Burmese Refugee Youth Prevent Addiction & Violence

Jun 17, 2014

Goals, Goals Goals. Soccer, Frisbee and Funding!

Teens for Kids Prevention Training
Teens for Kids Prevention Training

Despite a military coup and martial law being imposed in a spate of political upheavals here in Thailand, life in the camps progresses as usual. In coincidental timing with the beginning of the Soccer World Cup, the rest of Thailand’s curfew is dropped and World Refugee Day opens this Friday with a huge camp vs. camp staff soccer match. Ultimate Frisbee is a very popular game with the youth, but soccer is equally as popular. The World Refugee Day match is one of the biggest camp soccer matches of the year and will showcase some top quality sportsmanship and skill.

At the same time as DARE staff are practicing their kicks and dribbles, they are also preparing for World Anti-Drug Day next week, one of the biggest days of the DARE calendar. It is important that the whole community is involved in drug and substance abuse prevention education, and as such we arrange a variety of activities to suit everyone’s taste. There will be Ultimate Frisbee competitions, music competitions and art competition as well as public awareness campaigns and a gathering of the community in the central community hall. Often, a past client and currently recovering addict will speak to the group. This is especially powerful for the teens and young people there. Hearing the story of someone in their community, who they can relate to, is a much more convincing argument than statistics and warnings.

We will update you on World Anti-Drug Day and World Refugee Day with photos at the next report!

Kids in the camps have been enjoying school holidays for the past couple of weeks. As the schools settle back in, the Teens for Kids group is refreshed and the teams are reformed. Training will be re-invigorated just in time for the World Anti-Drug Day.

The Teens for Kids volunteers are special people who we are very lucky to have as part of the program. Prevention education for young people is of the utmost importance if we are to help kids get through the tough years of teenage hood. Peer pressure, uncertainty about yourself, and a growing self-awareness all contribute to a trying time for teenagers. On top of that these kids have gone through serious trauma in their home states and face an unknown future while waiting in the camps. The Teens for Kids Program provides mutual benefit for the teens involved and the kids they teach, it gives them something to look forward, a purpose and meaning and something to put their efforts and energy towards.

So thank you all for making it a possibility. We have nearly reached the $25,000 goal!

The Teens for Kids Program is a fundamental part of our DARE Network activities and we thank all of our supporters and donors as well as our volunteers for helping to make it such a success. We hope to continue being able to do so, so if you have a spare second to donate some extra dollars, we can guarantee we will put it to inspiring use in the camps for the benefit of the children and teens and their futures.

If you ever have any questions about the programs we run please get in touch at drugfree@darenetwork.com.

All the best until next time,

The DARE Network Team 

Mar 17, 2014

Hot and Hotter- 45C in the Shade

Friends at DARE Network
Friends at DARE Network

Dear Friends,

March is the hot and dry on the Thai/Burma border but life must go on.  There is no electricity, air conditioning and water is in short supply.

 This week DARE Network took two Ultimate Frisbee Volunteers into the camp to participate in an addiction prevention activity with our Teens for Kids Program in Mae Ra Moo camp. Other kids travelled an hour to come from the nearby refuge camp Mae La Oon to take part.  All together over 60 young people managed to endure the heat and dust to learn and play together.

 To reach our goals to Prevent Addiction and Violence in the camps, we focus on the youth. 

 Our Master Trainers from our Core Staff, Saw Majer and Saw Wah Do lead the teens in some questions and answers about addiction in their camps among young people and what they were doing to prevent it.  This gave the teens the opportunity to share with each other across camps, which is a rare chance indeed. 

 Ultimate Frisbee by its nature is a “cool” game for young people to play, giving them an alternative to hanging out with nothing to do except experiment with alcohol and drugs. It is directed to all youth and children in the camps who want to play.  Ultimate also provides a chance for girls and boys to play together in a game that has no referee.  All disagreements must be negotiated and resolved by the players themselves. It is called the Spirit of the Game.  It can then be applied to many situations of conflict.

