Wishing of a peaceful return home of refugees
The Seoul YWCA World Fellowship Department and seventeen young adults organized a community service activity “Peace in Asia” for Thailand-Myanmar borderline women refugees from July 2nd- 11th with the support of Sung Joo Foundation.
“Peace in Asia” is an Asian women rights project that has been ongoing for the last six years. Increasing the time to spend with the refugees was one of the many details that are being maintained. Participants went to northern Thailand area of Chiang Mai and visited Chiang Mai YWCA. After passing over 1864 steep hills, participants arrived at a tiny village of Mae Hong Son and met with NGO and UNHCR refugee supporting activists. They also visited the Karenni Refugee Committee (KNRC), Karenni Refugee Women Organization (KNWO) and Karenni Refugee Girls' School (WSP) to interact with them and proceed with the volunteer work.
A bright smile holds a desire to learn
Karenni Refugee Women Organization (KNWO)’s education program was very memorable. KNWO is like YWCA within a refugee camp providing education for the women refugees. They are especially selecting young women interns as leaders of the camp community. Our participants learned about AIDS and AIDS prevention, made sanitary pads, and further learned about health education such as washing hands, while refugee women took very careful notes during the whole education trying not to miss a single word showing a heartfelt commitment for education. The Karenni Refugee Women Organization (KNWO) president even requested us to “Come back next year and show us new things”.
Every year at Karenni Refugee Girls’ School (WSP), 25 female students are chosen and trained to become young female leaders by going through human right, peace education and hands-on training. We organized activities such as making alternative sanitary pads, making bookshelves, mini-Olympics, and cultural exchange activities. Students who weren’t able to keep eye-contact at first started to open up and participated actively in the mini-Olympics. For young adults who are born at refugee camps and have never seen the outside world for over 20 some years, their time spent with the “Peace in Asia” team was a precious and valuable gift.
True Global Citizens
We believe we have to become true global citizens; however, it seems we have never been able to accept refugee problems as our own. “I express my appreciation to the young Korean volunteers who come every year and have opens their hearts toward the refugees that don’t receive any attention” are the words of a NGO refugee support volunteer staff. As mentioned by this staff, through “Peace in Asia”, young people are trying and putting into practice to be a global citizen.
Participants have continued to hold much interest on refugees even after the field activity and are planning on informing people of their situation. Participants have once again resolved to give support on helping the refugees and their peaceful return home.
1) Mr. Lee, Seung Hyug (Gyeonggi University)
I have always thought that refugees have disappeared or that there are only very few refugees that continue to exist. This is because recently there has been no country like in the Vietnam War that has been completely destroyed. However, through orientation and overseas activities I have learned that there are a lot of refugees existing throughout the world.
I remember a Pakistani officer that I met at a UN refugee agency that by coincidence started working for refugees and has been doing in-field volunteer work for 25 years ever since. The officer has expressed that he was deeply moved by the young Asian volunteers who have come to Myanmar to do volunteer work, and told me about the various situations of refugees around the world. I was surprised by the fact that there are still many refugees existing in the world. I felt thankful for the life I have now and at the same time felt happy, yet somber that the peace I have now is a very hard won peace.
We had a lot of fun at the mini-Olympics that took place at the refugee all-girls school doing many recreational and sport activities. The students were very pure and sweet and they warmed my heart. For many participants, because of the bonds that were made, leaving the students brought many tears. If someone asks me when the most significant moment in my life was, I would reply that it was the time spent with the students.
This activity has brought a huge change in my life. My dream was to do business in Southeast Asia, but now I want to do social work that would support the minority groups in Myanmar. For now, I will inform my family and friends about the refugees and their situations. Through this activity I went to share and give my support but rather it filled my heart and I felt I have gained something in return.
2) Mr. Yoo, Seung Ah (Korea University, Graduate School)
The word 'Yeomulda (여물다)’ is used to describe the golden fields of the fall when the wheat ripens, and it induces a very friendly, heartwarming and mature feeling. By concluding the program I felt a small happiness that 'My 20's is slowly yeomuloganda’ in other words, it is slowing ripening.
My role and responsibility was to translate and give a lecture on hygiene and AIDS. Before I left I was very worried, but by preparing in advance I gained confidence. The lectures given by people who work for refugees was very valuable and seemed like a light that directed the refugee camp.
During the lecture on AIDS that I gave at Karenni Women Organization, the attentiveness and the glitter on the women refugees’ eyes made my heart fill with emotions. It was as if I had seen a vision of these young women becoming brilliant leaders. Given the opportunity to interact with the refugee women was a blessing.
Every night, the phrase “I learned today again. To love and to be loved” that was whispered like a prayer during Peace Talk, which is a time to share our testimonies and impressions, continues to be a habit I do at the end of the day. I don’t think I have never thought that loving and being loved was important. Therefore I deliberately started to pay closer attention to our teammates. Everyone dealt with their given duties responsibly, opened up and approached first, and also showed much kind attention during the arduous journey. Our teammates seemed to love someone and also appeared being loved. Personally I think a journey seems to be a road where one can meet their mentor. In a foreign country I was able to fill my heart as I learned how to love someone sincerely and how to be loved.