Burmese people have lived through decades of conflict. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homeland for neighbouring Thailand and now live in refugee camps along the Thailand– Burma border. Some have been living in the camps for decades.
Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, works in the Thai/Burma border refugee camps and is challenging Australians to make a difference to the lives of these refugees. In a new initiative called the ‘Act for Peace Ration Challenge’ they are asking members of the Uniting Church and communities around Australia to eat the same rations as a refugee from Burma during Refugee Week, 15-21 June, and get sponsored for doing it.
The Act for Peace Ration Challenge will benefit refugees like Ah Lay Mee Kaing. Despite all she’s been through, Mee Kaing is dedicated to caring for other refugees and helping them to prepare for when they’re finally able to return home. Mee Kaing has suffered more than many of us could ever imagine. She lost both her brothers in the fighting in Burma and still doesn’t know whether her parents are alive after they were forced to flee their village. Mee Kaing fled the violence in Burma in 2006, and found her way to Mae La, a refugee camp on the Thai border. In the camp, food is often scarce, and parents like Mee Kaing struggle to provide daily, nutritious meals for their children.
Confined to camps by Thai policy, without land and denied the right to work, refugees like Mee Kaing are dependent on outside aid and the money raised by people like you for food, shelter, protection and other basic needs.
“The refugees here want to support themselves,” she says. “But because of many reasons, we can’t leave the camp. And there is little work available, so we cannot support ourselves on our own.”
Despite all she has suffered, Mee Kaing is determined to build a better life for her people. As a community co-ordinator, she works with fellow refugees to identify the most vulnerable families and ensure they get the extra rations of food, charcoal and basic materials for shelters that they desperately need. She volunteers her time to work with her community and Act for Peace’s partner on the ground to make sure the funds you raise supports the households who need it most.
“We can see the benefit throughout the community, especially for the most vulnerable people, like the disabled or the sick,” said Mee Kaing.
Led by pioneers like Mee Kaing, refugees are beginning to take control over their lives. Thanks to the money you raise, people will be able to prepare for a time when they’re finally able to return home. And it’s inspirational leaders like Mee Kaing who will help build a new Burma when the time comes.
“We know that the Australian people help the refugees here a lot. We would like to thank them in our heart,” she said.