When I hear the word “refugee”, I picture poor people, living in a tent city. Perhaps, in better conditions, in a kind of dormitory, having some rations, but not a whole lot more.
Being a refugee doesn’t need to mean being impoverished.
This past week, I visited a few places which house refugees that changed my perception.
In one place, there were children aged about five years old to approximately ten. I was quite shocked when one of the youngest children tried to do a “pinch-to-zoom” motion on my camera.
The act of “pinching-to-zoom” seemed like the act of a child accustomed to smartphones or tablets. At the very least, watching enough television to know that action. Hardly something I would expect from a refugee child who “has nothing”.
Even then I did feel sorry for the kids and wanted to help them out. Education would be a great way to help I thought. So I asked if I could help to donate school supplies, for the few children who played Bingo with me, for a year.
“They have more school supplies than they need,” was the reply.
Indeed, donors have even given them lots of toys and they have decent clothes to wear.
At the free school for refugees living in the area, three teachers taught a class of 16. The students also ranged from approximately five to ten years of age.
The United Nations funds one teacher for every 25 students so donors provided the stipend for the other two teachers. All three of the teacher are themselves refugees whom the United Nations deemed qualified to teach English, Math, Science and their native language (in this case Burmese).
It is important to note that donors provided the stipend for the teachers, school supplies and other means of support. They still need that support. However, that still results in a better lifestyle than what I normally thought of life as a refugee.
Even refugees in Thailand seem to realize that being a refugee can be quite comfortable.
So what do these refugees need? They need you.
For the children in the schools, a steady role model would help.
Their teachers usually get repatriated to the United States just as the children and their families do. Thus, a teacher who could provide a constant presence would help their cause.
Helping to provide fun after school programs would also keep the children’s attention on school and build their character.
While these children have their share of material possessions, volunteering your time to educate and guide them is the most precious gift you can give these children.
A look into my trip around the camps »