 Our volunteers Rachel and Stephen are part of the Ultimate scene in Thailand.  They travelled 4 hours from Chiang Mai and then came the further 2 ½ hours on the “off-road” into Mae Ra Moo camp.  Stephen and Rachel provided drills and instruction to help improve the game and unrelentingly endured the heat.  Bravo and thanks.  They also donated special indestructible soccer balls to DARE Network Teams provided by their non-profit company, One World Futbol Project. Chevrolet sponsors the project.   Lions and elephants have tested their soccer balls!

 All in all we had a great day. Mae Ra Moo Team prevailed over Mae La Oon but everyone upheld the “Spirit of the Game”......thanks in a huge part to you.

Frisbee drills
Frisbee drills
Playing the Game
Playing the Game
Chasing the shadow of the disc.
Chasing the shadow of the disc.
Fuelling up.
Fuelling up.
Honouring the trainers with a gift.  Surprise!
Honouring the trainers with a gift. Surprise!


Dec 13, 2013

Taking the Test. Training of Trainers.

Trainer Det Sot reads out the case study.
Trainer Det Sot reads out the case study.

Sweet December.  For the Karen people this is the happiest time of year.  The weather is cooling off.  School break has come.  The rice is harvested.  Karen New Year is coming.  Time for family, fun and enjoyment.

Here at DARE Network, our staff return to their families for two weeks.  A well deserved, enforced holiday.  If we didn't declare it they would just work and work for their people.

We have just finished our 6 month Training of Trainers in Mae La Camp to build up our capacity.  Resettlement always takes a toll on our work as the brightest always seek better opportunities.  Train. Train. Train.  This is what we do.

This year we were also testing our new Training Manual.  This document is the culmination of over 12 years of work.  It is used by our Addiction Workers to train others and carry out their addiction work in the community.  The Training Manual (still need a title for it) is in Karen and Burmese languages.  Now we just need to get it ready for publication and film some of the modules for an added DVD.

All this is preparation for returning to Karen State in Burma.  A ceasefire is still in place, although the peace talks are slow and the land remains lawless, it is becoming possible to go inside with our work.  First steps.  Just looking out for the landmines and rogue Burmese soldiers.

Attached are some photos for our new Addiction Workers taking their exam at the end of their training.

If you would like to help out with our steps back into Burma, GlobalGiving has its year end challenge on right now until December 31st.  We could be eligible for Bonus Funds from GlobalGiving if you help out in this time period.  This year many resettled refugees in Canada and the USA will be giving what they can.  Hope you will join them.

Please have a look here:  https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-amazing-project-stepping-back-to-burma/

For those of you who have given already, continue to give and will give in the future, we want you to know your money is well used with no International overheads.  All the money you donate goes directly to the beneficiaries and the work we do for them.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday with your Friends and Families.  Be safe.

From all of us at DARE Network

Hope we will pass the test.
Hope we will pass the test.
Master Trainer - Kiri
Master Trainer - Kiri
Core Staff celebration the Holiday Meal.
Core Staff celebration the Holiday Meal.


Sep 17, 2013

And the beat goes on...



DARE Network is in the midst of its biggest Addiction Worker training since 2008.  We are gathering our resources, upgrading our materials and creating incredible teams of workers, who will not only continue our work in the refugee camps but contribute to the expansion of our work into Burma and particular Karen State, when the conditions are right.

4 of our "Master" trainers are currently in Mae La Camp, half way through a 6 month training of new workers from Nu Poe, Umpiem Mai, Mae La, Mae Ra Moo, Mae La Oon and our Migrant Worker areas.  The 30 new trainees are learning the theory and then will have the experiential learning through all of our programs, including treatment, working with our Youth Teams and community education.  They will learn the skill from our trainers in their own languages with the training materials developed over our 14 years of working on the Thai/Burma Border.  

When the training is finished, the new Addiction Workers will return to their respective areas to continue to contribute to the well-being of their communities.

Our core staff are also busy working on a final version of our training manual so that we can share our work inside Burma and even in third countries, where Burmese refugees have resettled all over the world.

All of this is a big undertaking for us.  We want you to know we appreciate your continued support for our Youth Program and please know it makes a difference every day. 


