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Hope and Peace for Displaced People of Myanmar

We will meet expressed educational challenges in Kachin State and assist by building a refuge for traumatized women in Chin State, Myanmar.

Photo of Deborah Cochran
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Many Kachins, once forced off their traditional lands, now live in Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps, where critical needs are met. Many Chins near Hakha experience trauma as a result of failure in the ecosystem resulting in both landslides and loss of arable land. Many Kachins and Chins relocated to the U.S. as refugees from these disasters. Our solutions address the loss of employability in the IDP Camps while the children in those camps struggle with inadequate educational support. Those in the camps also suffer social discrimination. We intend to strengthen the educational efforts through our Kachin partners, providing mentors for job training and job access, while also finding both support for students and age appropriate space for toddlers. Among the Chins loss of employability in agriculture has led to family trauma and abuse. The ecosystem was damaged by floods and brought social pressure onto families. A safe haven for abused women will be built providing them refuge and conserving water runoff as an example. The larger community will see models and skills, yielding opportunities for new types of agriculture (fruit grove production). The host of the site, a Chin university, can assist dissemination of the model through its graduates. The third group of displaced people are the Chins and Kachins living in metropolitan Washington. These and their children struggle with acceptance and identity in their new homeland. One great problem of all three communities is that each one senses disempowerment, having been cut off from their traditional lands and employment. A communal sense of loss and disruption inhibits constructing adequate responses to these challenges. The solution each time is to organize each community in a way that uses resources within the community to meet the local needs while also bringing some assistance through funding from outside the community. The example of community organization will enable the communities to face the future.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The focus geography involves two countries: Myanmar and the United States of America. The specific areas of Myanmar are Chin State in the city of Hakha and Kachin State in the city of Myitkyina. In the United States the specific areas are Washington, D.C. and its suburbs in Maryland where some of the displaced from Myanmar live. Through human connections knowledge of the effort will spread across the United States among the displaced people from Myanmar.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The bridges that are being built include the bridge between the displaced people of Myanmar and the recipient communities in the United States as well as in the Chin and Kachin States of Myanmar. The bridges in their expression will be educational and experiential for both groups. They will build academic and economic abilities within the members of the displaced community and integrate members into the receiving communities for the benefit of all. The shared community will be enhanced greatly.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

The need for the displaced community in all these areas is that of a sense of appreciation and belonging. Sometimes their circumstances result in the loss of personhood, identity or safety. Those displaced persons from Myanmar in the US will interact with their associates and friends by working together in this project. All will learn ways, different from their own, which host communities use to approach challenges, and to find resources to meet needs. The displaced people living as refugees within Myanmar have their basic needs met, but cannot express themselves fully. Some remain burdened by past trauma and need healing. Adults who have lived lives of subsistence farming need to acquire occupational skills for urban settings. Those acquiring new skills will also need mentors to assist them in job placement and retention. Children need improved circumstances through which they can better focus on their education as well as on updated academic skills to prepare them for urban life.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The community of displaced persons in Washington, D.C. will sense that they are becoming a part of the receiving community as they extend relationships within that community and work with it to solve challenges among the displaced living in Myanmar. Further, their children (successive generations) will see their community and its heritage affirmed, decreasing their sense of alienation from the community of their birth and will feel welcomed into the new. The receiving communities in Myanmar, will discover the possibilities which the displaced persons bring, and they will come to appreciate the gifts which they offer their new communities. Consequently, the communities will both come to have more compassion towards the displaced persons, now and in the future, and a stronger economic base. General unrest among the displaced persons also will be diminished as the people sense their new skills and abilities giving them hope and purpose.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The communities of displaced persons provided the inspiration behind this proposal. The displaced community in Washington sought to find ways to assist their former countrymen in Myanmar and requested the assistance of their friends and associates in metropolitan Washington forming the Burma Work Group. All of these traveled to Myanmar to speak with community leaders in the country and within the communities of Hakha and Myitkyina. There the group witnessed the difficulties of the ecosystem brought on by floods and landslides caused by water runoff in Hakha and also the displaced person camps in Myitkyina. Local Chin and Kachin leaders analyzed the challenges these difficulties brought and proposed potential solutions. The people from the U.S., both former refugees and natural born citizens, returned home to discuss these challenges and to address the possible solutions through both their efforts and the efforts of the leaders and people in the affected areas of Myanmar.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The Chin and the Kachin communities in Myanmar have social structures and power in place. In each area the social structures have been in part disrupted through community trauma, in Chin State by a disaster in the ecosystem and in Kachin State action leading to forced removal from traditional lands. Still, parts of the community structure remain in place due to the localized impact of the disasters. In both areas the Christian community still exists with its institutions to assist the survivors of these disasters. Families and communities have been severely disrupted by the trauma of forced removal. Familiar neighbors once close are now far removed. The religious and civil leadership along with the international NGOs are providing space so that these refugees from their lands can continue to live, but these refugees have little hope of improvement for the present or future. Focus on both employment and children will help them heal from their past traumas and enable them to find peace.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our local partners have varied strengths to offer. In Hakha we are working with the Chin Christian University which has offered land for the Women's Refuge along with an area for a fruit grove to be planted, giving women opportunity for employment in agriculture. A local Chin architect has designed a water retention and purification system as well as a structure to house women and children. The women and local workers will be used to build and operate these structures giving them additional opportunities for future employment. In Kachin State, Christian churches have provided land to host four Camps. These congregations also hold many retired individuals and active workers who can become volunteer mentors or vocational teachers to assist adults in job training, placement and retention. Others can be prepared to serve as after school tutors for children. The Chins and Kachins in Washington are bridges for cross-cultural sharing of ideas, such as reconciliation and peace.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Organizations in Myanmar involved in this partnership include the Myanmar Baptist Convention, the Chin Baptist Convention and the Kachin Baptist Convention. In addition to these, the Chin Christian University and The Kachin Theological College and Seminary are also active partners involved in these projects. The D.C. Baptist Convention has leaders from sixteen different local congregations involved in this process. Additionally, we have a commitment from Judson Press of the American Baptist Churches to serve as a partner in projects with the Burma Work Group. Further, we have submitted a grant proposal to the Palmer Foundation through the American Baptist Churches Foundation, one which if granted will benefit these projects. The D.C. Baptist Convention Foundation is also considering a proposal that in part would support the project. Because the D.C. Baptist Convention is made up of 161 congregations, these would also be potential partners in these efforts.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

