On Saturday September the 8th I went with a group of friends to visit a Shan refugee camp about 4 hours drive from Chiang Mai city. The purpose of the visit was to bring food, school supplies, medicine, and donated clothes etc. to the refugees and to spend a day entertaining all the children of the camp. This camp has existed since 2003 but has not got official status. Previous to this the refugees lived for two years in tents by the nearby Wat.
In order to ensure the safety of the refugees living in the camp I cannot write neither the name nor the location of the camp. Burmese refugees are illegal in Thailand , have no rights (to school, health facilities, work etc) and are constantly under the threat of being caught and sent back to Burma . Being deported back to Burma would for the most part mean imprisonment, torture and worse. Therefore, it is essential to keep the names and faces of the refugees anonymous. To read about news from Burma , please see http://www.irrawaddy.org/ .
In order to get to the camp we had rented two big vans in which we could have both people (9 different nationalities) and donations for the camp. We started the day making bags with food and sweets for the 200 children in the camp. After that we started the games. We played: football, darts, rob jumping, badminton, 3-legged races, tug of war, balloon dance and had a dance competition. All the games we rewarded with prizes of sweets (to all the kids). The children were all absolutely adorable and my biological clock was definitely ticking heavily (poor Thomas…). Also knowing that 50 of the 200 children in the camp are orphans just made me want to take a few home.
After many hours of play the children got their bags with food and sweets and a ceremony was held with a monk. The recording can be found below.
At the end of the day the camp leader spent an hour telling us about the situation in Burma, the history of the camp and answered our questions. It was an absolutely mind-blowing day. Not only did we make the kids happy, help the camp, enjoy the beautiful landscape and fresh air, but we also learned a lot. This has enabled me to pass it on to you…