What our volunteers say
In addition to the comments from volunteers below please see lots of Feedback on Workaway.
Volunteer Testimonial – Ally O’Brien (Australia)
I first went to Mae Ra Moe Refugee Camp in June of 2015. I had some previous experience as a volunteer teacher in Cambodia and had completed a Master of Teaching in Melbourne, Australia and I was really interested in taking my skills to a refugee setting as I am very socially and politically conscious.
After finding out about the organisation through twitter, Ron and Su Baw (founders) hooked me up with the right people to sort out my permit and arrange transportation into camp. There were no invisible people during this process. Ron connected me with everybody through Facebook and whilst he was there to facilitate discussion when needed and answer questions, it was apparent that I was talking to the real Karen people themselves.
When I arrived in Chiang Mai I took a bus to Mae Sariang where I was to meet T’Aye, a worker for Karen Women’s Organisation and a friend of Project KARE. She had organised my permit for me and her husband Kala was to be my driver into camp. T’Aye was so kind and wonderful to talk to. I went for lunch at KWO headquarters before taking the bumpy two hour road through the stunning scenery into camp.
It’s hard to sum up what it’s like inside Mae Ra Moe Refugee Camp. First, the scenery is breathtaking, the camp is large with seven sections and large sporting ovals as well as a river which runs all the way through. I found that everybody was very interested in meeting me, having me visit their houses for a meal or taking me on walks around camp to show me the sites. I slept and taught at High School No. 1 where I befriended all the teacher’s including Principal August John. Again, everybody was so generous and caring. I had visitors most nights unless I requested time alone to get some work done, and teaching the students was an absolute joy. They were so excited to have a foreign teacher and loved my energetic approach and the activities I set for them.
The Karen people are a kind-hearted bunch. I felt very much like I was adopted into a large family, and although many of them come from trauma and have escaped horrendous situations in their home-country, I wouldn’t have known it from the wide smiles painted across their faces when they greeted me or when I tried my hand at some very mediocre Karen language.
This is an experience unlike any other. I returned to Mae Ra Moe in December 2016, this time after further crowdfunding and to delivery school supplies with Ron and another volunteer Vanessa. I will be making this an annual trip I think as I have a deep affiliation with the friends I have made in camp now and am amazed at how easy it is to make such a huge difference to these people’s lives.
If you are ok to sleep on a thin mattress, wash yourself with a bucket, use a squat loo, eat delicious home cooked Karen food, make new friends and fall deeply in love with the Karen people, then this is an experience you should have too 🙂
Ally O’Brien – Australia
Mae Ra Moe – June 2015. Mae Ra Moe and Karen State – Nov. 2016
Volunteer Testimonial – Claire Hutchings and Bill Tracey (Canada)
My husband, Bill, and I visited Mae Ra Moe Refugee Camp in October 2016. It is not an exaggeration to say that it has been one of the best experiences of our lives.
I decided that I wanted to visit Mae Ra Moe some nine years ago, when I was teaching English at a settlement agency in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, where my husband and I live. I taught a beautiful Karen girl who had lived in the camp for eleven years and had recently come to Canada with her two children and husband. Her stories of life in the camp moved me greatly and I felt a deep connection to her resilience, grace, and determination. I still do. I never forgot my wish to visit Mae Ra Moe, and through a number of Facebook introductions, I was able to connect with Ron and Su Baw.
We sent messages back and forth, and had Skype chats in the months leading up to our trip. Ron and Su Baw provided Bill and I with information and connected us with T’Aye and Kala who coordinated our camp pass and transportation from Chiang Mai and with August John, the principal at High School No. 1 in Mae Ra Moe. From our pick-up in Chiang Mai, to arriving in the camp, everything was seamless.
Our experience living and teaching English in Mae Ra Moe was nothing short of exceptional. The care and kindness shown to us by August John and the Karen people was deeply moving. The students warmly welcomed us into class and were receptive to everything we presented to them. Mar Ner, the English teacher we worked with, was so generous with her time and her deep commitment to her students and people was so evident.
I think I can say that anyone who visits Mae Ra Moe will be changed by the experience. Bill and I certainly have been. So much so that we will definitely be returning to Mae Ra Moe; our hope is later in 2017.
I would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in visiting Mae Ra Moe. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone has any questions.
Claire Hutchings and Bill Tracey – Newfoundland, Canada
Mae Ra Moe, October 2016
Volunteer Testimonial – William (“Billy”) Coleman (USA)
I want to send a very humble and heartfelt thank you to Ron Levis and for connecting through Workaway and giving me the opportunity to become part of the Family! The project is a great way to get a very real understanding of what life is like as a refugee.
The people are a wonderfully caring and engaging people with a rich heritage and culture. When on the project site you are given many opportunities to see all of it in a very family oriented environment. It was wonderful.
They took such good care of me every step of the way. The principal of the high school, August John, was by my side the whole time making sure I was comfortable and happy. I was so humbled by their attention to me even in the face of such a trying situation. The teacher welcomed me with warm embrace and taught me both Karen and Burmese language.
The children of the high school and other schools are happy and so excited to be in the classroom. This has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life and I will never forget it.
If you are looking for an opportunity to provide real help while also learning about the life of refugees and Burmese/Karen culture, please reach out to this project!
It is so worth it and will stay with you for your entire life.
Thank you Ron!
I look forward to working with you guys in the future!
Love , Peace and Education always!
William “Billy” Coleman – Illinois, USA
Mae Ra Moe, January 2017 and October 2017
For more helpful insight, review five star volunteer feedback on Workaway ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