From Jane Best on the Thai-Burma border 10 June
Refugees International Japan has been supporting DARE for some years now and we have seen it develop into a an excellent programme.
For more information on the last funding see: http://refugeesinternationaljapan.org/dare_2011
The DARE project is one I greatly admire. Not only do they address the problem of addiction (and claim 65% success rate) but they involve and mobilise the community thus bringing people together and reaching out further into the refugee and IDP community. The ripple effect of the community activity certainly reaches a large number of people.
I was fortunate that my visit coincided with the start of the new training programme. I met Law La Say, the DARE coordinator, at their office in Mae Sariang and we drove to Mae La camp, about 3 hours south along the border.
There I met the 22 people who had been chosen for the new training course – an even number of men and women aged between 20 and 30 years old. I sat in on a training session and then talked to the trainees about their motivation and hopes.
They are chosen from different camps and from the IDP community inside Burma. Law La Say explained the rigorous selection process that is clearly very thorough. Priority is given to candidates who have some involvement with addiction, either personal, through their family or their neighbours. I noted that the DARE notices say “Before you change another person’s life, change yourself” and the trainees acknowledged this when they spoke to me. Another requirement is that the trainees must be prepared to go into Burma and work with the community there.
This is very important – one of the trainees told me how drug use is increasing inside Burma and is a huge problem. It seems that this is a deliberate strategy to break down people’s defenses because addicts are easily controlled.
I met John who is the team manager for DARE in Mae La camp. John’s story is one of chronic addiction that has been curtailed through the DARE programme. I summarise John’s words as translated to me by Law La Say:
“I started drinking in 1980. 6 years ago when the troops invaded my village in the west of Karen state, I escaped and made my way to the Thai border – a journey that took a month or more. In the camp, I continued to drink until I was actually certified crazy. I became famous because I was always drunk and could be seen lying around naked sometimes. During this time, my wife divorced me because of my drinking. In 2006 a friend introduced me to DARE and I decided to try and kick the habit. It was really tough at first as my body adjusted to withdrawal, but I saw it through and I have not drunk anything for 3 years. The education has opened my mind.”
John is now famous as a role model for DARE and the community. One of the trainees even mentioned he came to the Training programme because of John.