Phar Eh's Internship at Studio Xang

Phar Eh at the Studio Xang Teacher exhibition in November 2010
My dreams (while I was in Mae La Oon)


While I was in Mae La Oon, I mainly studied for my basic education. I was a student, so I did try to study. My duty was just to pass the 10th standard exam (end of high school certificate). 

I not only tried to study my lessons but also helped the children who were learning art at my school with the Studio Xang program. My friend also encouraged me to learn art works regularly. I decided to study art subject because of the encouragement from my friends and teachers. 
Then I got the opportunity to do an internship with Studio Xang. As my parents wanted me to go back to my village in Karen State, Burma, after I finished high school to teach, this internship would help become more of a teacher.

Before I came to Chiang Mai, I had many thoughts such as “how would I go there?”, “what would I do?” , “what would I study?”, and “what would I get back from studying from art subject?”. I was confused with the issues such as “how would I deal with art teachers?”, “how would I understand Thai as I don’t speak it?” and “who would teach Thai to me?”.

 Any way, I hoped that I would be able to draw and mix the colors skillfully if I stayed in Chiang Mai for sometime.

I decided that I would teach all I had learnt in Chiang Mai to the children in Mae La Oon. 

Art Subjects and other classes I attended in Chiang Mai
I studied how to use computer and attended other classes in Chiang Mai. I got both knowledge and experience. I did many art works that I have never done before. I think that is one of the changes. The classes that I attended were very flexible. I didn’t know about the outside world when I was in Mae La Oon. I knew about another enviroment when I stayed in Chiang Mai. 

I had a chance to speak frankly in the classes. And I could not only express my opinion but also learn other’s ideas. I learnt many art works. Some of the art works were really hard for me to understand. Before I came to Chiangmai, I thought that drawing picture was the only type of art work.

I learnt there were many kinds of art works, while I doing my internship. With Pi Max and the volunteer teachers, I did many art works, and many of these I had never done before.   I was very pleased we made art works together. 

With volunteers at a field trip to the swimming pool
 As for me, these art works were very amazing. I didn’t understand some of the art works due to the language barrier. In my opinion, the art works that I learnt will be easily forgotten if  I don’t use or practice again. 
Sorting children work after teaching
We have a saying: "A knife can be rusted if isn’t used for long time". We cannot be successful if we don’t apply what we learnt. So we have to use our art works that we’ve learnt. I not only had the chance to get involved with the Power Kid project but also teach the children weekly in different areas. 
Beginning to research for Power Kid jewelry workshop
The wishes that are not fulfilled yet:
Phar Eh favorite things, a computer and a telephone
 Being able to use computer is quite important for my life. But I didn’t have a chance to study as much as I want. I didn’t understand some of the art works due to the language barrier.

Advantages of the internship
- Knowing many kinds of art works
- Understanding about environment
- Getting friends who are interested in arts
- Having self- confidence
- Learning  to teach children
Thanks to all teachers who taught me. I’ll purposefully use that I learnt. I hope I can learn more art works on the regular basis. 

Phar Eh went back to Mae La Oon refugee camp. Until now he had not been able to go back to his village because of the current fighting. He looked for a job but there are very little opportunities in the camp. He tried to apply for a position as a courier. Couriers climb up and down the mountain to bring messages for the resettlement offices. He call us recently and he is thinking about applying for resettlement to a third country.  The latest news is that he has gone back to his village to see his family for the first time in 3yrs. 

View from the river, Yaung Ni Oo School is also close to the river

 Mae La Oon refugee camp is closed to foreign visitors at present because fighting between the Karen army and the Burmese government army. The camp is closed because the fighting is so close that the authorities fear that shells might land into the camp from across the river. People living in the camp are very worried but nothing has been arranged for them. 

A recent article in the Irrawaddy magazine illustrates the dilemma of resettlement:

New Year celebrations on the Thai-Burma Border

Dear friends,

First all our apologies for not posting any news since before Christmas. Plenty has happen at Studio Xang Maesot and Sunrise School (Yaung Ni Oo school) in Mae La Oon refugee camp.

