Visiting KnSDC, posted by Angie Alexander, Funding Director

– The centre 

On 4 October we went to the Karenni Social Development Centre in Nan Soi village, just outside Karenni camp 1. The centre is quite remote, at the end of a very rocky and muddy road that required some very skillful driving by Jane, including going through a river! Once we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Aung Sun Myint, the founder and Khu Myar

Students meeting RIJ team - photo by Alex
Students meeting RIJ team – photo by Alex

Reh, the principal.  The centre itself is one main room with a concrete floor with the side open to the paddy fields below. There is a kitchen towards the back and then buildings next door where the students and teaching staff stay.

– The students  

The day we visited was a Saturday, so not a school day, but despite this, about 30 students made the effort to come and see us, some risking the illegal walk from the camp. All the young people were in good spirits and while we were speaking to staff, they sat watching and laughing at old Kung fu movies!

All these young people have previously lived inside Burma (Myanmar) and have not been able to access education like this, so for them learning about democracy and government systems, human and women’s rights and environmental issues has really captured their hearts and minds. I summarize one of the students, Than, as translated by Aung Sun Myint:

SDC 1014
Learning about women’s rights – photo by Alex

“When I stayed inside Karenni State I didn’t know about types of government, like the democracy system. After I learnt about this, I was very surprised and thought, ‘Why do we use our system?’ In the future I want to be involved in any movement or organisation to change the government system in Burma.”

This kind of story is a jarring reminder in 2014 that this can still happen and just how critical access to education and information is and how much we can take it for granted in our modern, internet age.

Another girl there hadn’t known about women’s rights before and had always assumed a women’s role was at home with children. She was incredibly excited that she now knows that this doesn’t have to be the case and that women are equal and she wants to make this a reality.

– Future plans 

All the students we spoke to were incredibly passionate and fired up about raising awareness and sharing this opportunity with other people in their communities both sides of the border. Many said they wanted to work as mobile trainers in Karenni State, which although there is a ceasefire in place, is still dangerous with outbreaks of fighting happening there and in many other parts of Burma (Myanmar) as well. This has been something we have heard from different people as we travelled around Thailand – that there are still many unreported dangers with breakouts of fighting, many remaining land mines and Burmese (Myanmar) soldiers reinforcing military posts by replacing bamboo with concrete. This places a huge amount of uncertainty and fear on the refugee population when rumours also abound of repatriation plans between the Thai and Burma (Myanmar ) government.

I do not know what the future will hold for these young people or when they will have the chance to safely go home but I do know that they are equipping themselves the best way they can, to help create a just and fair society in the camp and inside Burma (Myanmar ) for their generation and others to come. It’s a very small centre in Nan Soi but the opportunities that are being created there are huge and it is very humbling to be part of that, even in a small way.