On 23 April, my son, Saw Shalom (who just graduated high school) and I left for a trip to Happy Home.
We arrived at Happy Home after our bus, truck, boat and motorcycle ride. On 24 April, we had a meeting with the Happy Home leadership committee and discussed our plans for the upcoming year.
First, we talked on the preparations for the rice planting this year. Last year was our largest harvest yet, which was able to sustain the children for six months and also feed all of workers (i.e, farm workers and Board master family). Still, like any farm we can’t lean on our success from the previous year.
The things needing to be done at the farm were the maintenance of our tractors, ensure the temporary workers were hired, and to make sure we reinforce and clean out the irrigation ditch which was one of our biggest problems at the farm over the years.
The biggest challenge in everyone’s heart right now in the Happy Home area, is that there has been some renewed fighting between the Burma and Karen Army about a day’s walk from Happy Home. About 2,000 Karen villagers are now in hiding with five of Happy Home children’s families in hiding. We discussed about these Happy Home children and how we could help the families in this area.
We also talked about the repairs for the Happy Home buildings. A couple of years ago we put new roofs on the home, which has been a great help. Most of the buildings have bamboo siding and after a few years these walls fall into disrepair. The committee shared how they’ve started collecting and cutting the bamboo into sections to fix these walls for the new school year.
Happy Home is also planning their garden for this year. We’d like to plant more vegetables, fruit trees and corn. We’ve also finally convinced the home and leadership that the pigs and goats need to be locked up and the goats are now fenced off in an area outside the home’s grounds.
Five children graduated and left Happy Home this year. One issue that came up was that two of our boys who graduated wanted to do further study. However, their village and leaders asked the two boys to become soldiers instead. The two boys are now in army officer training. We’ll continue to stay in touch with them and after their army service is complete, if they’d like to study further, we’ll do our best to help.
Everyone on the committee feels that the situation at Happy Home is much better than past years. The new board master who came to lead the home last year, teaches bible and hymn singing throughout the week. The children appear to be behaving better and listen to the new board master and his wife. The children come from all religious backgrounds but are also participating in church activities a lot more.
After our meeting with the Happy Home committee, my son, one of our hired farm workers and myself, went to tour the farm and look at the expansion work of about 3+ acres that has been done this year.
There has been one small change this year as we are hiring only two farm workers. One permanent and one part time. With the improvements made on the irrigation ditch, we don’t feel another worker is needed.
With the great harvest success we had last year, we’re continuing to look at how we can expand the farm. Every year as we extend our property we have to watch our water intake and how it flows into the land. The rice paddies constantly need to be kept filled with water. So we’re slowly expanding and watching how the land matches our water usage. Also, it is important to understand that rice paddies don’t start yielding large harvests until they reach maturity which is about 4-5 years. So whenever we expand, we don’t see the full results until 4-5 years later. This is because the ground needs to change and flatten out to take in water and there is also usually a lot of weeds during the first few years of production.
Below is a three-year plan on how we might like to expand the farm:
This year after we harvest the rice in November, we would like to plant beans, garlic and onions around January 2019. We’d also like to look at planting fruit trees around the rice paddy edges like we have already done at Happy Home. The food produced would be used for the Happy Home children and if our harvest is large we can sell the crops too. But we’re concerned if we don’t have fencing around the farm, the buffalo and other livestock in the area will come in and eat our crops as they’ve done before. During the dry seasons, farmers let their water buffalo and cows to wander around. We need to discuss this problem with the Happy Home leaders and how we might fence the farm to keep livestock out. I plan to do this on my next visit in June, when we also start planting the rice fields.
I praise God to see the money invested over so many years at the farm now producing as we had always hoped. I want to thank everyone for your support.
I’d like to request prayer for two major things.
- For the health of our committee. One leader in particular who has helped Happy Home since its founding in 2006. His health has been poor the past couple of years.
- Another concern is the fighting around Happy Home area. While there is not a large fear as people think its contained to a certain area right now, we still have to be prepared. We also want to pray for those 2,000 Karen villagers who are still hiding in the jungle. As the rainy season approaches, these villagers really need to return to their homes and farms. Please pray for peace in Karen State and throughout Myanmar (Burma).