DARE Network (Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Network)

DARE (Drug & Alcohol Recovery & Education) Network is a grassroots national NGO. DARE Network provides culturally appropriate non-medical treatment & prevention education to reduce substance abuse & associated social issues within the communities of displaced ethnic people from Burma, along the Thai/Burma border. DARE Network envisions the strength of ethnic people from Burma to use the power of recovery from addiction as a non-violent means to resist oppression. A Free Mind Cannot Be Destroyed.
Nov 2, 2016

Working hard under difficult circumstances

Client (left) is reunited with his family.
Client (left) is reunited with his family.

It’s time to bring an update from our treatment centre in Karen state, Burma. By the end of August our first ever treatment cycle at our new treatment centre in T’ree Hpoh Kwee came to an end, and the 27 clients were reunited with their families at the graduation celebration. For some of the clients it was the first time in three months that they got to see their families, since the rainy season floods had destroyed the roads, making it cumbersome to travel.

The reunion was an immense experience to clients and family members alike.

Fighting

The rewarding feeling after a job well done, and the anticipation before the next treatment cycle set to start by September was soon replaced by a feeling of alarm, as fighting broke out in Karen state on the 4th of September. As a consequence of the conflict, roads were closed, which resulted in fewer clients being able to make the trip to the treatment centre. Despite the armed conflict, DARE Network staff stayed at the treatment centre, allowing for a new treatment cycle to begin. Currently 19 clients are being treated at the centre in T’ree Hpoh Kwee, set to graduate by the beginning of December 2016. The conflict cooled down by the end of September, and neither clients nor DARE Network staff was injured during the fighting. The safety of clients and staff are of the highest concern to us, and during the time of conflict, a communication system was established, with hourly updates on the situation. The communication chain was a collaboration between our staff at the treatment centre in T’ree Hpoh Kwee, DARE Network village coordinators in 20 Karen villages, local authorities and locals, and it helped us qualify the decisions being made to keep clients and staff safe. DARE Network would like to thank all the people who helped us keeping up the treatment during the recent conflict.

Currently the conflict has ceased, and we hope that the relative stability will allow for more clients to attend our 3rd treatment cycle that will begin by the start of January 2017.

Before the next treatment cycle, we will be putting a lot of effort into disseminating our treatment offers at the T’ree Hpoh Kwee centre, through our 20 village coordinators, village leaders, local authorities, and through our monthly education and prevention education in the 20 villages that we are present in, in Karen state. The recent events are a testimonial as to how motivated, and hardworking our staff in Karen state is, and gives us great sense of pride and hope for the future. 

Clients and their family at the gradutation.
Clients and their family at the gradutation.
Oct 27, 2016

To find a beautiful gemstone in a pile of pig manure - Karen Proverb

Failure and setbacks are intrinsic to all endeavours and to the human experience at large. No matter what you do, at some point you are bound to fail. Some failures will be of little consequence, while others might impact you in ways you didn’t expect. It seems that the greater the gain you stand to gain from success of your work, the bigger the failure will seem and also the number of ways in which you might fail. The two correlate: success and failure. What matters then, is not that you fail, but how you cope with failure afterwards. Since DARE Networks inception in 2001, we have worked hard to provide drug prevention education and treatment to the refugee population in the borderland between Thailand and Burma, but there have been times of failure and setbacks.

Success

Our preliminary scrutiny into the Burmese Refugee Camp environments had revealed widespread alcohol and drug abuse, and these findings crystalized into an idea. Our Community Based Organization emerged among the refugees and their leaders to fight drug abuse and the devastating consequences to their own people by providing drug education and treatment to as many people as possible. Our objective was to be met by setting up treatment centres in all nine refugee camps, on the Thailand/Burma Border, through which it would be possible to have a big impact. By 2004, we had treatment centres in nine refugee camps, where locally trained staff offered two different treatment programs to alcohol and drug addicts, as well as prevention education, programs for youth, and community interventions for men, women and children. The project was reaching its target population.

Failure

DARE Network is run almost entirely by Burmese refugees who both undertake most of the administrative tasks, and run the treatment and education programs in the refugee camps. The fleeting nature of the refugee population proved to be a challenge, when it came to maintain the workforce in the organization. Sometimes in life, things are beyond your control. Unfortunately for us, in the period between 2008-2009 failure began to set in, and it became clear that we could not sustain all nine treatment centres.

As refugees moved away from the camps, as result of The UNHCR Resettlement Programs, to continue their lives elsewhere in Third Countries, so did their knowledge and human resources. In 2007 our treatment centres in the refugee camps of Tham Hin and Ban Do Yang were forced to close, and in 2008 we had to end activities in Karenni Camp I and Karenni Camp II. What remained was the realization that we had underestimated the speed in which our workforce was resettling. Big resettlement programs were implemented between 2006 and 2008, and our Addiction Workers would resettle in countries far away from the camps. As such, time and money invested in the former Addiction Workers was now lost to the camps, with fewer people left to help us succeed.

