Annoying teachers. Grades. Standardized testing. Ah, it’s all the stresses of school. I’ll admit - sometimes, I hate going to class. I’m sure most of us have said that to ourselves at least once. But our parents always told us to be grateful for our education since not everyone has access to one.
Here’s the thing: I don’t believe education is a privilege. It’s a human right. With education, comes empowerment. No child should ever feel like they have a hopeless future.
But take a step into the Karen refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border. You will find schools being closed down because they are running out of funding. You will find parents getting detained for working outside of the camps because they wanted the money to send their child to the schools that are still standing.You will find children and young teens of the same age as your son or daughter, drinking their life away, consuming harmful drugs, and contemplating whether or not life is truly worth living. You will find individuals who have lost their faith in the world.
For years, NGOs have been funding the Karen refugee camps and their education system. But recently, aid has begun to shift from supporting schools in the camps to working with the Burmese government in order to make repatriation possible. However, most of the Karen feel as if their homes are still not safe to return to and would much rather stay in the camps. And with the large cuts in funding, this right of education is beginning to disappear.
It’s up to us - people who have been granted the right of education - to help return that god given right.
All proceeds will go towards supporting the Mae Ra Moe Junior College (MRMJC), which is a post-secondary school located in the Mae Ra Moe refugee camp. Donations will pay for school supplies (stationary: e.g. note books, pens, pencils, rulers, A4 paper and teacher supplies: e.g. whiteboards, charts) and teacher salaries. Each staff member gets a salary of about 13,000 Baht. But we definitely want to be able to provide more than that if there is enough funding.
In supporting the school, students will continue to have the opportunity to find employment later on to financially support their families. Most students become teachers, nurses, or Karen community workers after graduating.
Our goal is to raise around 142,000 HKD. 12,000 HKD will go towards school supplies and 130,000 HKD will be allocated to teacher salaries.
I will be travelling to the camp in March and June to ensure the money is going to be used appropriately. If you're interested to see what the refugee camp is like, this is a fun little video of my first visit in March of 2018 (The first half of the footage are of the border towns in Thailand though. The actual camp is featured in the second half of the video).
Who are the Karen and what is their situation today?
The Karen are one of the largest ethnic minority group in Myanmar, and they reside in the southeastern part of the country. In an effort to fight for their own independent state, the Karen have been involved in an armed struggle with the Myanmar government. During the 1960s, the tension began to increase and the ethnic persecution by the government forced thousands of Karen to flee their homes in Myanmar, cross the border to Thailand, and settle in one of the seven refugee camps.
Today, the Karen conflict is technically still on going. In recent years, ceasefire agreements have been made between the Karen and Myanmar government, however, it is not always respected by the Burmese military. For this, many of the Karen do not feel the desire to return to their homes in Myanmar as their villages are still too dangerous to be in. But as mentioned earlier, the large cuts in funds are making survival at the refugee camps more difficult.
Extra Resources if you would like to look more into the history of the Karen people and the issues surrounding their situation today