Nothing Can Stop a Motivated Refugee


Ka Du Lar is a 52-year-old Karen. The Karen people are an ethnic minority in Myanmar oppressed by the ruling junta. Twenty years ago, Ka escaped persecution and landed in a refugee camp in northern Thailand. Ka is also blind and has lost most of his left arm, the result of shrapnel from a landmine.

But Ka doesn’t let these unfortunate setbacks stop him. At first, he attempted to support his family by splitting bamboo for seasonal housing construction, earning the equivalent of a few US cents per kilo for his output. This was not effective. Fortunately for Ka, ZOA, a Netherlands-based refugee care organization, came to the rescue and taught him new farming skills under a UNHCR-funded program.

This project is vital for the refugees because as soon as they settle in the camp, they are provided with food and lose their farming skills. In the cramped camp, there is also no place to grow anything. ZOA and the UNHCR negotiated with the Thai government to lease 31 hectares of land and set volunteers to learn again farming skills. Every year, they rotate, working in different areas of the program with pigs, fish or on a vegetable garden, keeping their knowledge sharp for a future return to their village.

Ka is proud of his work. He feels his dignity is back as his produce is sold at local markets. He earns around $35 a month, a respectable income in this remote area. The extra money is more than welcomed by his wife, who takes care of the finances, and his two teenagers sons, both born in the camp. Even though he cannot see them he knows that his family is enjoying the variety in their diet.

Ka never gave up. He kept going, trying to find better ways to make a living. But he is not done yet. After all this time spent in a camp he still wants to go back to his village and he will keep pushing for it. Via reliefweb

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