Thai-Burma border 2014

Refugees International Japan (RIJ) regularly visits project sites and refugee communities all over the world to see firsthand the impacts of our support and your donations. We are lucky to meet individuals who are willing to share their personal stories, who teach us that there is more to reality than the sad stories the media often presents. Individuals and communities do their best to rebuild their lives and prepare for the future, and their hard work and positive spirits is a great inspiration for us at RIJ.  

Current situation
After several years of military rule, a civilian government has ruled since 2010. A ceasefire is in place, and the world is watching as Burma will have their first open election in 2015.

Despite the progress, the country still suffers from poor health systems, low education levels and an underdeveloped economy, all results of the 50 years of isolation. Burma is still a dangerous place to be; there are outbreaks of fighting, danger of landmines and discrimination is still a big problem. As a result thousands of Burma nationals remain in refugee camps, especially on the Thai-Burma border, but also living in urban settlements all over Asia.

Projects visited
In October 2014 three of us visited RIJ-funded projects on the Thai-Burma border, where we met with staff and community members from the different organizations:  

Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education - DARE
DARE is working to reduce the number of drug and alcohol dependent people in camps along the border. DARE also uses community activities to prevent relapse.

We visited Mae Ra Ma Luang where we were able to sit in on a treatment session. The clients and staff were happy to share their experiences with us. We were impressed by their obvious sense of commitment. The whole DARE team at the Mae Ra Ma Laung camp is from the refugee community, which makes their programme more sustainable.

Karens Womens Organization - KWO
KWO is distributing Baby kits to women who have just given birth. The kits contains nappies, soap, baby clothes and a health message which describes good hygiene practices for both mother and child.

We met mothers who have received kits and heard how the health message can make such a difference to the health prospects of both mother and baby. Despite their basic living conditions, they had learnt how to care for their families better.

Karenni Social Development Center - KnSDC
KnSDC is providing education and skill training to young adult residents of the Karenni Refugee Camp #1. It was not a school day when we visited but about 30 students had gathered to
meet us and tell us how much they enjoy the course.

From the beneficiaries:

"I was ashamed of my behaviour before, now I am respected by the community as I work with them to tackle the addiction problem." Staff member of DARE in Mae La Ma Luang camp

"From the health message I learnt about the different stages of milk production after my baby was born. This meant I worried less and my child was more settled." Mother receiving baby kit from KWO

“When I stayed inside Karenni State I didn’t know about types of government, like the democracy system. After I learnt about this, I was very surprised and thought, ‘Why do we use our system?’ In the future I want to be involved in any movement or organisation to change the government system in Burma.” Student at KnSDC