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.
Dec 8, 2015

DARE Network...Networking in Burma

Opium
Opium

DARE Network-Networking in Burma

 As Sweet December, as the Karen people call it because the weather is finally cool and yielding, descends upon us, DARE Network is completing our first year inside Burma. While we continue our programs for the Burmese refugees in the 5 refugee camps on the Thai side of the border, DARE Staff and Addiction Workers have travelled far through the mountains of Hpa an District in Karen State to 20 villages. Here we provide knowledge to the villagers about the dangers of substance abuse and train our 20 Village Addiction Coordinators about preventing addiction in their communities.

 Meanwhile, we have brought members of these 20 villages together with our refugee trainers into to Mae La Refugee Camp to train 10 new Addiction Workers. The training is a serious one of 6 months both theoretical and practical with supervision by our DARE Master Trainers. It has been busy but rewarding. On December 20th our new Karen State Addiction trainers will graduate and return to their villages, ready to start to work for DARE in the New Year.

 Our first task of the New Year is to build our first DARE Network Training and Treatment Centre amidst the remote villages. We need help with the basics such as cement, toilets, kitchens and wood for the structure and a roof. The Headmen of the 20 villages we are working with have promised to supply the bamboo for the floors and the walls. Each village will contribute and the new DARE Centre will belong to the villagers and the communities. All will be built on land donated by the Karen Government and created by our workers and the villagers.

Meanwhile, our Program Coordinator, Law La Say and our Advisor , Pam Rogers have been in Yangon (Rangoon) and Hpa an Town, networking with other people working in the field and trying to raise funds from governments. Development is coming to Burma but it is a rocky road…literally. Please see the attached video of the traffic jam from the Thai/Burma Border heading back and forth to Yangon. We were stuck for an hour while hundreds of trucks laden with consumables from Thailand and China (yes, we saw Chinese carrots going in) plied the narrow road. The roads are being widened by hand. Breaking rock by hammer into gravel and pouring boiling tar on top while trucks, cars, motorbikes and bicycles try to get by is the not meeting the demand.

 Meanwhile, these truck drivers and road builders take advantage of the cheap methamphetamines to help give the energy to work. It is a drug dealer’s bonanza. There is no law enforcement. Some people are even paid with drugs.

 It is into this “new” Burma that we step. As we enter our 2nd year, we are hopeful of the return of the refugees. Over half of our refugee camp staff will join our Karen State programs, when it is time for them to leave the camps. It is important to us all to keep our assets through this transition. Our assets of course, are our highly trained and experienced Addiction Workers.

 Now in Sweet December, we thank you for your support of our work and request that you continue this support. GlobalGiving’s year end campaign is on and we are on the quest for the bonus funds they award to the top fund raisers. Thanks to you we have been in that category for the last 3 years and want to do it again. Please support us with a donation either once or recurring. Here is our link to the campaign.

 https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-amazing-project-stepping-back-to-burma/

 For your interest we include attached our 5 year strategy for Stepping Back to Burma.

 Happy Holidays from all of us at DARE Network

Links:


Attachments:
Nov 24, 2015

The Shell Story - The Journey Home Is Set To Begin

Phi Phi is eager and ready to start work in Burma
Phi Phi is eager and ready to start work in Burma

 

There exists an old Karen oral legend that tells the story of the original nomadic migrants that travelled from the Mongolian Gobi down through China and Tibet and over the Himalayas to settle and domesticate the fertile mountainous region surrounding the Salaween river, that which separates modern day Thailand from Myanmar.


Led by a prophet patriarch, the early Karen trailblazers marched south in search of new lands. As some groups were slower to advance, and being that they were exploring new and unknown lands, they needed to find a way to keep together, to allow the slower moving parties to find their brethren.


The legend of the seashell is borne of this diaspora. The faster moving groups placed markers along the way, so the others would not get lost. In addition to carving niches in trees and piling and bending branches, they would place seashells along the route. In this way, the Karen people would be able to reunite with each other.