The first thing that happened in December was that Studio Xang in Maesot was burgled. Instead of bringing us things, Father Christmas got it all wrong and took all our equipment away.

The computers, printer and camera that we used for the Picture Pal project with Sundorne Art department. We have been doing some fund-raising since to try to replace it but it is slow.

This explains why you haven't seen anything new and our students in Maesot haven't been able to see all the great posts on the blog you have made. But we are printing everything out onto paper and sending it to Maesot in the meantime.

From November to April, there are many festivals over here.

Where we live is very multi cultural and each ethnic group celebrates New Year at a different date. This year, the old Northern Thai New year know as the Loi Kratong festival was on the full moon days of the 20th and 21st of November. This is a very famous festival in Thailand. People go to the rivers with floats made out of banan tree trunks and leaves, decorated with flowers and candles. The float or " Kratong" is released on the river.

This gesture is a way of thanking Water for giving us life and crops, and apologising for making it dirty. We also believe that by taking our Kratong away, the river takes away all the bad luck we faced during the previous year.

This year there were special decorations around the moat old city. This is the northern gate,called Chang Peuak, the gate of the White elephant which chose the location of the city at time of King Mengrai. 

Shan New Year was on the 7th of December, Karen New Year was before Christmas, Akha New Year was on the 29th of December. Hmong New Year just past, early this January and of course there was Western New Year. The dates for local new year are calculated with a lunar calendar, unlike the western calendar which uses the sun as a reference.

Traditional game competition: running with one leg tied to one's partners

Evening Music and dances performances

As everywhere, celebration is about good food!

Shan Noddle stall

The Shan New Year celebration took place in the Shan temple grounds

By the way, celebrating New Year on different days also means that we are in different years.

The official year in Thailand is 2554 and the year in Shan calendar is 2105.

Traveling in time might be easier than one might think!

Calling for DVD's!

In the letters that our Burmese students sent us it was obvious they wanted any type of information - I asked Estelle how we could help and we came up with the idea of films, documentaries, music etc.

Some of the fund raising money has been used to buy a DVD player for Sunrise School and we now need DVD's to give to the students.

If you have any old films or music cd's/dvd's you no longer want please get them to Mrs Thompson in the Art department and we will get them sent over.

The wonderful Mrs Peterson from Maths in donating a surround sound system that we can send over as well!

Getting our Badges ready!

We have been making badges which we hope to sell to make money for our Burmese students.

The Art department has also used the logo to make some reward badges for our students.

A range of colour ways have been produced with some limited ranges as well.

The badges can be brought from members of 8.2 from next week at the cost of 50p each.

All proceeds to Sunrise School.

The final task for 8.3

The final task asked our students to produce a piece of work that explored what they had learnt and also to introduce their friend to everyone.

8.3 completed this task using a Publisher program in ICT.

This work and lots of the other work completed was put up in the main corridors for the whole school to see.

Back to work for 8.3

8.4 are currently working on their self portraits ready to be introduced to their Burmese pen pals.

8.3 students have finished working on their Burma project and have started a new project based on print making.

They have been asked to produce a design that considers enlargement, negative space, composition and uses good observation skills.

They are drawing sweet wrappers layered up on a board. This helps create some interesting designs.

This is Beth's design so far. Students have been asked to ensure the design goes up to the edges of the square. This will help achieve a strong print.

Lino printing uses tools to cut into a rubber surface, the ink is then applied over the top and printed onto the paper. Where the lino is cut no ink remains to be printed. Lots of different affects can be achieved.

It is possible to layer up colours and create interesting surfaces.
We will see how 8.3 do when they start cutting their lino blocks next week.

What does Studio Xang do?

