Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

by Refugee Empowerment International
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Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Burmese Refugees: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Re-integrating into the community
Re-integrating into the community

It is well known how addiction treatment can help the individual, but that benefit can also extend beyond, spreading waves of positive change throughout the whole community.

The RIJ funded DARE network has done great work building stronger communities by battling addiction using culture-appropriate methods. The program combines traditional herbs with yoga, acupuncture and water-immersions while also addressing the social aspects of addiction and integrating back into the community. This program builds a framework for those who desperately need structure and builds resilience against the lure of addictive substances.

One community member had this to say about the benefits of the DARE treatment center for her son: “Before he goes to DARE treatment center I always angry him because he not listens what I say to him. He spent his time with his friend and doesn’t know anything to do at home.” She goes on to thank the members of the treatment center and says “In the past, my son was very naughty, disobey the rules and used to create the violence in the family. But now I was feeling better because my son doesn’t use the drugs and stay away with substance abuse.”

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to your continued support as we make an impact in the camps on the Thai-Myanmar border.

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Study time between activities
Study time between activities

In recent years a decrease in donor support has lead to worsening conditions in refugee camps on the Thai/Myanmar border with reports of increasing numbers in drug and alcohol addiction, violence and depression.

This makes the work of the addiction prevention program all the more necessary. The effectiveness of the programme speaks for itself: the team has increased its outreach to 60 villages and trained 40 more village coordinators, as well maintaining recovery rates at a strong 61%. Moreover, a training house for new addiction workers and village coordinators has been built to assure that these numbers will not be stagnant and can increase gradually.

In the IDP and refugee camps the program continues its prevention education program with an emphasis on youth. Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border has the highest rate of addiction and suicide among the camps. Due to its size it is an easy target for drug dealers who take advantage of the vulnerable situation of refugees. The treatment workers in Mae La camp have built up a strong team to take on this challenge.

One of the beneficiaries said: “I went to the treatment centre to take out detoxification in my body and didn’t want to rely myself on drugs, alcohol in my life. My health was being healed by the treatment process such as giving the training, Yoga and other activities. I have got a lot of knowledge from addiction workers and at the same time I can share to the neighboring what the lesson that I have learnt. The activities was benefit for everyone not only addiction people. Mostly people appreciate the workers and still need their activities in the community. “

Thanks to your continued support the program and with it drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation work can continue in the border region!

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Sharing with the group
Sharing with the group

Prevention education is as important as the treatment provided in the centres.

Teams of community workers provide support in the camps, spreading information about the dangers of addiction, how to work with family members who are addicted and addressing the problems of domestic abuse.

The youth teams gain from this work in so many ways through their sports activities, musical performances and presentations. These teenagers are so proud of their contribution to the community and appreciate the difference they can make.
They learn leadership skills, how to face challenges and solve problems. Through music and sport they are able to motivate their peers to handle stress and the despair they feel living in camps.
These adolescents represent the future leaders and show a resilience that will mark them out in years to come.

One teenager said: “In the team I share the addiction knowledge and how to play ultimate Frisbee. I feel proud of myself that my friends are respect to me listen to me.”

All the community workers acquire skills that will take them beyond life in the camps. One former client who trained as a community worker later took resettlement to the US where he found a role supporting Myanmar refugees who face problems settling into the US. He was spotted by a doctor at the local hospital who arranged for him to become a registered case worker.

Once again we see there is hope that people can find a way out of the ‘hard place’.

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Studying is a part of the treatment cycle
Studying is a part of the treatment cycle

50 – 60% of DARE clients continue to be clean and sober after two years. This is an amazing statistic, especially considering the challenges that people from Myanmar face living in limbo on the border with Thailand.

While staff at DARE are able to treat some clients inside Karen state – hoping for the day that refugees can return – their work on the border is as essential as ever. Despite reports that refugees are returning to Myanmar from Thailand, the reality is that it continues to be unsafe due to insurgent activity and forced recruitment. In addition, the drug trade is as prolific as ever. A recent article highlighted the death threats sent to vigilantes trying to prevent the spread of addiction.

More and more people in this programme are trained every year to work in the community, many using their experience as recovering addicts to address abuse in families and the community. Adolescents work with their peers organising sports and music events to spread the message regarding the dangers of addiction. On our visits to the the project we are always impressed at how proud the youth are – they have an important role in the community and feel they are making a difference.

One client said, “the programme’s activities benefit everyone, not only those addicted.”

They are keep hope while waiting to find a way out of the 'hard place'.

Youth work their peers
Youth work their peers
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Organization Information

Refugee Empowerment International

Location: Minato-ku, Tokyo - Japan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @REI_intl
Project Leader:
Jane Best
Minato-ku, Tokyo Japan

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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