Jun 17, 2013

What Other People Say

A Happy Grin
A Happy Grin

Dear Friends,

Your on-going support means alot to our program and allows us to generate further support.  There is great interest in the Burmese Refugees and the root causes of their plight.  We often have visitors to our programs including researchers and donors.

We want to share with you some of the outside reaction we get from people who visit DARE Network in the refugee camps.

Refugees Seek Freedom From Addiction on the Thai-Burma Border

Posted: 24/05/2013 13:23


*Lucinda Lai [2012] is a Gates Cambridge Scholar doing an MPhil in Sociology. For more information about her work, click here. Picture caption: As part of a camp-based mental health workshop, a student's sketch of the drug and alcohol problems that she observes in her community of refugees at the Thai-Burma border.

Refugee camps are supposed to provide shelter from conflict and persecution, but, for Burmese refugees in Thailand, life in camp introduces a whole new set of dangers. These refugee camps have become a fertile breeding ground for drug and alcohol addiction.

I visited the Thai-Burma border camps last year as part of my work with a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to building up mental health services for refugees. I found that individuals turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope, however dysfunctionally, with the stress of protracted confinement in a place completely lacking in the opportunities for productive or meaningful living.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the camps. It is cheap and readily available in the form of homebrewed distilled rice liquor. These home brews can be fairly toxic with things like pesticides, fertilisers and rubber thrown in to make the concoction more potent or ferment more quickly. Research has shown that alcohol is used not only for recreation, but also as self-medication for pain and to cope with the boredom of life in camp, the depression and anxiety associated with the loss of traditional social structures and the stress of adapting to unfamiliar and austere living conditions.

In interviews with residents of the largest of the Thai camps, Mae La, some men revealed that they resort to substance abuse because they feel deprived of their typical means of livelihood. "We have only alcohol," one man said, "It's like being in a farm [...] surrounded by a fence." Many of these disenfranchised young men felt that they had no other avenues to express their frustration. "There is only alcohol to get release," said one.

Male respondents lamented the loss of their normal roles as providers for the household. Female respondents described the effects of alcohol abuse as adding stress and pressure on their families. Gender-based violence, crime, the serious neglect of children and the costs of alcohol and substance use on the family's finances all pose significant challenges to mental health. One camp resident put it this way: "The majority of addicts are men. Because of this, women are mentally ill."

On the other hand, camp-based drug and alcohol recovery programmes gather hope from their work, seeing it as an expression of non-violent resistance against the former military dictatorship. Indeed, Burma (also known as Myanmar) stands out as a major source of methamphetamine pills and opiates in Southeast Asia today, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Burma is the second largest opium grower in the world after Afghanistan.


Almost all of the opium Burma produces is grown in the eastern part of the country, in the states of the Shan and Kachin ethnic minorities. This area is also the site of long-standing conflicts between the minority groups' armies and the central government's military. The instability caused by these conflicts fuels the growth of opium and heroin production and is suggestive of a link between the highly profitable drug trade and the current plight of Burmese refugees.

One community-based recovery programme, DARE Network, has had remarkable success in the treatment of addicts in camp. They are a local organisation that developed in response to the urgent need to bring an end to the drug problems. DARE Network makes use of Burmese herbal medicines, acupuncture, herbal saunas, traditional massage and culturally appropriate therapies in their detoxification and rehabilitation programmes. They are guided by the belief that "recovery is a powerful weapon against those who benefit from the drug trade". Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction returns people to their communities, and healthy communities are more resilient to manage whatever political and economic transformations are yet to come.

At the individual level, addiction is directly related to feelings of powerlessness. But, there is also the growing realisation that addiction plays a role in the bigger story of Burmese refugees: persecution, armed conflict, instability, a profitable drug trade and undemocratic rule. It is only by supporting those who are trying to break free from the cycles of addiction that full and inclusive participation in the creation of a free Burma for all will be possible.

We feel this will give you some more insight into the DARE Network programs and we hope you will continue to support our work.

From all of us at DARE. 


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Project Leader

Pam Rogers

Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Where is this project located?

Map of Burmese Refugee Youth Prevent Addiction & Violence