The ability to learn 
where ever we are
what ever we do

Studio Xang is a community based organization that specializes in children and youth development through art education. The project works with children from migrant workers and refugee communities from Burma. The towns of Chiang Mai and Maesot, and the refugee camps Kun Kyaw and Mae La Oon are the sites of our activities.Though currently, these activities have had to be reduced to funding difficulties. For more information or feedback, please contact us at

Studio Xang Vision and goals

Studio Xang believes in using arts education to foster wholesome child development. We choose art to bridge different communities to promote positive attitudes towards marginal groups and spread understanding of children equality. In collaboration with teachers and parents from migrant communities, we implement educative and artistic activities to foster understanding between ethnic groups, migrant and non migrant communities. We promote learning and understanding of a multicultural multi-ethnic society through the practice of the arts.

Studio Xang’s goal is that migrant children will grow up to their full personal potential, use creative and critical thinking to improve their living conditions, and become active members of society in the same capacity as non migrants. We collaborate with local communities at regional and national levels to implement/organize cultural and artistic activities for a creative society.

What do we do?
The project’s main activities are art classes for children, taught using child centred “learning by doing” teaching methods which focus on process and quality of learning rather than on product and quantity. Studio Xang bases its teaching of visual arts on Vikor Lowenfeld’s theories of child development through visual arts. Lowenfeld’s research demonstrates that children develop in stages, that development is relative to practice and learning opportunities and that art activities draw on all skills a child needs to master to grow wholesomely.  On a community level, the art activity creates a common experience which brings displaced people together.Asked about t in a previous term of art classes, students shared their favorite activity: 

Mg Thura Linn Oo said that he “likes field trip as because he discovered a new part of the city.” 
Ma Ei Shwe Zin  said that she “likes Shibori dyeing the most. It is colourful, it makes her happy.” 
Ma Nyo Mie Hlaing  likes “Building City with Recycle Materials and Lanna Htung. (traditional paper cutting). In the building city activity, imagining parts of a city was interesting and fun. Lanna Htung can be used to earn money.” 

Reusing and redesigning old clothes

Art activities require little to set up, are easily transportable, and cheap when compared to the learning potential they offer.  The space of the activity provides a safe environment for children to blossom according to their personalities. Art as a subject suits nurturing multiculturalism and respecting children various cultural and linguistic backgrounds as they are. Furthermore Studio Xang promotes a non- violent approach with children and encourages non violent conflict resolution amongst children but also with parents.  

Mg Thar Nyi from Mae Taung Mai Class gets up early on the day he needs to go to the class and when he is back, he shares his experience with parents. Parents give time to listen what he says and talk each other so that the relationship between parents and children becomes warmer. His parents mentioned that they feel he can think more logically and has more self-confident by looking at his art works and paintings together with his father and listening the meaning of his art works.
Art education is not part of the school curriculum in Burma. Adults from migrant communities never practiced visual arts at school. Very few parents now working as construction workers attended school. Many are illiterate. Therefore Studio Xang puts great efforts in conducting trainings. More over, learning is highly sensitive to the child psycho-social environment. Studio Xang works closely with parents, during home visits and workshops. During these workshops parents practice some of the term’s art activities. This helps parents relate to their children’s learning and encourage it. Parents’ responses to art activities are very positive. They are also surprised by how difficult the activities feel:

“This [modelling animals in Plasticine] is harder than work [on construction site], now I understand that art is more than just play”
“We paint houses all the time but I never knew how to make colours [colour mixing activity]”
“You [Studio Xang] should come and teach us more often”.
Children’s behaviour and expression by means of the artistic practice often highlights issues concerning schooling, health, living and working conditions which Studio Xang teachers actively address with the child and parents when needed. The project works with partner organisations for issues that require assistance outside our capacity such as legal and health matters. Parents outreach and children’s learning assessments provide us with feedback on children ' progresses and any other relevant issues to children wellbeing.

In Chiang Mai and Maesot, Parents’ workshops on Art and child development bring parents from different sites together to engage in art activities. Children and parents social relationships often lay within the perimeter of their workers camp (rows of corrugated iron shacks). Camps tend to differ in terms of quality of living, particularly depending on the foreman/middleman’s attitude to workers.
The activity provides a space for parents to share experience to build relationships with parents from other camps. As Studio Xang develops relationships with our students’ teachers in local Thai schools in Chiang Mai, we will invite Thai teachers to these workshops.
The next too comments are interesting because both child and parent were interviewed:

 Myo Pa Pa’s grand-mother said that the girl helps her with house chores and cooks for her. Her grand-child shows her artwork and noticed that she has progressed a lot. Myo Pa Pa, 14, attends the Saturday afternoon class. She likes cooking activities best because she cooks for her grand-mother. Each new course she is excited to find out the next recipe.

