Bethany Greeson, a freshman international business major, grew up in Thailand. Through her high school, she worked in refugee camps for the Burmese people outside of Mae Sot, a city in her country. She and several other students played sports with the children. Greeson said it was her first experience with the problems that are going on in Burma.
Greeson said her high school encounters inspired her idea.
“Every year we also did a 5k run to raise money and awareness for the people of Burma,” she said. “Mike McCarthy and Jeff Sutton ensured me that the Campus Activities Board could sponsor the event, and so they helped me with everything.”
Greeson explained the situation in Burma.
“The government there is a dictatorship and the military, which is called a junta, is invading the different ethnic groups in the mountains,” she said. “They are taking their land, destroying their villages, raping women and causing child labor. They put mines around the villages just to kill people randomly. They are oppressing the people for no good reason but to take their land.”
Greeson is the eighteenth person in her family to attend UMHB. Her older brother Dennis is a senior.
“I visited in high school and fell in love with the campus and community,” she said. “Upon my arrival here in the fall, I talked with Mike and Jeff back in October about doing a walk for Burma awareness.”
On Feb. 27, the 2k and 5k walk was held at Miller Springs near the Belton Dam and was titled The Burma Experience.
“There are a lot of nature hiking trails there,” Greeson said. “I also got 35 people from a Burmese church in Austin to come that morning and share their testimonies and sing songs.”
Junior social work major Stacey Davidson helped pick up the Burmese that morning.
“I was expecting it to be awkward because they couldn’t speak that much English,” she said. “But it was really good, and it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade.”
Davidson said she enjoyed the walk.
“I got involved because it seemed like a new event with a new spin on missions, something like we had never done here. The weather was also really beautiful that day. Everything went perfect.”
Greeson said the awareness walk had laminated signs sharing stories and prayer requests posted on stakes throughout the trails for participants to read.
“We wanted to inspire the participants and to give them information to know how they were helping the Burmese people,” she said.
Freshman social work major Joy Smedley attended a church service with the Burmese people.
“I was able to speak with two men, and they shared some of their stories with me,” she said. “One man told me about how he and his seven -month pregnant wife with their first child had to run for their lives to escape from a soldier that was chasing them out of their village.”
Smedley also said another man explained to her that he was only allowed to speak Burmese and was forbidden to learn or speak his native language of Keran. He was only able to learn how to speak it while in church, which is also where he found God.
“I have a heart for those people,” Smedley said. “I was really thankful for the fellowship with them.”
Freshman Christian studies major Jefty Campos said participants were able to better understand the situation on the other side of the world.
“Most people don’t know much about what is going on in Burma,” he said. “I think the stakes helped people to know why we were doing the Burma Experience.”
Greeson said Partners is the organization that profits went to.
“We were able to collect almost $1,600 through T-shirt sales in the SUB and donations,” she said.
“We had 92 people participate altogether, including the Burmese people. It was a really successful day.”
Campos valued his time with the Burmese who participated.
“I enjoyed seeing the happiness on their faces,” he said. “They were so happy to know that there are people who care.”
Smedley said she wants people to be more world-wise.
“They need to understand and be aware of other things that are going on in other parts of the world,” she said. “This was a great way to produce awareness.”
Greeson said she hopes the Burma Experience will become an annual event.
“I definitely want to do something next year,” she said. “It may be a little different but will have the same idea.”
Davidson said it was a good experience meeting the Burmese.
“They don’t get much American interaction and I think they really enjoyed it,” she said. “It’s not often that they get to be the center of attention and to be honored for their people.”