Our Volunteers: Frank Morgan volunteering in Thailand

Australian Catholic University, Thailand

The Mae La refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border
There are over 360,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand alone and many more in other countries. Over one third of these refugees are restricted to refugee camps near the border of Burma. Some have been there for over 20 years.

The majority of refugees simply wish to return home without fear of persecution. Alternative “durable solutions” are integrating into their host country (in this case, Thailand) or being resettled to a third country, such as Australia. Given the continued rule by the junta in Burma, the political realities in Thailand relating to refugees and the small number of resettlement places available annually, for most people these solutions seem unlikely.

Recognising the challenges facing such communities, including a lack of skills and the “brain drain” resulting from resettlement countries giving preference to educated refugees, ACU offered an online Diploma in Liberal Studies to refugees in the camps. Students complete subjects in business, technology, communication, leadership, anthropology, human rights, sociology and politics. With this education, the students will be better equipped to improve the lives of their communities.

Of course distance education is difficult, particularly in a cross-cultural and remote context. ACU sought a volunteer tutor from Palms Australia to liaise between teachers and students and assist students with their English and study skills.

Frank Morgan

FrankFrank will work closely with students in Mae La camp, assisting with their English and communication skills and facilitating better communication with lecturers.

Frank has many years experience as a teacher and has worked in a mentoring capacity for many young teachers.

Frank has worked cross-culturally many times, most recently in Thailand and previously as a Palms Australia volunteer in Nepal and India.

Frank is already having a positive effect on the lives of his students, and is committed to assisting them develop the skills and knowledge which will help their people.

Letters from the field: Thai/Burma border

December 3, 2010

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


A volunteer’s thoughts on “Copenhagen”

March 11, 2010

Frank Morgan, working with refugees on an education project on the Thai/Burma border, demonstrates his empathy for the people of low-lying Pacific nations.

Click here to read the full article

New Directions

October 23, 2009

Providing training in a refugee camp setting is a new direction for Palms, although one which fits entirely with Palms’ vision and mission for sustainable development.

Click here to read the full article

More articles

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Thailand

Population: 68,069,923

Area: 513,120 sq. km.

Median Age: 33.3

Literacy: 92.6 %

Languages: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects

Thailand, located in South East Asia, has experienced profound growth over the last decade. This has been partly due to tourism, but also its investment and trade policies. There are still a large number of poor in Thailand, particularly in rural areas. The poorest though are no doubt the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking […]

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I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands
to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. - Mohandas Gandhi