Ye Wunna Aung, 15, attends the Sunday morning class. He liked the vegetable stamps activity because it is possible to make an infinity of design. He learnt that art is more than drawing, and that it can be made using any materials. Ye Wunna Aung’s Father said his son never used to speak to people in the community before. Now he talks more and has started to play with other children. His shows more awareness of his environment and draws in his spare time.

In a child’s experience, teachers are the second most important people after parents. Studio Xang puts great emphasis on the quality of its teaching and the continuous training of teachers and volunteers.  Intensive teacher trainings, in beginner and advanced levels, take place yearly. The trainings consist of practice based information sharing on child development through art, teaching methods, child psychology, class management, basic art techniques are organized for participants from the migrant community. These trainings are at the root of our organisation’s development.

To support the capacity building for teachers and parents from the migrant community, the project publishes a  newsletter in four languages. The project’s previous publications are the teacher’s handbook Art and Child development and the Applied Drama Handbook in local languages. All the PDF versions, English included will soon be available from our website.

Studio Xang has taught children for several years and many of our students are now teenager. The project “Power Kid” has been designed to address this age group’s needs and interest. It started in 2010 and was very well received by youngsters and their families.Power kid” includes a 4-month Applied Arts training. Three specific skills (previously silk-screen fabric printing, sewing and jewellery) are taught, along with basic business, market research and design skills. Holding a market stall at community events conclude the training process. Participants plan how to re-invest the benefits and create a saving fund for special activities or funding for school materials. Power kid, in chiang Mai only because of security restriction in Maesot, also includes a 3-day summer camp for 30 youth from different workers camps, that aims at developing teamwork and leadership. Other activities will address adolescent reproductive health and labour rights awareness, as well as art activities and outdoor activities.  
Earings made with handmade paper beads

Necklaces using hand made paper beads

Phar Eh's special design
Phar Eh (intern from Mae La Oon) said
“I like this programme. Now, we know how to make such things as bag, necklace, bracelet, etc. If we don’t know how to make them, we have to go and buy in market. Now, we can make them by ourselves and can give others as present.” 


13-year-old Nathtitar Panya living at Samoeng, Grade 6 said
“I would like to have 4-5 sewing machines in the class. As we didn’t have enough machines, we needed to wait for each other and it is a waste time. If we have enough machines, we can learn more than that. By joining the class, I could learn a lot of hand-made skill. I really thank teachers. I will apply those skills I learn well in the future.”


Learning to make a repeated print

Funky head elephant print

Final touches
Adding background colour
The dream behind Power kid is to have a guild styled printing factory where young people can enter as untrained apprentices and work while accessing raining in all the different skills it takes to run a printing factory, from manual labour, supplies, to design, accounting management and ethical and ecological practices.
Fun time with hair dries

Finished products

Learning to sell

In Chiang Mai, the mobile playroom (Rot Xangvisits non-teaching areas to develop potential teaching areas and provide migrant children with access to children’s books, toys and art material on a monthly basis. Rot Xang visits 4 areas, twice a month each. A Rot Xang area can turn into a weekly art class according to children’s needs and parents’ agreement. Rot Xang then moves on to a new area.

To celebrate children’s achievements annual children’s art exhibitions take place in all implementation areas. These exhibitions provide a bridge between the Thai public and the migrant community.
Maesot exhibition 2010

Chiang Mai exhibition 2010

Why do we do it?