It became evident that the model we had developed, of refugees working to treat and educate other refugees, only worked as long as the flux of persons remained at a steady level. One of the premises on which the organization is built is that the addiction workers in charge of treatment and education remain in the camp, where their target group resides.  Now we had a challenge before us.

Forward

This insight, that the model is conditional to stable migration conditions, leads to an important conclusion; the project is where the people are. This might seem like an obvious conclusion, but when dealing with a transient target population it carries important consequences that we had to adopt for the future. First, we have begun conducting a thorough screening processes, to make sure that we train and employ people who are not about to resettle within a period that to ensure that we are making a good investment for our program.  We then set up an on-going training program that not only provided us new Addiction Workers but also gave our long-time staff an opportunity to improve their training skills.  This training program is the backbone of our recovered success. 

Forward bonus

Former addiction workers who resettled in a 3rd country, have also proven to be able to make a positive difference in their new country of residence, where they have been able to help in Burmese communities abroad, by using their knowledge and skills that they have learned from working at DARE Network. Even if DARE Network’s workers are resettled or return back to Burma, it has turned out that they can contribute to the forward work of DARE Network in important ways. Addiction Workers who return to Burma, have been vital to the process of setting up treatment centres and programs inside Burma, where we are present in 20 villages. These programs are in place to help people already in Burma, and people returning from refugee camps in Thailand.

In the end it has proved all out important not to focus on the factors beyond our control. In the context that we work, there are a lot of unknown, and uncontrollable factors that affect our work. These have always influenced the workings of our organisation, and will continue to do so. However, as the context changes we change with it, and work hard to make sure that the time and education invested in our workers are allowed to go as far as possible, in order to make a positive change for people who need it.

Sep 7, 2016

Being young.

Jumping high
Jumping high

Being young. On the doorstep to adulthood. The early stages in a person’s life are some of the most formative and vulnerable ones. This is the time when we develop and grow into habits that will follow us for the rest of our lives. We as human beings have no say in where, when and how we get to be born. Some are born into time and place of conflict, violence and instability, whilst others emerge into a life of stability, access to resources and a wide array of possibilities at their feet. The arbitrary event of coming into existence is one widely regarded as luck; good or bad. For children and adolescents being born in, or growing up in a refugee camp, their existence must indeed be regarded as a case of bad luck, and a hard start to life. Existence in a refugee camp can be monotonous and uniform, and these external factors might lead one to fall into self-destructive behaviour such as substance abuse. Luckily persons and organisations work hard to break down these harmful social conditions, and empower young people in the refugee camps.

DARE Network is present in five refugee camps in Thailand, housing refugees from adjacent Burma. The refugees who reside in the camps are ultimately left with three choices; seek asylum in Thailand, repatriate to a third-party nation state or voluntarily return to Burma. The camp perceived as an intermediary station where people sit and wait before they are able to make a choice, is an easy analogy to grasp at. The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees prognoses indicate that due to the somewhat stable situation in Burma, a large number of refugees residing in refugee camps inside Thailand, will be able to return back to Burma during 2016. However for the youth population who still reside in the camps, DARE's Burmese Youth Program represent a possibility for them to break with the monotonous waiting and become important members of the camp community.

The Burmese Youth Program educates adolescents in the social consequences of drug use; both on personal and community levels, and help them develop capacity to advise other members of the community in the consequences of substance abuse. Education is just one part of this two-part project; the initial allure for many youths being the game of Ultimate Frisbee. Once a year DARE's Youth Program called Teens for Kids organises an Ultimate Frisbee tournament across the five refugee camps, where teams get to compete against each other. Before the tournament begins, participants are quizzed on their knowledge on substance abuse and related consequences, and are awarded prizes for correct answers. After the tournament, participants who are not yet a part of the program, are encouraged to participate in DARE activities.. The Teens for Kids Program also invites participants to engage in prevention education sessions in their schools, working with their teachers and other students to help young people understand the consequences of substance abuse and to explore alternatives with them.

The feeling of contribution to the community, the chance to participate in the big Ultimate Frisbee tournament and important substance education are the three legs that make the program work. By the end of 2015 the program had 250 participants in the ages between 16-25 years, in five refugee camps; Mae La Oo, Mae Ra Moe, Mae La, Umpieum and Nu Poe, situated in the border region between Burma and Thailand. Respondents among the youths in the program rank drug education and the chance to reinvest themselves into the community, chief amongst the things they took away from the program.

The program enables young people who are already in a difficult situation to start with, to help their community by teaching and participating in substance education and by practicing in a sport that supports gender equality and conflict resolution.

 

The Burmese Youth Prevent Substance Abuse Project is thankful to its donors, who make it possible for DARE to create opportunities for the Burmese youths in the refugee camps, and help them create a positive impact on their own communities.

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