Australian Karen Foundation
SUPPORT KAREN COMMUNITIES
We provide education and leadership programs for Karen people on the Thai-Myanmar Border and in Australia.
We work alongside Karen people in Australia and the Thai Burma border to:
- Develop grass-roots education and training projects to help equip individuals and these communities for their future
- Inform and educate Australians about the plight and struggle of the Karen people
- Develop leadership programs among Karen young people.
WE ARE NONPROFIT TEAM
We are a charity formed in 2005 as a result of visits seeking to help developing grass-roots initiatives in the refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border. While the organisation and its membership are small, we highly values having close community-to-community contact and support from Australia to ‘the border’ and with the Karen community in Melbourne.
WHAT WE DO ?
English and Computer School
Mae La Refugee Camp
The Anglican Language & Computer Centre (ALCC ) provides English and computer training classes for post- year 10 students. Commenced in 2006, there are over 70 students in the school. Most of the students have had some secondary education and must pass an exam to be accepted by ALCC. The students are generally aged between 19 and 26. Their classes are taken by teachers from Mae la camp, mostly from Myanmar. AKF is a funding partner along with the Brackett Foundation, and St Stephens Anglican Church, Werribee, Victoria.
English Conversation Program
This program helps ALCC students improve their English conversational skills, by talking with
'conversationalists'. Utilising videochat technology, students are encouraged to converse with
the conversationalist and with the other students.
Volunteers have been assisting since 2018 and converse with the same group of approximately 5 young people each week for 30 mins. ALCC does have breaks for exams, and for the students to return to their families. Some preparation is required however the idea is to try to have a conversation around different topics, being culturally sensitive, and giving the students the encouragement to have a go at speaking English and answering open ended questions.
The students look forward to their weekly chats, and our volunteers have found it to be rewarding as well.
Laptops for Learning
The demand for cost-effective laptops keeps growing on the on the Thai-Myanmar border. We source
quality assured second-hand laptops in Australia, which are then taken to the refugee camp by AKF
The laptops are used in computer and English classes, and in the English Conversation Program. Increasingly the laptops are being used to provide online learning for teachers and students.
AKF facilitates leadership training both in Victoria and on the Thai-Myanmar border.
Young Adult Leadership Program (YALP)
The Young Adult Leadership Program focuses on giving young Karen the tools to clarify and strengthen their own identity and to build leadership skills to be activists in their communities in Australia and on the Thai-Myanmar border.
AKF mentors Karen leaders to develop their sense of leadership in the Australian Karen context.
AKF has facilitated the setting up of a small external microfinance project. Through a loan group Karen villagers receive training in managing savings and loans, and obtain small loans to assist them with their enterprises.
Supporting Vulnerable Karen Youth
AKF actively supports a community program reaching out to Karen young people, made vulnerable by
In 2018 the drug ice made its way through dealers into the Karen community in the south east suburbs of Melbourne. The effects of this drug on users and families can be devastating. Culturally, this situation precipitates a great amount of shame in the Karen families and networks and consequently requires sensitive approaches. In response to the situation the program commenced with a 6 month pilot in early 2019 and has continued since then.
The initiative involved a bi-lingual Karen family worker who gets alongside the young people in need and their families in a part-time role.
The work is systemic in that the worker has had to develop the skills to liaise closely with hospitals and mental health, churches, the police and the courts, community services and Karen leaders, and at times, schools and Centrelink.
Through cooperative work the program is designed to enable these young people to grow in needed self-esteem by means of the worker's support, and where appropriate to access rehabilitation services, in the pathway of overcoming addiction, and to return to a close belonging in family and to reconnect with the community.
AKF's role is to assist in finding funding resources and applications; by participating in the steering committee to ensure good supervision and support of the worker, as well as the program as a whole in terms of ongoing evaluation and review.