Leaving on a Jet Plane

by Jay Milbrandt (JD/MBA ’08),

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Long Live the King: Thai Air jets load at BKK International Airport

17.5 hours. How am I going to sit still for 17.5 hours? I was apprehensive the first time I made this flight. It ended up being possibly the best 17.5 of my life. No cell phone, no deadlines, no homework. The toughest decision was whether I should watch another movie or play video games on the personal entertainment system. My only complaint was that I couldn’t stay asleep because Thai Air kept waking me up with more food!

This time around, I’m ecstatic for this upcoming 17.5 hours of pure bliss. It’ll be the only rest and relaxation that I expect for the next 10 days. My schedule is full and my objectives are numerous.

I’m arriving in Chiang Mai on Saturday morning and I’ve got to be ready to hit the ground running. I’ll rest for a couple hours, hopefully visit one of the kids my non-profit sponsors, then I’m heading for the Burma border. At the border, I’ll be searching for a friend of mine—15-year-old Faifah—she was deported from Thailand and nearly sold to a brothel. I’ll share her story later. Hopefully I can locate her, interview her, document her story, and make sure she has basic services available. On the way back, I hope to visit Wawi, a village in which I would eventually like to help build a school.

Back in Chiang Mai, the majority of my week will be spent interviewing and documenting the struggle of “stateless” children—a sad, but common legal phenomenon that has arisen here. My next post will describe this condition and the response of my non-profit in detail. I will also be conduct a lot of due diligence—visiting the schools, aftercares, and shelters that we are putting the kids in.

Each morning, I will be visiting local NGOs and agencies: IJM, Partners, Free Burma Rangers, etc. We’ll be discussing possible collaborative projects and potential internship placements. I will also be exploring a potential microfinance projects utilizing Burmese migrant workers. Then, every evening I will be serving the stateless and vulnerable children who seek refuge at the Garden of Hope Drop-In Center. While working at Just Food / The Garden of Hope last summer, I helped develop fundraising initiatives that substantially funded this facility. I’m excited to finally see the fruits of that labor. More than anything, I’m excited to see the children again whom I invested in and maintained a relationship with throughout the year.

This is an extremely condensed version of my proposed itinerary. I look forward to sharing all of this in much more as each day unfolds. And, as with all international travel in developing nations, you have to plan that things won’t go as planned.

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