70-year-old heads off to work with refugees in Thailand


70-year-old Brother Denis O’Brien was farewelled from Ōtaki last weekend.

He has been there only for a short time but now he is off on a mission to Thailand.

He is planning to stay in Thailand for two years and then he will come back to New Zealand.

O’Brien celebrates his 50th Jubilee of Marist Religious life this year.

A lot of his ministry has been in Māori Pastoral Care, in Porirua, up North in Rawene and Okaihau.

He most recently was working in Otara, Auckland. This year he has been at Pukekaraka, Ōtaki.

His skills in fixing computers and getting things going smoothly have been in good use.

O’Brien will be joining The Marist Asia Foundation (previously called Marist Mission Ranong MMR).

He will be living in a community in Ranong which includes fellow New Zealander Father Frank Bird.

Ranong is a fishing village in the South of Thailand.

It is located opposite the southernmost town of Burma/Myanmar (Kaw Thaung).

This makes it a significant border crossing town.

MMR began working there in 2006 responding to the education, health and migrant worker needs of the Burmese community.

The latest estimates suggest Ranong has up to 120,000 Burmese migrants, most of whom work in the fishing industry.

In 2013 the Marist Asia Foundation opened a purpose-built Marist Centre.

The Marist Centre provides:

  • Education for over 200 Burmese migrant children
  • An HIV AIDS community-based health project for 75 individuals and their families
  • Support programmes for hundreds of Burmese migrant workers

The Marist Asia Foundation team includes a number of Thai and Burmese as well as international volunteers.

They work with the Thai government authorities, other non-governmental organisations and the local Thai and Burmese community.



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