July 8, 2009
Young people who have lived most or all of their lives in the Thai/Burma border refugee camps are at high risk because of the lack of educational opportunities, boredom, the frustration of confinement and peer pressure. Substance abuse is a growing problem. Within the general population of the camps solvent and drug abuse are concerns especially for teenagers and children. DARE (Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education) Network has worked in the refugee camps for the last 8 years as the sole provider of addiction services to the refugee population.
DARE teaches drug and alcohol abuse prevention by addressing the core essentials of mind, body and spirit. Activities are targeted to appeal directly to young people. DARE workers teach addiction prevention education through their Teens for Kids program to teenager teams, who in turn share their training with younger children. Teenager teams are active in each of the 9 camps teaching addiction basics and connecting with other teenagers and children through interactive activities. Recovery from addiction requires, among other things, knowing who you are and having a spiritual connection. Through the use of sport, including Ultimate Frisbee, traditional music programs combined with modern music and a comic book drawn by a member of the community, lessons in prevention and risky behaviours are taught. Puppet shows describe the consequences and the ultimate solutions for solvent and drug abuse for those who cannot read.
These teenagers not only educate their own age group but also work to prevent children from engaging in experimentation. The teams within the camps and migrant areas also share their addiction knowledge and experiences, and provide direction for teenagers and children whose families are involved in addictive behaviours. These activities provide appropriate outlets for thoughts and feelings that can lead to frustration and often violence.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has supported DARE Network since 2005 providing the kind of funding that is focused on the real needs of the people it serves. PWRDF is more effective in this area because of the acceptance and trust demonstrated to the beneficiaries. Empowering them to operate within a population feeling the effects of poverty, trauma and displacement, as they know best, reduces the stress of striving to support their own people with so few human resources. PWRDF supports partners and capacity building in a way that is realistic and sustainable.
DARE’s Teens for Kids program brings focus and hope to the young people who have been trapped in the refugee camps, surviving in migrant villages and hiding in the jungle in Burma. When children are healthy and free from alcohol and solvent abuse they can find their way forward and become the future leaders of a people battered by human rights abuses.