Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Helping Burmese

Go to Project Maje for good information on the cyclone crisis in Burma.

DONATIONS for disaster relief can be made via these organizations:

Medecins Sans Frontiers (already distributing emergency aid in affected areas)

Medical Emergency Relief International (already bringing aid to Delta)

Thirst-Aid (water purification is an urgent priority)

Avaaz.org (special fund via Burma's Buddhist monks)

MercyCorps (experienced disaster relief experts with local partners)


Back in January,
we held a gathering on Burmese Refugee support. BPF Portland is encouraging the formation of a support team to help a refugee family. Help us form that team. Here are the notes from that gathering.


Pastor King Mang Zam with Oregon Myanmar Christian Church

He focuses on just giving. People have lost their nationality, identity. His reward is seeing people change and transform. When they learn to speak English. When they graduate.

Many were born in refugee camps, have lived there for 14 years. They need to learn what things are, for example one family thought cheese was a soap. They were confined in refugee camps, unwanted by Thailand.

If we want to know what it's like, the new Rambo movie, it's like that. At the time of this talk, it was 4 months since the crackdown. The crackdown has been happening for 60 years in remote areas. The city may look calm but the government is still taking prisoners. No monks under 40 are being allowed in the monasteries.

He sees three groups coming from Burma: 1. They're here, and they're not concerned about Burma. 2. They don't want to do anything with political involvement, and they see anything against the government as political. 3. They want to be actively involved.

Pastor King does a lot of community involvement, taking care of souls and physical care.

We have to understand that in Burma the government wants people to mistrust each other so they can govern more. "If you're a Christian, or a Buddhist, you do not get rice." There is mistrust between Buddhists and Christians, but Pastor King's message is that we need unity. He works with Buddhist monks. Here in the US, we have to have unity. Here, Burmese are just American.

There are about 400 Burmese here.


Tara, with Burma Action Committee

Burma is:
o The largest country in SE Asia
o Culturally and ecologically diverse
o 8 major ethnic groups
o actually hundreds of distinct cultures
o Government refused to honor elections results in 1988
o In demos earlier this year, around 3,000 people killed
o Government went to monasteries directly
o 1000s of monks are disappearing, the monasteries are empty
o this could be a greater crackdown than 88, but government is doing a better job of hiding it
o The movement is still going on (this was in March)
o Fuel prices went up 500%; this triggered the protests
o Economic mismanagement: government controls, inflates prices; tied to social and political conditions

This crisis goes further back than 1988. Parts of the ethnic states joined Burma reluctantly in 1948 when Britain left. There are "Burmanization policies." They teach in Burmese even though it's not their own language. Soldiers are encouraged with rewards to marry into ethnic minorities. Soldiers can rape with impunity.

The US quota for Burmese refugees is 70,000. We took in 15,000 last year. None are getting processed because of a clause in the Patriot Act. "Terrorists" are anyone who takes up arms or supports those against the government.


Bill Coddington with SOAR

Bill helps groups get set up to help sponsor families. (1 to 5 people.)
o You need 8-10 people in a support group. Expect 250-300 volunteer hours over the course of 3 to 4 months
o Costs $2500 to $5000 (depending on material donations)
o Provide monetary support 1st month or 2
o The family receives a check, best to hold that in savings for after the 2nd month
o After 60 days they get a stipend
o Provide a prepaid cell phone
o 1st month: many appointments
o Goal: finally self-sufficient by 6 months; diminish monetary support, provide friendship support
o Church World Services: provide loan for tickets here; refugees are to begin paying back at 4 months, and have 4-5 years to pay it back
o IRCO: provides ESL classes, job training, employment agency, free bus tickets…for 5 years

3 tiers of support needed: financial, time, and both together…let's team up!

-English tutors also needed: "aid and abet" the ESL teaching

Qualified organizations for Refugee Resettlement

SOAR: small organization

Lutheran Family Services

Catholic Charities


1 comment:

Matthew said...

I am looking for contact with any refugees who can speak Akha or are Akha from Burma. Akhalife at gmail.com.