In recent years, the Karen have again been separated from their loved ones, this time forcefully. Some have literally seen family members murdered before their eyes, while survivors have had to undertake long unwanted journeys far over the mountains and across rivers to seek refuge in Thailand.


But now, with hope, that tide is changing, and the possibility now exists of refugees being able to return to their homeland and be back with long lost family again. DARE Network and the Step Back to Burma program is supporting that ideal, and playing an active role in it.


The Step Back to Burma staff who have been undergoing extensive training in the Mae La camp for the past several months are preparing to make their first full force deployment across the border into the Karen villages within Myanmar. And as the date rapidly approaches, the magnitude of this “step back” is beginning to hit the young addiction workers, all but one of who was born in the Karen state on the Burmese side, but were forced to flee in the face of overwhelming violence.


There are mixed feelings. There’s excitement and pride, along with a certain sense of trepidation, particularly among some of their parents, who remember even more vividly the horrors of previous times. A recent ceasefire agreement between the central Myanmar government and is a hopeful sign, but hope nevertheless remains mixed with caution.


Nearly all of the addiction workers who are venturing into Myanmar are between the ages of 18 and 25, and many have only hazy memories of life there, but all of them still have some family who were left behind. Grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles…..they all have family with whom they will hopefully be able to reconnect.


For Phi Phi, the 28 year old project leader who will oversee the first group’s entry into Myanmar, the Step Back program has special significance. Phi Phi has been living in the refugee camps of Thailand since he was 6 years old, 22 years now, and has dreamed of this day for a long time. He is anxious to bring the work of DARE Network to his homeland, where an older brother who stayed behind awaits him. “I want to continue working to grow the DARE program to help all of the Karen people” he says. “DARE Network helped me when I was addicted before, and I want to help show the good way for Karen people in Myanmar.”


The Step Back program is the first phase of what DARE Network hopes will be a continuing process, and the young eager workers are in this for the long haul. I sat down with the entire team of new addiction workers recently and asked them all a question. I asked “Given ideal conditions – peace in Burma and an end to refugee camps, if you had your choice of where you can live, where would it be?" The choices being: In Thailand as a fully recognized citizen, in a peaceful Burma, or in any third country of your choice – including the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia…anywhere. Where would it be?


I had imagined, perhaps naively, that of the 17 young men and women, that the vast majority would say “a third country”. I was thoroughly mistaken. Only 4 did. 5 would choose to remain in Thailand. And 8, the majority, said that they want to go back and live in Burma. Despite the pain and suffering and trauma that so many of they and their families have faced there, they still want to go back and make a life there, and help to rebuild their communities.


The only member of the group who was not born in the Karen state of Myanmar is Shergaytaw, a 20 year old young woman whose father was shot and killed as her pregnant mother fled on foot over the border, to give birth to her here in Thailand. For her, the journey “back” to Burma, where her grandmother and grandfather still reside, will be extremely special. “I don’t know what to expect, but if I can live in Burma, I will live there and work with the Karen people.”


In about a month, the team will be immersed into the villages within Myanmar. In a way, the long odyssey of the Karen people’s journey goes on. The Step Back program is one part of that journey coming around to full circle, reuniting “lost” nomads once again.


And when they cross the big swift Salaween river and step foot onto Burmese soil, they’ll be carrying seashells along with them, so that they will never be separated again.

Training sessions in progress in Mae La camp
Training sessions in progress in Mae La camp
Map of villages in Burma where DARE will operate
Map of villages in Burma where DARE will operate
Oct 2, 2015

Get to Know Step Back To Burma Team - Trainees Own Stories

Kaw
Kaw

Training of the first mobile Addiction Worker Team of “The Amazing Project – Stepping Back to Burma,” is well underway! Having studied the theory behind addiction work for 3 months, trainees now commence practical treatment of clients, guided by DARE Network’s Master Trainers.