The Shiny House -"Please help pick up the rubbish, here's the bin"

Unofficial estimation of the number of registered and non-registered migrant workers in Thailand is 4 to 5 million. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that 200,000 children are registered in Thailand, but the unofficial estimation reaches up to 500,000. Migrant children grow up under difficult circumstances. Being aliens in Thailand, their parents have little protection against abusive behaviour by contractors – neglecting of minimum wages, long working hours, no days off, use of violence, etc. This has a direct effect on life quality and personal development of their youngsters. Migrant communities often have poor living conditions and lack of basic health care. Uneven and irregular access to education is due particularly outside main cities, to a lack of Thai schools in migrant workers living areas. On the other hand, it is a result of parents having to move to find work and being unable to pay for school materials. Although policies allow migrant children to attend schools, in reality many schools refuse them or refuse to give a certificate after completion making it impossible for students to continue further education.

Entering Thai school also requires children to start at primary 1 level regardless of their age because of language difficulties. As a result, many students leave school by the age of 13 but they might have only completed Grade 1 to 3.

Ma Ei Ei Thwe has four siblings and because her father is not feeling well, she started attending school late. She started school last year and she got a chance to join this art class so that parents are very happy. Her mother mentioned that when she is back from the class, she talk with her sisters about her experiences in the class and shares her snack.

Because of their outsider status within Thai society migrant children often lack confidence and suffer from prejudiced behaviour and discrimination by their Thai environment. While Shan workers tend to be more accepted than other ethnic groups from Burma, discrimination in other parts of Thailand is stronger. Our students are children of construction workers, factory workers and orchard workers. They are Shan, Poe and Squaw Karen, Mon and Burman. Religious beliefs include Buddhist, Christian and Muslim faiths.

State and local response to migrants not only limits children’s access to education, it also limits essential aspects of childhood such as play, exposure to the wonders of the outside world, that feed creative and critical thinking, imagination and emotional safety. Over all, children start to work early to help their families. While actively encouraging parents to send their children to school, we use art to support this learning and nurture a wholesome childhood experience.   

 With its activities Studio Xang aims to promote awareness of and positive attitude towards the migrant community amongst the Thai public. Our project networks with rights advocacy organisations such as MAP foundation as well as local municipal networks. Studio Xang works with partner’s organisations to advocate for migrant children’s rights and facilitate creative platforms where migrant children can represent themselves. Art education is a complex and powerful platform to reflect and question the construction of identity within different social-political contexts. We hope for migrant children’s creative voices to be part of, and partake in shaping the future. 

What have we achieved?
Since the start of the activities for migrant children in 2002, Studio Xang has taught weekly art classes over 1500 children and trained 250 teachers from the Thai-Burma border during 7 intensive trainings of Trainers and teacher trainings from partner organisation such as the National Health and Education Committee (Burma). Volunteer Team leaders in Maesot and Mae La Oon are trainees from the first intensive teacher training organised by Studio Xang in 2003. Four of our students are now volunteer teachers. Three other teenage students are teaching art activities in their schools in Maesot.

Studio Xang has successfully organized altogether 14 annual children art exhibitions in Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, and Mae La Oon. The exhibitions were accompanied by art event- opening days joined by numerous Migrant and Thai school children and members of the general public. In February 2010, Studio Xang collaborated with MAP Foundation and the Asian Institute of Technology (Bangkok) to organise an art exhibition titled Illegal, Temporary and Precarious States of being – migration .A Studio Xang teacher exhibition was opened on the 5th of November 2010 at Maow Jai Dee gallery in Chiang Mai.

As a complement for our training activities we have published a handbook on child development for art teachers and a manual on how to use elements of drama in working with communities. The first was published in five languages, the latter in two local languages. Our publications also include a quarterly newsletter published for the first time in 2007 (three languages) and a brochure presenting the organisation’s activities (four languages). In 2009, we opened a website in English: (Currently in process)

Relief activities include a 2 weeks art workshop organised by the TAG project, Studio Xang and Chiang Mai University, in Phang Nga province, after the 2004 Tsunami. In this workshop art practice was used as a healing tool for migrant children from Burma, Moken children and local children who have been affected by the Tsunami. In 2007, Studio Xang facilitated a workshop on art and child development at Gitameik School in Yangoon, Burma, for local Nargis relief volunteers.