Tough decisions must be made when your worldly possessions must fit into a suitcase weighing less than 30kg.

The Pandermanns of Waihi did just that.

After an eye-opening Christian mission to India helping women and children escape prostitution, Megan and Jake decided to sell up completely and move to Myanmar.

It's been a roller coaster four years for Megan, Jake and children Liliana, 10, Thomas, 8, and Eila, 4.


The two married in Australia and settled in Waihi in 2011. They had their ''forever home'' and were busy with family life and Jake's business Jake Thomas Photography. But their comfortable life wasn't everything it could be.

''Our hearts have been deeply touched and moved by the love of God, and we know his desire is for the brokenness in the world to be restored. With his help we can do something about the poverty and injustice we see,'' Megan says.

''We decided to sell up and do this because we believe all the sacrifice and hard work pales in comparison to the beauty of seeing lives changed.''

After living in Waihi for five years, the young family moved to Kolkata, India in 2016-2017.

They volunteered in a ''freedom business'' which is a business that brings freedom from slavery to its employees.

They quickly learnt that poverty and trafficking go hand in hand.

The business employed women from the local red-light district, just about all of the 17 women employed were trafficked between the ages of eight to 13 into the sex trade.

''The women are then given health care, group therapy, basic education and are trained in leatherwork to create beautiful hand-crafted bags, wallets and belts which are then sold online. The money from the sale of these items is invested back into the business with the goal of hiring more women.


''None of the ex-pat workers receive a wage but all worked on a full-time volunteer basis.''

They hope to model the business in Myanmar, where they moved in October this year.
Megan says it's been a big process selling up everything they own and making tough decisions about what to keep.

''Every single item in our house had to be examined and decided if it was going to be taken, given away, sold (and how much for) or be one of the few items that we stored.''

The plan is to integrate, learn the culture and language for the first few years before they create a business to help women and children.

Jake and Megan say the children have adjusted beautifully, but it has taken them a little longer.

They live in a basic wooden house close to the coast — ''think tree-house but on the ground... lots of gaps and holes''.

''It's challenging learning to do normal everyday activities — like shopping for example — that we don't have to think about in New Zealand or Australia, and learning a very different language from ours.

''You can go from a real high like learning how to say a particular word, to the next moment having an extremely frustrating experience like trying to buy bread.''

Liliana, Thomas and Eila are learning the Myanmar alphabet in preparation for school, as well as some Australian curriculum schoolwork. The kids have made new friends and are often playing — the only thing they miss is the internet.

The children were exposed to a greater depth of suffering in Kolkata than they have seen here so far, Megan says.

''The cities will have much more obvious poverty than what we see here in our regional town, so we haven't been exposed to complete destitution like we were seeing everyday in Kolkata. They are poor here, but so far we have not seen people living on the streets or sick people begging for money etc.''

The family will stay in their town for the learning period. After another visit home, the plan is to return to Myanmar and set up a business in a city where they feel they are needed the most.

Their gofundme page is