Senior Manager Ashley Dye has sponsored children in Myanmar, Asia, since 2013 through Binding Thread, a nonprofit organization that assists more than 500 orphaned children in Myanmar. The organization is headquartered in Evansville, Indiana, and currently serves 13 orphanages that range from 20 to 25 to 150 children each. After Ashley’s college friend posted her first sponsorship experience online and stressed how many more children still needed help, Ashley was ready to get involved.
The most wonderful time of the year
James visits Myanmar for the first time in 2017 and meets dozens of children, including Sui Chin Par (pink).
Each December, Ashley boards a plane from Evansville to Myanmar to visit her sponsored family. Currently, she and her husband James sponsor three children: Van Dawt Mang, Sui Chin Par, and Kuhn Kaw Law, who are 17, 14, and 11 years old, respectively. While Ashley’s trips and sponsorship experiences began as solo pursuits, James has been involved since the couple married in 2017. That year, James accompanied Ashley on his first visit.
“In place of wedding gifts, we urged loved ones to donate to our trip. It was something different and an experience we could have together. I wanted James to meet the rest of my family,” says Ashley. Seeing Ashley reunite with the kids is a moment James will always remember.
“It was kind of overwhelming to meet the children for the first time. You can’t possibly prepare yourself for it,” says James. “They have treasures we don’t have or appreciate here. You become enriched by that, and it changes your life.”
Their oldest, Van Dawt Mang, is quiet, caring, and helpful, especially with the younger kids. As one of the older kids in the network, he generally has a little shadow following him around. He also has an excellent sense of humor. Sui Chin Par is super polite, patient, and thoughtful. Since Americans often sweat in the unfamiliar climate, it’s not uncommon for Sui Chin Par to grab a notebook, flip flop, or whatever is nearby to fan the visitors, as well as bring them water. Lastly, while he may be the youngest, Kuhn Kaw Law, or Law, is a wild man. Ashley first met Law on her first trip to Myanmar when he was only four years old. Comparing side-by-side photos of Law from then to now is remarkable.
Ashley and Law. (Even wild men need to rest.)
“He’ll take my camera, and once it reappears, it’ll have all of these new adventures of him. I don’t think there’s ever been a day while visiting that he hasn’t made me laugh,” says Ashley. “I love that all my kids have such unique personalities. At the end of the day, kids are kids no matter where they are or what language, color, or background they come from.”
Meet Ashley’s Sponsored Kids
Q: Who do you think is most likely to cheat at UNO?
A: 100% Kuhn Kaw Law—that kid always has a stack of Draw 4 Wilds hiding under his knee!
Q: Who would crush you at a soccer game?
A: All of them! I typically only stand a chance to play against the 4- and 5-year-old kids.
Q: Who would rather make crafts than play sports?
A: Sui Chi Par—I have several friendship bracelets she’s made me.
Q: What makes Sui Chin Par happiest?
A: Singing! She has a beautiful voice.
Q: What is Kuhn Kaw Law’s dream job?
A: He is very strong-willed, so he will go far with whatever he determines.
Q: What is a fun fact about Van Dawt Mang?
A: He is left-handed!
Q: If all three kids were superheroes, what would their powers be?
A: Law – Invisibility. Not to save people though … I think he would find humor in surprising people out of nowhere. Sui Chin Par – Read minds. She is very caring and I think this would allow her to help people in need. Van Dawt Mang – Time travel. He is extremely intelligent, so I think this would be something he’d enjoy and could use to further his education.
What does a sponsorship trip look like?
Ashley stands with Van Dawt Mang (green), Maung Maung San (white), and Sui Chin Par (pink). Ashley’s parents sponsor Maung Maung San.
The trips typically take place outside of the city in mostly rural and impoverished areas with clothes dangling from strings out of windows to dry and straw huts often inaccessible to Americans, as locals are weary the tourists will bust out the floors.
Separated into teams, sponsors and orphanage leaders assist various areas, including vacation bible school, human trafficking survivor centers, and preschools.
“In the preschool, we help teach English lessons to the kids and help with the English alphabet. The leader has a strong belief that a quality education can help the next generation and the current kids get out of poverty,” says Ashley.
Unlike in the U.S., children in Myanmar are subject to a challenging exam at the end of their school that determines which professions they’re best suited for. One of the goals of the preschool is to help deliver an education that could later open more significant opportunities and a wider variety of professions for the kids once they’re grown. But Ashley’s main activity is leading crafts for those in vacation bible school, which sometimes means teaching 60 kids at once.
“The main part of the trip is to hang out with the kids and build relationships with them, whether it’s playing soccer or playing UNO,” she says.
Playing UNO helped Ashley learn how to say colors and count in Burmese, a language made up of symbols as opposed to letters. She even keeps a running list of all the random words and phrases learned on each trip.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney
‘Change the trajectory for orphans around the world’
Outside of the trips, Ashley and the orphanage leaders connect over Facebook throughout the year. But interacting with these leaders and taking them to dinner are some of the highlights of visiting Myanmar.
“They have a huge responsibility on their plate every day. Several of the leaders grew up in orphanages themselves, so they’re giving back by starting their own to help more kids in their country,” says Ashley.
Binding Thread Executive Director Jason Rugani believes the organization is blessed to serve with some of the most honest and giving people in the area.
“It’s encouraging how these good people can change the trajectory for orphans around the world. The fact these children are loved, cared for, and educated is a direct reflection of the kindness of our sponsors,” says Jason.
In addition to sponsorship, Ashley also provides financial assistance to the Binding Thread headquarters, including reviewing monthly finances and conducting bank reconciliations. She also volunteers to help pack and sort clothes, as the organization sends new outfits to the kids each year. But building relationships and expressing love toward the orphanage leaders and children is by far the greatest part of the Binding Thread experience.
“They are my second family, and Myanmar is my second home,” says Ashley.
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