July 1st, 2015 marked the official opening ceremony of DARE Network’s Step Back to Burma training program! After months of preparation, the first DARE team to work in Burma have begun their 6-month long training in Mae La camp.
These 15 trainees will form a mobile Addiction Worker team that will work in Hpa’an District of Karen State. Here they will become equipped to provide pioneering addiction treatment and prevention education programs to 20 rural villages where such services are vitally needed.
The Opening Ceremony was a day of celebration and a show of the strength of community support for DARE Network’s expansion into Burma. Conducted in both Karen and Burmese languages, and attended by camp leaders, former clients, their families, religious leaders of three faiths - Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, core staff, trainees, trainers, and the wider community of Mae La, the day was colored by a tangible sense of support and encouragement for the new trainees. Thanks in part to your generous donations, the fruits of "The Amazing Project – Stepping Back to Burma” are being realized in a substantial way.
Many leaders spoke a message of hope for freedom from addiction and the vital importance of solidarity. An uplifting and harmonious song performed by the trainees served as a sign of the strength of the team’s collective spirit and support for one another in this brave harbinger project of DARE’s. To solidify this, in one of the oldest shows of community, the Opening Ceremony closed with a shared meal.
After the ceremony some trainees spoke up about why they had personally felt moved to join this training, and to work as part of DARE’s new Addiction Worker team. Stories of how addiction has affected their communities, their families, and themselves were shared in this new extension of the DARE family. Most of the trainees come from Thai border camps, and desire to return and contribute to their homeland.
The Opening Ceremony took place in the context of recent flairs of conflict in Karen State, which has led to increased instability and displacement of many more people. For as long as narcotics remain a political tool used to fuel and fund conflict, rural villages within Karen State will remain at high risk of suffering from the negative impacts of substance abuse. Proof of this can be seen in the 20-80% addiction rates found across rural villages in the region.
This conflict simultaneously has increased demands for DARE’s camp-based services, as more people seek refuge in the camps from bursts of conflict, whilst donors decrease services provided in camps as they shift funding into Burma to focus on in-country development instead. Addiction rates soar in camps and in rural villages in Karen State.
The Amazing Project – Stepping Back to Burma, marks the beginning of DARE Network beginning to reach out to those communities afflicted by addiction within Karen State, without reducing camp-based operations.
The next 6-months of training for these 15 new Addiction Workers has now commenced, with the promise of hope for real change amongst ethnic communities in Burma.
The hot season is upon us as our team crosses the Thai/Burma Border into Karen State. Travel is by boat, walking tractor, motor scooter and truck. And of course, mostly by walking. The 20 villages we have targetted as the first step in our Amazing Project-Stepping back to Burma surround a high mountain, which sometimes has to be traversed on small paths through the forest and jungle.
Our team are Law La Say our Program Coordinator, Kiri our Master Trainer and Pi Pi our Addiction Trainer and guide. Pi Pi who lives in Mae La Refugee camp is making his first journey back to his home in Karen State in more than ten years. It is a joyous time for him. Pi Pi recovered at our DARE Centre, took our training and now is a respected and highly competent member of our staff.
Thanks to all of you who donated during the GlobalGiving Campaign at the end of 2014, we are now able to share for the first time our work inside Karen State in Burma. Over the next month our team are recruiting new Addiction Trainees from the 20 villages and Village Addiction Coordinators, while giving general addiction knowledge to the villagers. By the end of the year, we hope to have trained 40 people, who can then train more workers to help reduce drug and alcohol abuse in their area.
It isn't easy because the ceasefire with the Burmese Army is still tenuous, the rainy season will make travel difficult and bring the malaria, but we have a vision and a plan. We will share our progress with you.
Here are a couple of photos of our team and the villagers inside Karen State.
We want once again to express our thanks to you and encourage you to share with your friends how you support our work.
from all of us at DARE Network
Well, we are blown away by your support of our Year End Campaign. We had donors from all over the world and a very successful campaign. Here is a snapshot of our success:
We can’t thank you enough for your support of our program during this campaign. The Year End campaign is our major public fundraising drive for the year and an important opportunity for us to raise much needed funds for our tightly run projects. With your generous contributions Step Back to Burma will be able to kick into gear ASAP in 2015.
Your money will go towards:
If everything else goes to plan, we should be getting ready to make tracks in the next two months.
This month it was Karen Thanksgiving celebration. Pam went to the ceremony in the camps, and our team members celebrated at various events at home in Mae Sariang. The theme of Karen Thanksgiving is to pay respect and thanks for the year that has been and make wishes and plan for safety and good luck for the year ahead. That is exactly what we are doing. Along with all the Karen people who may be wishing for freedom from addiction this year, DARE Network is wishing to be able to help them.
Thank you for helping us help people struggling with addiction.
Best regards and Happy New Year to each and everyone one of our donors.
P.S. Our GlobalGiving page will continue to be active, so we apprciate any and all "spreading of the word" you might be inclined to do.
As you probably know, we are a small, tightly run ship. We are thankful for every dollar we receive, and every dollar makes a difference somewhere in the organisation. That is why, when we get help, support or even simply encouragment for free it puts a big smile on all of our faces.
