Burmese Refugee Youth Prevent Addiction & Violence

by DARE Network (Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Network)

Even as DARE Network continues to work in the refugee camps on the Thai/Burma Border, we are looking forward to carrying our Teens for Kids program over the border into Karen State where we have opened a treatment and training centre in the jungle.


20 Villages in Karen State now are providing Prevention Education to their communities, trained by our intrepid DARE Workers. Our next step is to have our Addiction Workers identify some Teen Leaders and start to introduce them to the process of interacting with their Peers.  These kids have never had any kind of contact with the kind of programming offered by DARE Network and the Karen people who work in the organization.


Our first tool will be the Frisbee Disc.  We use this tool and the game of Ultimate Frisbee to engage young people, both boys and girls.  Once they are enjoying the game, we add in substance abuse education.  The young people then can share with their families, friends and schoolmates. They can learn what normal drinking is and the great dangers of methamphetamines, heroin and opium.

In the meantime, we want to share with you, our donors, who make it all possible, our 2015 Annual Report.  Please take the time to read it and see what and where you have contributed and how we have used your money. We promise the report is not boring.



The Winners
The Winners

Ultimate Frisbee and Addiction Prevention


In Mae La Camp, 20,000 young people have lost their opportunities for advanced education. They are full of youthful energy and hope and yet live in a hopeless environment, which prevents them from meeting their human potential. Many of these young boys and girls turn to experimentation with alcohol and drugs to alleviate boredom and to reduce the impact of their feelings of loss.


DARE Network has long recognized that if minds, bodies and spirits can be involved in the expression of energy, then the pain of loss can be dispelled. To this end, we have introduced the game of Ultimate Frisbee to the youth of the Burmese Refugee camps through our Teens for Kids programs


Basically, the teens and children have a fun day learning a new “cool” sport. Volunteers from the Ultimate Team in Bangkok, the SoiDawgz travel at their own expense to share the game with the refugees. Of course, they too have a great experience seeing the joy come to the young peoples hearts.


This last month Tri, Liz, Polly and Helen travelled 8 hours to Mae La Camp, where our DARE Team had over 50 teens ready to learn the game and play a tournament. The weather is hot and the football ground where we play is dusty. Lots of little kids are hanging around looking for their chance to join in.


The DARE Team starts the day off with a fun quiz about Addiction Prevention making a competition out of who can come up with the right information. We take the opportunity to share about how people can become addicted. Of course, there is a prize for the Teens Team that gets the most answers.


Then into the Frisbee practice drills and finally an exciting tournament. Everybody wins in Ultimate. There were trophies and prizes for everyone. And presents of thanks were given from the kids to the volunteers. Ultimate is a game that promotes negotiation and conflict resolution through the Spirit of the Game. There is no referee. As well, it is a game where boys and girls can play together combining strength with strategy to create gender equality. All of these skills are useful in communities affected directly by war.


All of us at DARE Network offer our thanks to all of you who have continued to support DARE’s Prevention programs for youth in the refugee camps. We are now preparing to take these programs back into Burma, when it is safe to do so, possibly in the next year or two. You all are making this possible.



Preventing Addiction
Preventing Addiction
Lunch for the volunteers
Lunch for the volunteers



This is Alin.  The photograph is from his graduation from DARE Network's Treatment Program in Mae La Refugee Camp, on December 21st, 2015. Alin has completed his second round of treatment.

Alin comes from Kachin State in the north of Burma.  He is addicted to heroin, opium, methamphetamines and alcohol.  Kachin State is famous for its production of heroin and the majority of the male population is addicted.  Many people work in the Jade mines and are paid with drugs, either methamphetamines (YABA) or heroin or both.

In coming to Mae La Camp in 2011, a journey of nearly 1500km, Alin had hoped to resettle to a third country.  Maybe good for him, that the resettlement program was closed to new arrivals.  Faced with his addiction in a refugee camp he sought out treatment with DARE Network and successfully completed the 3 month program. DARE works closely in the community with families of addicts.  Unfortunately, Alin's family remained in Kachin State and could not benefit from the program.  Alin returned to Kachin State, after his treatment and relapsed. It is to be expected, when nothing around him has changed.

Determined to try again, Alin, with the support of his Mother returned to Mae La Camp in 2015 to admit himself again to DARE's Program.  Once again, he successfully completed the program. This time however, Alin has decided to stay on in Mae La.  He will train 6 months as an Addiction Worker and work in the camp with the rest of the DARE Network Camp Team.

DARE has already opened its program in Karen State inside Burma.  We have been asked to come to Kachin State because of the severe addiction problems there.  Alin, as an Addiction Worker will eventually work with us in his own home providing an example to other Kachin people, who are lost in the chaos of heroin addiction.  Alin is the future of his people.  We are proud of him and his desire to give back.

To learn more about DARE's program inside Burma see our Global Giving project, The Amazing Project Stepping Back to Burma. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-amazing-project-stepping-back-to-burma/

and consider a donation to the our Year End Campaign on Global Giving by midnight December 31, 2015 EST


Migrant youth learning computer skills
Migrant youth learning computer skills


 DARE Network serves to provide addiction prevention education programs across five refugee camps and one migrant community along the Thai-Burma border. Much of this work is youth-focused, aimed at preventing kids and teenagers from engaging in substance abuse and developing addiction issues that could impact them for the rest of their lives. This work is as engaging and dynamic as the young people DARE works with, no more so than within the migrant DARE Network Center in Proprah District. This community faces unique challenges, very different to those faced by camp-based refugees, and so in response to distinctive needs, DARE Network here is markedly different to other locations.


Yee S., age 26, has been an Addiction Worker for eight years in DARE Network’s Proprah District Migrant Centre. Yee explained this to me when I visited the DARE migrant centre for the first time.


