A NEW START ON THE THAI/BURMA BORDER
My name is Zar* and it is a pleasure for me to tell you of my life in the Tak camps. I am one of almost 40,000 refugees here.
My family has been in the camps for many years but I sincerely hope to return to Burma when it is safe.
Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace
Five years ago, after a brief illness, my father died. We were so sad. He was the provider for me, my three brothers, sister, and my mother. All six of us depended on him for love and support. We were left with no means of income after he died.
I wanted to help look after my family but didn’t know where to start. Through Act for Peace, The Border Consortium (TBC) works all over the camp in programs and activities that improve our lives here. I approached a local representative, Thuzar.* She started by listening to what had happened to my family.
During our conversation, Thuzar asked about daily life and I shared with her that I spend a lot of time making clothes for my family. I told her how much I enjoy making new clothes and doing repairs. After this she explained the Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) and said I could apply for a small grant amount to start a workshop.
Step by step we went through the type of work and training I would need to complete to receive the grant. I hoped to make a small income for my family. When I left I was very excited. At home I told my family. We agreed it would be a good way to go on with our lives in the camp. I returned to Thuzar the next morning and said: “Please, I want to begin.”
That was a year ago. I did training with TBC in business skills and I am now one of around 2,000 refugees to have received a start-up grant. I have opened my own tailoring workshop in our home. I used my grant to buy fabric and sewing supplies. My business is only small: I make clothes to sell and also do many, many repairs. My mother, sister and one of my brothers help in measuring and cutting materials. It is a good feeling to wake up and know that people will buy my garments!
The best part of my work is making new designs. There are some local ladies who look forward to something new from me. My brothers laugh but I dream of one day working in the city; in a big store making and selling clothes. But for now, I am happy to help my family and community with my work. I still miss my father very much. We all do. I love the work I do.
Thank you for making this possible for me.
* Names have been changed to protect identities
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In 2012 The Border Consortium (TBC) launched the Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP). The goal of this program is to build refugees’ capacity to start up micro or small businesses for self-employment and income generation in the refugee camps as well as preparedness for return. The program is now operational in all nine refugee camps along the border.
To receive the grant, a refugee has to go through a training process which involves developing a simple business plan. Once they gain approval, then they can receive a start-up capital grant. Six to eight months later, their business is assessed to see whether they have made an income and the business is going well. If it is progressing, then the refugee completes another round of training, and can receive a further grant to advance their business.
Last year, 2007 people (72% were female) received a capital grant of 2,400 baht (around AUD$100). Participants were selected from target groups such as single-female-headed households, like Zar, and people with disabilities. Many have set up shops providing goods and services.
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