In this report I want to share with you the perspective of one amazing person, Naa Okantey, who provided all of this for free and share a little of what we are working on in the head office on a daily basis.
Naa is a Global Giving volunteer Impact Assessor. On a self-funded trip to South-East Asia, she decided to visit 5 Global Giving charities to provide support and assistance with their communications and in-house operations. DARE Network was one of those lucky organisations. Naa spent a week with us, understanding our organisation and giving us tips about how to reach more people, write better stories and generally enhance the way we communicate. Her infomation has already been useful and we are expecting even more value from the tailored report being written for us.
We asked Naa a few questions after she had left on her impressions about volunteering and DARE's work. We hope this will give you a glimpse of what it is like on the ground here in Mae Sariang.
1.Why did you decide to come on this trip to help NGOs in South East Asia?
Three of my favorite things are: travelling, stories and food and in essence that is what this trip was about. I spent a week at a time with different organizations, getting to know their story and writing a report to help them get better. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer to be honest. I am a huge advocate for the important role grassroots organizations play in international development and have some experience in what it looks like to run such a project. So I thought that I could help other organizations as well as learn from them. I knew I would get to meet some super cool people, be inspired and hopefully also inspire and I have not been disappointed.
2. Why do you think volunteering is important?
Put simply, I think volunteering is important because it helps someone else. There is something we can all do to make the world a better place and if we can do so freely, I am not sure why we wouldn’t. You get to share a part of your life with someone –albeit sometimes briefly- and I think that is quiet special. You don’t even have to travel for this to happen: the beauty of volunteering is that it can literally be anything! It doesn’t have to be the cliché of teaching in a school in Africa. That warm fuzzy feeling that you get from doing something for nothing is also really nice! I do think though that when you consider international volunteering, you really have to do your research because that warm fuzzy feeling is not enough, you should ask yourself: is what I am doing helpful, or is there a better way I could be supporting this organization, because ultimately it is not about you, its about them.
3. What was your impression of the DARE program?
I love DARE! Drug and alcohol addiction is a huge problem in many places, but when used as a form of oppression of an already vulnerable people, the effects are magnified. The fact that DARE exists to tackle this issue is very exciting and I love that the techniques you use like acudetoxing and herbal remedies are native to the communities. You don’t skimp out on quality though, all of your trainers are certified accudetoxers and I thought that was very impressive, as is your success rate. You are also so keen to learn about how to improve so as far as I can see, the only way is up
4. You already knew a bit about us and what we do, did you learn anything unexpected while you were here with us?
Yeah! I discovered that a lot of the people who work for DARE are recovering addicts themselves. I was genuinely blown away by how amazing these people are. I think it makes it even more special that its some kind of domino effect because what starts as something they do for themselves, to become free of addiction slowly but surely sends ripples of change and unity across communities all over the camps.
I also loved that local people run the program and the beneficiary’s needs drive the programs and I think its amazing that you encourage these recovering addicts to train as program leaders and educators. It totally empowering for them and takes away the problem of the “western savior”.
5. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be? As small or big as you like!
Oh my! This is a hard one. Can I say love? I saw this quote by John Green recently “I don’t know a perfect person. I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” I know it may sound lame but for me love is a selfless thing and if we all loved selflessly, and truly embraced all that it encapsulates: forgiveness, kindness, humility, passion etc. the world would be a better place.
Naa, thanks again for your time and effort with us! We wish you all the best.
A huge thanks to everyone who continues to support DARE Network's projects. This project "The Amazing Project-Stepping Back to Burma, might be also called Hurry Up and Slow Down. As many of you know the Road to Return is littered with Landmines, uncontrolled Burmese soldiers who still rape and murder with impunity and no clear peace plan between the Burmese Military Government and the Ethnic Groups.
DARE Network must tread carefully and surely. But tread we must. Drug addiction inside Burma is proliferating due to lawlessness and the opportunities of the Ceasefire.
Currently we are in the process of training new workers to begin our assessment in Karen State. These are brave people indeed as they must negotiate their way through all the players to try to learn what the local people want. What do they think of the drug situation in their villages? How will they be able to support prevention and recovery work in their own areas? How can DARE help them? Meanwhile, all must stay safe from the Drug Lords who control so much of the area we are about to enter.
DARE is partnering with a local Community Based Education organization and the Karen Womens' Organization to travel safely together. As well, we are sharing research with the award-winning Karen Human Right's Organization, to monitor drug abuse inside our target areas in Karen State.
Meanwhile on the border in Thailand, the Military Coup Makers of Thailand, the Thai Army have started to talk about pushing the refugees back. Rumours have been flying and fear returning without safety has the refugees in a high state of anxiety. We continue our work with them in the 5 refugee camps we work in, as we strive to move our work forward to be ready for any sudden forced return.
We have received a grant from Refugees International Japan to print our new Training Manual. This is great news as it will most certainly be a great tool with which to Step Back to Burma. We hope you will continue to step with us. We need your support more than ever at this precarious time.
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Mae Hong Son,
Mae Hong Son