Now living in the camp for 14 years, Naw Geh Paw* and Saw Doh Wah* have been able to change their story – from victims to agents of positive change.
Every single person living in the Mae La Oon refugee camp, on the Thai border with Myanmar, has a story to tell. Their stories of survival are filled with pain and loss, but also with courage and perseverance. Two Karen refugees told me their stories, and how they were able to find hope in the face of difficulty.
Saw Doh Wah, 30, was driven off from his village in Burma – he and his family had to run for three days to escape the attack. “We could not bring any food with us, so we did not eat for three days,” he remembers. He got lost and was separated from his family, but was able to find his mother and five brothers and sisters on the way to the border.
Naw Geh Paw, 34, was pregnant when her village was burned to the ground. She was able to escape to another village, where she gave birth to her child three days later. “I ran and ran, so my baby was born earlier than expected”, she says. “Afterwards, I had to run again, this time carrying my child with me.”
Now living in the camp for 14 years, Naw Geh Paw and Saw Doh Wah have been able to change their story – from victims to agents of positive change. They are both working as Community Health Workers (CHWs) with Malteser International. Through this programme, Karen camp residents receive training in basic health care, and then conduct home visits to check on the residents, give them useful health information, and refer them to the health care centres if they are sick. “Back at home, we did not have as much knowledge about our health”, Paw says. “Here, we have a chance to learn more about health and to use that knowledge to help our own people”.
As Community Health Workers, Paw and Wah educate families on how to prevent most common diseases, show them how to take care of their elderly relatives, help tuberculosis patients take their medication regularly and on time, and are able to perform first aid in case of an emergency. “Because we visit the families in our own neighbourhood, we already know each other well and are able to build a relationship with them,” Wah says.
And what is their hope for the future? Wah and Paw agree: “Peace”, they say. “To be able to go back home and help our people there someday”.
* Names have been changed
Interview: Joice Biazoto
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