Enabling Ordinary People to
Transform the Lives of Urban Refugees

Why I Want to Go to Prison

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Prison hands 2(This post was written by Chris Woodruff, our executive director)

This summer, while I was visiting Bangkok, I found myself in a dimly lit prison, looking through the holes of a chain link fence.

I was there because my presence allowed for me to request that Vee come out of his cage for an hour, meet in a common area, and receive, food, water, and toiletries from me.

I watched as Vee walked out into the common area, head hung low. There, he met his wife, Mae, who my wife had been able to call out. They stood up against the fence together, politely trying to make conversation with me, though they could hardly speak English.

I stepped back, and signalled to them that this was their time. Their time to see each other, talk to each other, touch each other. As their hands met, she rested her head against his chest, and he whispered something in her ear.

Soon, their time would be up. Prison guards would escort them back to their separate cells, where they would be crammed in so tight with other prisoners that they would have to take turns sleeping. Cells with two holes for toilets, and where violence from prison guards reined. They could only pray they would have visitors again soon, so they could have food and water after what we brought ran out.

Vee and Mae are Hmong refugees from Northern Vietnam who were persecuted for being Christians. Facing death, they fled to Thailand. But Thailand does not recognize the concept of a refugee. So as soon as their visas were expired, Thai police hunted them down and threw them in this prison.

Their only hope to get out is to get official refugee status with the UN, but the UN has rejected them.

But there is hope. Our volunteers are able to visit them on a regular basis, bringing them food, water and toiletries; items that make the prison a little less terrible. Additionally, with the help of a good lawyer, there is hope for them to receive refugee status, and start a new life in a new country.

And that’s where I come in. After I graduate in May, I plan to return to Bangkok, and lead our work full time. I have lots of big dreams: Innovative ideas for education, training, and helping new families. But being able to represent this beautiful couple, help them receive refugee status, and find a new, safe country where they can truly be together, might be the most exciting of them all.

It is in the darkest places that light shines brightest. The more terrible the tomb, the more wonderful the resurrection.

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How Refugees Conquer Fear Through Education

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

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When Moon and his family first arrived in Thailand, they were immediately thrown into a desperate situation. Within a few months, all their resources had run out. They would go days without eating, never knew if they would have money for rent, and  lived in apartments where there was a constant threat of being discovered by police and thrown in prison. Fear dominated their lives.

We came alongside them, gave them shelter in our Safe House, and ensured that they had enough food to survive.

However, as we walked with them, we found that even with food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads, fear continued to dominate their lives. This time, their fear was stepping outside the Safe House, and being discovered by police.  So Moon’s family began to withdraw– from church, and from community in general. They stopped hoping for their future. They sought safety in isolation.

We are called to live with discretion, and make prudent choices. And it is true, refugees in Bangkok must live their lives in constant danger.

But their calling in life is not staying safe. No human should wake up in the morning, and believe that their purpose be to stay safe. God has called us to higher things.

We are called to learn, to work, to teach. This breathes purpose into our lives. And for our refugees we are helping, it is crucial that they have hope and believe they can find God’s purpose for their lives while they are still in Bangkok.

So we have chosen to take the next step as an organization and begun to prioritize education. Refugees might not be able to work, but for the four years or so that they are in Bangkok, we want to enable them to learn skills, trades, and languages, and when they have these tools, to teach others.

We are already seeing the fruits of serving refugees this way. Moon is dedicating himself even more to learning English, and is also learning to design websites.

Aaron, a refugee father, is now able to take his entire family to Danny’s school. For the first time in over a year, his four children are learning in an organized setting. He is able to help with maintenance at the school, and his wife is initiating a preschool program.

Looking forward, we will continue to provide scholarships for children to go to school. We will also prioritize providing laptops to refugees who demonstrate a commitment to learning. Looking even further into the future, we plan to develop curriculum tools for refugees, and eventually hire an Education Coordinator to oversee all our educational efforts.

We remain committed to providing the basic needs to refugees: food and shelter. But we don’t want to stop there. We want to make sure we are walking with them, and helping them to find God’s purpose in Bangkok. God wants to give them a future and a hope. We want to be a part of that.

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