News: Letters from the field: Thai/Burma border

Frank (centre) with students and teachers
On 7th August 2010, Australian Catholic University (ACU) presented certificates or diplomas in Liberal Studies to 16 students from Mae Sot refugee camp at the Thai/Burma border. Palms’ volunteer Frank Morgan, who has been tutoring the students, and representatives from ACU, local Community Based Organisations and UNHCR attended.

The achievement of these students is noteworthy, particularly when the challenges of providing a tertiary education to students at Mae Sot (location, language, citizenship, political tension, lack of resources) are considered. These graduates now have greater skills to assist their own community and will also be better placed to make contributions to Thailand that will also benefit the Thai people.

Duncan McLaren, from ACU, also reports that almost all of the students have expressed interest in continuing their studies and that ACU is assisting them with investigating the opportunities available to them.

So, with some success evident, Palms was happy to receive the following update from Frank, indicating that the program is ready to begin again with a new group of refugee students.

Frank Morgan with Tun Tun, who has completed his Dipoma through ACU
G’day!

Greetings from the Thai/Burma border, a place of some considerable tension at present for many refugees and illegal immigrants. The border remains closed off, the ‘Friendship Bridge’ included.

From graduation (7th Aug) until the start of the next course (11th Oct), I’ve been restructuring our second house which will accommodate the boys. It needed rewiring in most areas and some extensive plumbing, all of which I was able to deal with (thanks to acquired skills developed through holiday work with my brother, an ‘A’ grade electrician and another brother, a construction engineer). A very satisfying period, honing trade-work and preparing for the ‘intake’. Expecting the bulk of the students to arrive from their camps today.

ACU are delighted to have avoided extra costs in ‘updating’ this residence. Duncan arrives this Saturday, the 9th; Monday we begin orientation; a week later, the first subject begins – Academic English.

JRS [Jesuit Refugee Service] provided me with a work permit and visa requirements, with the cost covered by ACU.

You guys at HQ have had your share of grief, with the closure of the ‘fair trade’ café. But PALMS is still here, and we’re still out there in the field, and we continue to make a difference…not massive by world events, but meaningful to those we are able to assist.

Frank

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As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills. - Pope Francis (Joy of the Gospel 202)