Creating Opportunities for Isolated Refugees


The road to Tham Hin camp, a refugee camp for Karen refugees displaced by the fighting in Burma, is not an easily traversed one. Rocky and poorly maintained, this unpaved road is made up of a series of steep slopes and gravelly roadbeds. This prevents the camp from being accessed on foot—which makes it one of the more isolated and impoverished refugee camps in the area.

Just like this road, its refugees’ path to resettlement is just as harsh.

Located in the Ratchaburi province, Thailand, the camp is situated close to the Thailand-Burma border, and is one of the most crowded temporary shelters with 6,750 refugees being housed in the camp. Living conditions are rudimentary: thin plastic roofing and bamboo structures serve as shelters, and open spaces for recreation an exceedingly rare sight.

Residents are bounded by law to stay within the camp’s confines. Unable to leave, some of them have never even seen the world outside before. They can only wait their turn at resettlement in a third country, such as the United States.

Even so, many are inadequately equipped for life after resettlement. Unlike the Mae La camp several hundred kilometres up north, Tham Hin has no internet access and is considerably more remote. This makes it harder for refugees to get the training they need in preparation for resettlement—as well as staying in touch with families and friends outside the camp.

To provide the much needed IT training, Microsoft had been conducting hands-on classes for 32 Tham Hin youth refugees over three days. These lessons were conducted in the morning and afternoon, since electricity is only available during the day, while lesson supplements came in the form of thumb drives. As proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite are fundamental to getting a job in most parts of the world, the lessons were centered on the products and their applications.

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In preparation for life after resettlement, participants are picking up the basics of the Microsoft Office suite.

Although some had little prior experience with these products, the sessions were very well-received by the participants. Most found that the skills picked up during the classes were beneficial for their future outside the camp.

“During these three days, I’ve learned many skills, which will be very useful during my future employment,” said one participant. “What I like most about the training is the kindness the trainers showed. When we are unclear about a particular topic, they are always there to explain it to us patiently. We hope that there’ll be more trainings in the camp for others who didn’t get a chance to participate, since it’s been most beneficial for me.”

Equipped with these skills and bolstered by hope and the prospects of new possibilities, we hope that the road ahead for these refugees will be a little less bumpy.

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