Youth work is a major focus of this DARE Centre – prevention-education activities and peer support groups regularly are held in the evenings, and older teenagers are encouraged to lead these activities alongside Yee, giving them experience in leadership, addiction work, and the opportunity to take responsibility for younger teenagers and children.


Yee explains how DARE’s work here is youth-focused and relies on building organic relationships with teenagers. Though specific prevention-education campaigns are conducted three times per month within the Centre itself, building relationships of trust between teenagers and the addiction workers, including Yee, is an important route into being able to talk about addiction and substance abuse. Young people come to the Centre in the evenings to learn to use computers, develop textile skills with DARE’s sewing machines, and take guitar lessons. Rabbits, Frisbees, and volleyballs are available to play with – though it’s recommended not to play with all at once – for the sake of rabbit welfare (for example, ultimate-Frisbee tournaments just don’t mix well with docile furry friends).


Other ways DARE has been able to support the migrant community here include support for teachers within schools for migrant children, which are entirely donor-dependent, and so can shut down at any time. Due to lack of funding, teachers are routinely underpaid, so Yee has previously worked to source funding to supplement salaries, again as an important way of meeting the needs of youth within this community. DARE addiction workers also visit four migrant schools to offer computer training, and addiction prevention-education workshops.


Proprah District Migrant Centre works within ethnic migrant communities from Burma living in this area. Most of these people are day labourers in the farms surrounding this area, often illegally. Due to the nature of this work, DARE’s addiction treatment would be inappropriate and is not compatible with people’s lives. Yee explained that here people work everyday: to come in for treatment would mean stopping work, which is not possible for most.


Instead, Yee and other DARE Addiction Workers here start prevention-education activities at 5pm everyday to fit around work timetables. Addicted people come here and can receive support and prevention-education information, and though treatment is not accessible to this community, Yee explained that DARE’s philosophy of addiction recovery is that 20% comes from treatment, 30% comes from a person’s community support for their recovery, and 50% is an internal process within a person themselves. By supporting people to invest in themselves and learn about the addiction issues they have and how to recover, recovery from addiction is still possible.


The Migrant Centre is also different to camp DARE Centres as it responds to the specific needs of migrant workers, by focusing not only on provision of addiction prevention-education but also focusing on issues of labour rights and healthcare. To be an effective and responsive community organisation, DARE’s work here cannot be limited to a focus on only drugs and alcohol. In collaboration with health and labour rights – focused organisations, DARE Centre is able to facilitate the meeting of migrant community interests and needs.


Following the horrendous 2012 flooding within Burma, DARE Migrant Centre functioned as not only a place where migrant community members could receive support and help, but also as a facilitator of this group of people reaching out to those in more dire need than themselves. Together, migrants collected clothes to send to communities that were severely impacted by these floods, coordinating this from the DARE Centre. Through being able to provide a collection point and base for organisation to take place, Yee and others working within DARE here, have been part of tangible community building efforts, as well as help mitigate societal issues surrounding addiction that affect these communities.


The generous and on-going support from Global Giving donors for our work to provide Youth Addiction Prevention-Education makes possible DARE Network’s involvement in this community. Thank you for helping to empower our passionate and creative team to conduct this work, building communities that are free from addiction.

Prevention education starts early
Prevention education starts early
Keeping teens off the streets
Keeping teens off the streets
Yee S. - DARE Network Addiction staff member
Yee S. - DARE Network Addiction staff member
Ultimate frisbee - fun and team building
Ultimate frisbee - fun and team building
Music makes the people come together
Music makes the people come together
Law La Say, Chau Su and Major with the manual
Law La Say, Chau Su and Major with the manual

The DARE All Burma Community Addiction Manual is now complete! A huge success for the team that opens up many opportunities and will strengthen our future programs.  

The manual contains instructions and details of our entire program. From detox massage to community prevention education. It has been developed by our local staff, in only local languages – Karen and Burmese.

DARE’s mission is to build the capacity and strength of the local people to support other community members to recover from addiction. The completion of this manual is very rewarding for the team, who have worked extremely hard on it for many yearsl. It will be a key tool in the spread of addiction awareness, education and recovery along the borderline, in Burma and overseas in third countries.

It will enable people in remote areas to begin to provide awareness, education and basic treatment. It will enable more people to be trained as Addiction Workers, and those trainers we already have to use their skills to train more people in more places.

Law La Say our Program Coordinator was the lead on this project from start to finish.  He directed what was to go in, how the program was to be explained and completed the translation into Burmese.

He said about the completion of the manual:

”In 2002 and 2004 we started to create a manual, we used this for a few years but needed to add more after developing extra modules and feedback from the community. Since then we have been hoping for an opportunity to put all the knowledge together. We have so much knowledge from our time that we have learned and shared, that we decided that if we can put all the information together it will be so useful and much easier for our program, it will be our gift to the program. If ever DARE is gone, or we cannot reach somewhere, the manual will live on as a gift to the community.”

Major, our Assistant Program Coordinator learnt a lot from the process of developing the manual, another huge benefit from the process. He was the main formatter, editor and also did Karen translations. He said about the manual:

”We have support from the other people in the team who can help when something is not correct, so together with my increased skills and the team support I feel more confident to do more things for DARE”

The internal and external gain from the process and actual manual itself are almost immeasurable. We look forward to implementing it here and seeing it be used to help others around the world.

We would like to thank our funders for the manual project; Refugees International Japan and the Dave and Kerry Foundation for their generosity and continued support of our project.


Until next time,

The DARE Team. 


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Organization Information

DARE Network (Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Network)

Location: Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son - Thailand
Website: http:/​/​www.darenetwork.com
Project Leader:
Pam Rogers
Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son Thailand
$26,331 raised of $35,000 goal
642 donations
$8,669 to go
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