With the advent of democratic reform, the nation of Burma (Myanmar) is moving away from a long period of internal conflict towards a more peaceful future. Previously the Burmese government had a very bad human rights record and many of Burma’s smaller minority peoples suffered greatly and were under constant attack from the Burmese military. In response to the attacks on their villages by Burmese army forces, many ethnic Burmese sought protection in Thailand and have been housed in camps along the Thai / Burmese border.
At one point estimates were that there were up to 500,000 refugees housed in Thailand, the official numbers are now much lower and numbers of refugees have now migrated to safe countries such as Australia, Norway or the United States. Some have self repatriated because of the democratic changes in Burma.
Many of of the refugees in the Thai camps are Karen. The Thai government provides basic services, care and protection for the refugees and the NGO community are also heavily involved in bulstering services for the refugees.
Despite their difficult circumstances the refugees are determined to survive and make the best of their situation and when you consider that some of them have been living in these camps for more than fifteen years you can begin to appreciate the seriousness of their plight. The refugees in the camps are trying to establish some sense of normality in their daily lives but are under resourced.
The Thai government does not allow the refugees to work in Thailand and therefore do not have the resources needed to run schools or social welfare programs etc.
Australian mercy rpvides support for several projects in Mae-la camp including Corina”s preschool, the Middle School, and an emergency care facility that looks after chidren at risk who are living in the camp without any family suppot.
Australian Mercy together with other agencies, provide care for numbers of refugees in Mae-la camp. We sponsor an orphanage, are funding a preschool and a middle school in Zone A. We are also providing health care training and medical support for refugees.
The children cared for by Australian Mercy are amongst the poorest in these camps. Many are traumatised, some are from families who have been the victims of atrocities committed by the Burmese military. One four year old boy that I met had been forced by troops to witness the executions of all of his family before being left to die alone in the forest. Another little girl was the only living member of her village to survive an attack by the Burmese military. She was two years old and was found barely alive in a pig sty covered in faeces. She now lives in the orphange supported by Australian Mercy in the Maela camp. Within this loving enviroment she has grown and blossomed, and now at eight years of age is the life of the party. She is loved by all her peers and is known for her fun and practical jokes. Kids like this deserve a chance at life. Australian Mercy is committed to give them that chance.
Australian Mercy sends volunteer teams to help provide services and training within the camps and have a child sponsorship program for children in the Preschools.
Every year Australian Mercy holds a Christmas appeal to raise funds to provide the children in the camps in which we have projects with a Christmas party. Each child receives their own present and Christmas dinner is also provided.
These parties are a joyous time of celebration, there is singing, and games and presents and the children;s faces light up as they receive their very own present. To many of the children this party is one of the few highlights of their year. Christmas dinner consists of good quality rice, and chicken with other traditional Karen dishes. These Christmas parties are just another way that Australian Mercy is using to give these children another chance at life. You can help too, by financially supporting the work that we do.
Australian Mercy partners with churches, other community groups, and businesses in Australia raising funds with which to run these projects. We also have a group of generous donors who regularly give to Australian Mercy so that we can continue our work in the camps.
2 Wentworth St (PO Box 132)
Port Kembla, NSW, 2505, Australia
Ph: 02 4274 1090
Fax: 02 4274 9909
ABN 84 008 643 258
ACN 008 643 258
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