What is the Social Development Center?
Due to the civil war in Burma, over twenty two thousand Karenni people have fled to Thailand and they are now living in two refugee camps in Mae Hong Son province. There is about Fourteen thousand refugees in Karenni camp number one. Even though there are many Karenni young people in the camps, there are very limited opportunities for education and training.
For these reasons, most of the Karenni people have not had an opportunity to learn about the environment, law or about human rights and how to protect their rights.
The Karenni alumni from EarthRights School (ERS) strongly believe that their community needs an awareness of human rights, the environment, and the rule of law in order to improve their standard of living.
We are willing to dedicate our time and lives for the people who need radiant light to get peaceful and comfortable lives. As a result, we four Karenni ERSB alumni set up the Social Development Center in early 2002 in order to educate our people who are suffering from human rights violations. The Social Development Center is focused on Human Rights, Environment and Law.
The Social Development center (SDC) has already implemented Ten training courses and created some human rights and environmental activists among over 200 graduates. Graduates from the SDC have gone on to work in many local camp based organizations- while some have traveled at great risk, into Burma to pass on their new knowledge and skill to communities inside and/or to interview villagers in order to collect information on the human rights and environmental situation inside Karenni State.
The vision of the Social Development Center is to promote the lives of the people who have suffered human rights abuses, to teach non-violent skills to build up a new society, to develop the rule of law, to value human dignity and to protect the environment.
The School’s approach is practical and interactive. In the classroom, both Burmese language and Karenni dialects are used. The school spends nine months in the classroom and one month on fieldwork. The program includes lectures, group work, discussions, presentations, reports, activities, assignments etc. In order to promote student’s English language, the students spend one hour per day studying English and are also trained in computer skills one time per week.
The students learn knowledge of Earth Rights, Human Rights, Environment, Women Rights, Child Rights, non-violence social change, Democracy and Government, courts and Judiciary, rule of law, constitution and International Institutions.
Statement of Purpose
Over a more than 15 year period, over twenty-two thousand Karenni people have become relocated as refugees in Thailand. There are many diverse Karenni people in the refugee camps. Some are also still living in hide out areas. Even though, there are many thousands of Karenni young people in the refugee camps, they have very limited opportunities for education and training and they cannot not easily apply for further education and to get more knowledge from training. For these reasons, most of the Karenni people do not know about human rights and how to protect their rights. They have only sacrificed their lives in violent ways and abused each other. On the other hand, there are also no human right’s trainers or people who can share these importance issues for people inside. We really would like to create mobile trainers for the border area and inside. We also would like to have strong unity and solidarity among Earthrights alumni from Karenni State.
We strongly believe that if we do not have awareness of human rights and practice the rule of law in our community, we will not able to promote our living standard and we would also not be able to change government system in Burma. So for that, we are willing to dedicate our time and lives for our people who have been suffering human rights violations in Burma.
The Goal of the Social Development Center:
To distribute knowledge and skills in Human Rights, Environment and Law, on the Thai-Burma Border.
- To train 30 people who have few educational opportunities and are really interested in activities of non-violent social change, environment and law from June to March every year.
- To create Mobile trainers in order to spread knowledge of Human Rights, Environment and Law to beyond the local community.
- To cooperate on promoting of the protection and preservation of human rights and environment.
- To unite and work in solidarity among the ERS alumni to collaborate in the future work.
- To explore new technology and creative ideas among community.
- To compare and contrast local and international issues in Human Rights, Environment and Law.
The Social development Center Training School has already produced 246 human rights and environmental activists from 2003 to 2015. We have seen and experienced that many Social Development Center Training School graduates have returned and became involved in their community base organizations such as women’s organizations, youth organizations, administration, justice and other human rights and environmental organizations. Some have taken up the more risky work of journeying inside to gather information related to human rights and environmental abuses that Karenni people are facing and report to internal and international communities which are very much in line with the goal of Social Development Program. As the result of the training school’s graduate campaign activities and short term training activities, the Karenni population in the camp and many villages inside Karenni State have started talking about human rights and fighting to have human rights. If we look at the major demonstrations and demanding of human rights that have taken place in the camp, we can observe that the project is in success. We can see the project is successful because many gradates have taken up jobs in the refugee justice office to carry out the implementation of a fair and balance justice process.
The Karenni population from inside Karenni state and in the camps have asked for the continuous opening of the Social Development Center Training School every year and from their part they have been contributing their support to the school through their physical work support. Previously, the camp authorities have supported us in building water tanks and pipes for the school and reconstructing the school building. As a result of this kind of support we feel that we have received great support for the program from the community. Taking into consideration the change in the view and attitude of the people it is evident that the program of the Social Development Center Training School has become a very vital program for the advancement of the Karenni community. The activists we have produced from the training school have been not only important for the Karenni community but we strongly believe that they will become leaders of change for the future democratic country of Burma. The Social Development Center Training School has become a big organization that grows the seeds of change for democratic government for Burma.
Donors, partners and support
SDC is supported by grants from American Jewish World Service, Refugees International Japan, Open Society Institute and is recognized by Burma Volunteer Programs. We are a partner organisation of EarthRights International and our advanced course is conducted jointly with them. The Curriculum Project and Mote Oo Education provide in-kind donations of textbooks.