Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Look Inside Refugee Camp Schools - Mae La Camp

Recently I was asked by a local educator to share with him my experience of the Karen people of Myanmar, also known as Burma.  The reason for his inquiry was due to the difficulties several schools in Austin have been having as they try to meet the needs of Karen students.  There are no words adequate enough to describe the life of the many Karen who have been resettled in the U.S. Most individuals have no context or prior knowledge with which they can build mental pictures of the refugee life.  In my experience, Karen people are reserved, friendly and caring people.  As for school aged children, the tribal community assists in their discipline and care.  When children misbehave, and they do, Americans might be shocked to see a mother or father simply responding with a wry smile and mock indifference.  If mom or dad later becomes tired of a child's behavior, they can simply pass them over to another tribe member for a time.  This form of child rearing must work sufficiently well, because as I mentioned, the Karen are a calm, well behaved, friendly and hard-working people.  However, when a group of Karen are inserted into our American context, the same form of discipline is no longer applied uniformly. If you click here to view a short video of Karen children at school in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, you might have a hard time believing any of my descriptions of the Karen are true.  However, it is true and if you want to get to know more about the Karen and step into their shoes, please click here to watch a 4 minute video on the plight of the Karen people of Burma or visit the following websites:  Karen Konnection ,  U.S. Campaign for Burma.

1 comment:

  1. Great video, Kathleen and interesting insight about the Karen people. It reminds me of the pictures in my dad's office. He resettled over 1000 refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam, and Cuba in teh 70's. I told this to one of my classmates in college who was going to medical school, and he said that his dad was a refugee. I definitely agree with you that refugees should be taught English so that they can be the valued members of society that they deserve to be. Keep up the good work, Kathleen.