Founded and run by alumni of the EarthRights School Burma, the Karenni Social Development Center (SDC) works in Mae Hong Son on the Thai-Burma Border, with the mission of distributing knowledge and skills in human rights, environmental issues and law as well as capacity building in community development to emerging young leaders amongst local refugee and migrant communities on the border.
In partnership with ERI, SDC has completed its second five month Advanced Community Management Training Program. The course provides students from border communities with the opportunity to undertake intensive English language training alongside study of subjects including international law, political systems, human rights and environmental issues, community organizing and development and practical skills such as research, reporting and fundraising. This enables graduates to implement their new knowledge in work for their communities following graduation.
On Tuesday 30 August, seven new graduates celebrated completion of the training program and five months of hard work with a graduation ceremony and party that brought together members of the local community, representatives of ERI, local and international guests. The students are young women and men representing local refugee and migrant communities, who following graduation from the SDC’s foundational course apply for and are selected to participate in the Advanced Community Management Training. Successful candidates for the program demonstrate leadership and ability, motivation and dedication to work in support of their communities, and are well positioned to utilize their knowledge and skills on completion of the program.
The agenda for the graduation ceremony encompassed inspiring speeches by local community and SDC leaders, the ERI Asia Office Director, local and international trainers and volunteers, formal presentation of certificates and gifts recognizing the students’ dedication and effort and a speech and songs by the new graduates themselves. After the formalities, guests and SDC staff joined the students in celebrating their achievement with a festive lunch prepared by the students and enjoyed in the peaceful setting of rural Mae Hong Son.
The following are some excerpts from the speech delivered on behalf of the new graduates to mark the occasion:
“Thank you for coming to our graduation [to celebrate] the achievements and accomplishments of seven students who are committed to advocating for the civil rights and welfare of refugees, and for all Karenni people. We students have worked hard these past five months to gain the knowledge and skills needed to be effective representatives of our community.
… I would like to thank our donors, volunteers and our community leaders, including those not in attendances, for your tireless efforts on behalf of the Karenni people. Your work inspires us to reach higher and realize our dreams for ourselves and our community. As we join your organizations, we look forward to your guidance and support.
…Today begins the real work of improving our community and building the democratic institutions our society deserves, thanks to our classmates, teachers, community leaders and donors, we are now ready to begin this journey, and we know that you will be there at every step of the way. However, first let us take today to celebrate our accomplishments and the contributions that have made this day possible."