The District of Columbia Baptist Convention - Burma Work Group

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

American Baptists, with which the D.C. Baptist Convention (DCBC) is affiliated, worked in Burma from 1815 and is a trusted partner of people in Myanmar. The DCBC has been working with displaced people since the end of the Korean conflict in the early 1950s. They have worked with large numbers of displaced persons from: Korea, Viet Nam, El Salvador, Haiti and Myanmar across these years. DCBC also helped birth numerous 501(c)(3) groups which assist immigrants and still works closely with these. The convention relates these immigrant/refugee groups into American life over the decades. This effort in Myanmar follows up the interest of those newly arrived in the U.S. from Myanmar, helping them to assist their countrymen still there. All of this activity has built up experience and most importantly trust between DC Baptists and the people of Myanmar, both in the US and in Myanmar, all who have developed these ideas. The Burma Work Group is an officially recognized group in the DCBC.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States of America

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Washington, District of Columbia
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Attachments (4)

Myanmar Work Group chart.pdf

This flow chart shows the initial effort beginning with refugees from Myanmar meeting with their associates in the U.S. These travel to discuss with leaders in Chin and Kachin States discovering needs and opportunities for building bridges. Discussions continue which develop two foci of the needs and discovery of resources. These result in decisions regarding actionable efforts which respond to opportunities in Chin and Kachin State. Completion of actionable efforts lead to group celebration.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Uchenna Okafor

Dear Deborah Cochran! Superlative applauds to your solution. However, each time I read designs for refugees and displaced persons, it appears that disabled persons are not specially provided for. Yes, if able bodied persons suffer illiteracy, homelessness, unemployment, lack of skill, low self esteem, poverty, social and economic discrimination, then what could be of disabled persons, who in normal situation live with all those? That is more than double tragedy, if you ask me. Anyway, are there provisions to accommodate the special needs of the blind, deaf, dumb, lame, etc in your solution?

Photo of Deborah Cochran

Dear Uchenna Okafor, You are right to be concerned for the disabled. I am glad to say that there is at least one place that I know of in Kachin State, that I visited, where the blind and those with disabled legs are cared for. Many have been blinded or injured as adults by explosive devices meant to keep them from their home land. They are helped to recover and to learn how to make their way, some have prosthetic legs. Also, I met a young woman who cannot speak who was given a sewing machine and taught to sew so she could earn a living. Thank you for your comment for I will be more careful to make sure wherever possible that we do not overlook the needs of the disabled. I will remember your words and your contribution. Grace and peace,
Deborah Cochran

Photo of Uchenna Okafor

Thank you for this swift response. I feel honored.

Photo of Deborah Cochran

Thank you, Uchenna, for taking time to remind us to be prepared for the possibility of meeting the various needs of the physically disabled. As we move forward I will remember your words and share them. It is always good to know someone cares about you even if they are unknown to you and are far away. You have been a blessing!
Grace and peace, Deborah

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