks let me. I would like to be a teacher so I can educate children.” He left school in grade three.
The centre, located in a beautiful, crumbling temple complex, is a warm and friendly environment. U Tayzadipati, a senior monk and patron of the centre, knows that the boy could disappear back on to the streets at any time. But for now he has the hope of stability and some education.
It`s a fascinating time to visit Myanmar. As the country throws off decades of oppression, you can sense both the promise of a new era and the magnitude of the challenges it faces.