Zai is 11-years-old. She stepped into a fire when she was three. Zai lives with her family in Mae Sot on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border. Her family moved to Thailand seven years ago from Burma to escape hardship and earn more money to support their family.
Zai is the third of 8 children, 7 of whom are still living at home. The youngest one is only 4 months old. Her mother stays at home to care for the children while her father works as a day labourer, caring for someone else’s livestock. He is the sole income earner and his income is not sufficient to support his family; often they have to borrow money from neighbours to make ends meet.
When they were living in Burma, Zai’s father was forcibly recruited as a porter for the army several times. Each time he was gone for 2-3 months. Since moving to Thailand, the family still experience hardship despite escaping the conflict. Three of the children go to migrant school, including Zai who is in grade 1. Her favorite thing to do at school is jump with her friends. She can participate in most physical activity despite the consequences of the burns to her foot and leg.
Zai’s injury occurred many years ago when she was just three years old. Her parents were not at home when it happened and, according to her mother, she was playing at home with a friend and fell into the fire. After the accident the family had no money to take her to seek medical attention. Instead they lay her on banana leaves and used a variety of home remedies and traditional medicine, including rubbing toothpaste on the burned area. However, nothing helped and soon there was a bad smell emanating from the burns, indicating infection. Her mother took her to a district hospital and she was admitted for 40 days. The hospital applied dressings and gave Zai medicine via injections and orally. According to her mother, she suffered from oedema and soon the nurse told her that nothing more could be done. Zai was discharged and went home where her family continued to use traditional medicine, oils and powders.
Now, many years later, Zai says she feels no pain. However, her left foot has now fused to her lower leg, resulting in a stump. She also has heavy scarring on her leg, below her knee. There is minor scarring along the toes of her other foot preventing full mobility (she cannot extend her foot flat all the way). She wears a rubber boot on her left foot to keep it clean and help her to walk. Zai says the most difficult thing about her injuries is her inability to run. Children at school also tease her which makes her angry.
Zai was brought to BCMF by an organisation that works on the border. Zai’s mother says her family has many problems, due to lack of money and having to care for so many children. She is particularly worried about Zai because she is not like other children. She does not like her to go outside. When asked about the future, Zai says she would like to get better and be able to run. Her mother says she cannot think about the future and only God and her daughter’s fortune will determine it.