Some trainees wanted to share a little of their stories with those who have helped to make this project possible.

Kaw, age 24, has become a trainee for DARE out of a strong conviction of its benefit for other people. Once he graduates he hopes to share his newfound knowledge about substance abuse, its causes, effects and how to prevent and treat it, with others. In the past he himself has used drugs and alcohol in ways that have led him to believe that they are not good for his life. Continuing to use them, he says, would someday harm his health, and furthermore harm those around him. Kaw's focus on the impact of his actions upon others leads him to choose to be a positive influence, rather than negative. “Drugs and alcohol destroys people’s love for the future. Addicted people have no plans for their future lives.”

As for the training, Kaw so far says he has been surprised by just how many topics there are to learn about surrounding addiction. An important message he has taken away is that small decisions accumulate to bigger consequences, including addiction. Though it will be a challenge, he seeks to be a good role model for friends and family and within his community. 

Hile, also a 24-year-old trainee in this project, passionately spoke of his love for the community as the key reason behind joining DARE. After graduating high school and college he set his mind on finding work that would do just this – fill a societal need within his community. He approached a Karen leader that had supported him through school, and this man explained about the upcoming training DARE Network was going to provide to create Hpa’an District’s mobile Addiction Worker Team. This leader emphasized the important of Addiction Work for Karen people, for Burma, and for the local community.

This made sense to Hile, and he says he took time to evaluate his own views about being part of such work for the community. He himself has encountered the effects of addiction – his uncle in the village is an alcoholic, an addiction that severely affects his health, his family, and his general life. His uncle encouraged Hile to apply for this training - so he applied to become a DARE Network trainee. “But I want to say that before all this, after graduating from high school, I had already decided for myself that I wanted to represent my community, and to serve my community’s needs. And I don’t mind if it’s hard or not. I look back to the Karen people and the political situation, and this is important to me.”

Hile felt inspired to join DARE by this motto from his school days,

            ‘Put the wind on your shoulders,

            And serve the people with all your heart and soul.’

U San is the oldest of Step Back to Burma trainees, and brings to the table his own experience of addiction which he himself has been through and recovered from through the DARE Network treatment program. At 53, he now hopes to actively become part of the solution for the issue of addiction, which afflicts so many within his community.

U San's own rehabilitation sparked his interest in becoming an Addiction Worker himself. He furthermore felt moved to deal with the rising numbers of young people that he has seen become addicted.

U San also says that he saw an example in Pam, the Canadian Addiction Specialist who co-founded DARE in 2000 alongside local community leaders. Why shouldn’t he too, as a Karen community member who has been affected by addiction, be part of the solution? U San knows that within Karen State many more young people are affected by addiction, and it is for their sakes that he is training to become an addiction worker. 

Chitwah, age 24, chose to work with DARE because of its importance for the community, though she fully anticipates that it will be hard work to do. “Because many people - especially youth - use drugs, we have to train to do this work for them, for their future. Some people know that addiction is not good so they want to change their lives.” Chitwah trains to be able to walk others through how to make this change happen. She has no experience with addiction herself, something she says she thinks about as she goes through training. She has also never been to Burma, where she and the rest of the current trainees will be working when they graduate in a few short months.

Chitwah personally believes in the high value of education as a preventative method against addiction. Though learning to treat people that are addicted interests her, Chitwah's passion is for education – both in terms of learning for herself about addiction and about DARE, and in being able to teach others. She wanted to say this to all who have helped to make “The Amazing Project, Stepping Back to Burma” possible: “I am thankful to people supporting this program, and the opportunity it has given me for training. Wherever I am in life I will remember the education I am getting from this training here – I will hold onto it.”

As DARE Network prepares to make the step into Burma and to begin work in Karen State, your support to make this work possible. Thank you for being part of this journey with us.

Hile
Hile
U San
U San
Chitwah
Chitwah

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