Thailand: Planting seeds of education in refugee camp

14 April 2024|Nay Wai Htoo, Karenni Education Department (KnED) coordinator

In my final year of Bible study in 2017 at Kawthoolei Karen Baptist College, Mae La refugee camp, Thailand, I began to think about my future job. At that time there was only one thing on my mind, which was to go and do mission work and talk about the Word of God inside Karen state. I wanted to train people to become good, to be good leaders who will lead their people in the right way; I wanted to teach them to be good people for the sake of the church, for their family, and for society; I wanted to teach them that God created us in His own image and that he has a plan for everyone.  

When I was chosen to be a KnED coordinator in 2017 at first I rejected the proposal because I thought it was impossible for me to lead the program, and I was afraid of becoming a leader. However, because of the need of the community, I finally agreed and accepted this chance to be an education coordinator in Camp 2 where I try my best for the sake of the Karenni children. My change in attitude meant that I moved from just thinking about Karen people, to seeing that God’s plan for me also include the Karenni people in Camp 2. God has given us a purpose in life by serving him and caring for all of humanity. The move from student to leader meant I faced many challenges – studying leadership is easy but the reality is hard. 

When I started as coordinator, I was afraid and I lacked self-confidence, thinking I was too young and had limited experience in educational management. But I have to thank all the JRS staff in Mae Hong Son who helped, encouraged, and trained me. We have school committee meetings (teachers’ and parents’) three times in a year. Through these meetings, teachers and parents get to know ways to support schools and also the education of their children. We train trainers and subject teachers three times each group per year, all of which puts us at the top and makes us good teachers and leaders in the school and in the community. The training was given by JRS staff, as KnED staff from Camp 1 (Ban Mai Nai Soi) are forbidden to come to give training. That is why we consider JRS to be like water for the KnED tree that allows us to grow and develop, fulfilling our mission up to now. All the members of our family tree, students, teachers, parents are very important for education in our Karenni refugee Camp 2. A tree cannot live without water, for without water a tree cannot grow. And as the sun gives the tree energy, so our link with KnED in Camp 1 gives us energy to grow and continue our mission in Camp 2. The challenges that come are like storm winds that threaten the tree’s growth. Selfish motivation and the desire for money is one destructive force. Another challenge to the tree’s growth is resettlement. Though refugee life is hard, education is alive because of women who share and teach in the schools as they are able. 

In addition, JRS supports us, promotes us and trains us to be good teachers in our community. So, we give thanks to every teacher who gives time for the children and we give thanks to JRS for supporting us and providing us with good and sound training. Finally, I want to say thanks to all of the JRS staff who love our people, who encourage us and greatly support us. In my three years of mission as KnED coordinator in Karenni refugee Camp 2, I have faced many challenges and I have learnt so many things. Because of parents, community leaders, teachers, JRS, CBOs, NGOs and so many other people who love us, we are safe, and our children have an opportunity to have basic education in relative freedom. That is a great blessing that JRS has given to our children and also it is a great blessing that we have received. 

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