GLC visit to SDC, Thai-Burma 2015

Refugees International Japan visits refugee communities around the world on a regular basis so that we can see at first hand the kind of impact your donations have. The visit in February 2015 involved interactive activities between the project and visitors from Japan.



About 120,000 Burmese refugees currently reside in official camps on the Thai-Burma border and more than 2 million Burmese migrants are residing mainly in urban areas of Thailand. They have been living in the Thai-Burma border for more than 25 years. However, despite their lengthy residence in Thailand, Thai law declares that refugees have no legal right to employment, thus the limited opportunities for refugees.

Global Leadership Community (GLC) x Social Development Center (SDC)

The GLC team, alongside RIJ, paired up with the SDC staff to host a world café event during their visit in February 2015. The GLC team was enthusiastic to try out their method. In the café format participants get together in groups to discuss certain topics, answer questions, and brainstorm ideas. At times during the session, members move to sit at different tables and interact with different people, thus repeating the process. In this way the whole room is engaged with one another without the stress of having to speak in front of everyone.

This was a good opportunity to allow both parties to discuss issues they have not yet addressed, thus broadening ideas for SDC while deepening RIJ’s understanding of SDC’s activities and influence in the area. Due to the format of the café event, the participants were more comfortable sharing. Therefore, communication was more fluid and different ideas were heard. It was a valuable experience for sharing knowledge and experiences in order to create a better understanding for everyone involved in the refugee communities, including the staff, alumni, students, donors, supporters, and volunteers.

Through this activity we were able to gain a greater understanding of cultural constraints and how to work with and around them. We also learned of the aspirations of SDC participants and their dream of expanding into Burma in order to have a bigger impact on their home communities; highlighting how much the majority of refugees want to go back home.

We are aware of a number of areas that could help improve SDC, such as lack of facilities and the limited opportunity for refugees post-SDC. SDC is in need of building a network that would help the refugees restart and give them opportunities after SDC.

Overall the world café was a success. It allowed everyone involved in the weekend activity to realize a number of things: the importance of SDC to the community, the goals of each and everyone for both themselves and for SDC, ideas regarding SDC, and so much more. Members of GLC learnt so much from the café discussions as they saw how stimulating it was for everyone involved. The SDC staff, themselves, are enthusiastic about putting these ideas into practice. They were eager to incorporate the idea of a café event into their teaching, to generate critical thinking and wider involvement. It was a truly educational experience for everyone to participate in a world café.

From the beneficiaries:

“Without thinking about the heart, we cannot create a vision.”

“It was interesting to see alumni, students, teachers, volunteers, and supporters all interacting in this activity. “

“We are now especially enthusiastic about the future and how we can put these new ideas into practice and build a brighter future for our people.”

 For more photos and quotations see: