During the recent Refugee Week, I sponsored an exhibition in Parliament for the Edinburgh based organisation Burma Assist.
Burma Assist is an international development organisation that is providing direct support to Burmese community led projects.
A particular focus of the group is to highlight awareness of the poor living conditions of the estimated 100,000+ Burmese refugees living in Delhi, India.
The organisation provides direct support to the Dorcas Centre in Delhi, a project led by Burmese women that provides training in tailoring to refugee women. Since starting the project in February 2009, the project has grown and now provides training for thirty women a year.
This training gives these women the opportunity not only to earn a living but also provides an opportunity to build greater self-confidence and esteem. A high proportion of the graduates from the project are now working, whether in Delhi or after returning to Burma, and are able to better support their families.
Burma Assist’s not only provide financial support through donations, they also organise quarterly review meetings with the Dorcas Centre management team. This provides an opportunity for the organisation of offer practical help like book keeping training and the sharing of expertise.
The recent election of Aung San Suu Kyi to the Burmese Parliament represented a breakthrough in the push for democracy in Burma that will hopefully eventually allow refugees to return home. However, the elections were only a tentative step and when Suu Kyi was asked to rate the level of democracy in the country on a scale of one to ten she responded that they “are on the way to one” so there is clearly still a long way to go.