History of PUB's Work

David and Cathy met Kshakalu in 2002, while working at the Mae Tao Clinic. Kshakalu was struggling to care for the then 40 children living in Mae La Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border. In 2003, Project Umbrella Burma assumed the financial support of these young people. PUB provides the students with a home, food, warmth and security while they pursue their studies.

By 2005, 22 of the children who were the pioneers of Kaw Tha Blay Hostel had successfully completed grade ten. In the camps there are very few educational opportunities available beyond the 10th standard. The only other options for these young people were illegal migrant work, return to constant danger, bare subsistence and forced labour at home, or to become warehoused without family in the refugee camp. Kshakalu and Cathy wrote a proposal for a Junior Technical College and it was immediately accepted by a new young NGO.They began the college on land next to the Moei River in Karen State, Burma. When this group faltered in late August 2005, PUB felt ready to take on the College project. After two years of study, on March 18th 2007 the Kaw Tha Blay Junior College graduated its first 18 students. Within months they all had jobs becoming young leaders working with their people.

The beautiful school site became unsafe as fighting between the Burmese army (SPDC) and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) moved closer. Gradually over 2007, the college moved from its location in Karen State and quietly integrated into a Thai-Karen Village in Thailand. Our students were accepted by the village Head man and the Head man of the seven villages of our district, and over the years have built a strong relationship. Our students work at celebrations and holidays and are great role models for the local kids who use our caneball court and big football field up the hill.

In the past year, after an initial ceasefire was signed and held, students have been able to visit the old school site to work on the new crops there and to spend some time in the jungle. Though it is a little further from home, the Thai site has provided valuable opportunities for the students to learn from foreign volunteers, who were unable to spend time in the refugee camps or across the river. Because of such long-term oppression in Burma, foreigners are able to share skills and ideas that few Karen teachers have had the opportunity to study. From all our teachers, volunteers, and through basic internet skills, our students can reach some of the knowledge that they are so hungry for.

Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre has been in a small Thai-Karen village, called Doh Tah or Tung Tam, since 2008. The numbers have grown each year, as we celebrate the graduation of each group of strong, educated young people who return home or go elsewhere on the Border to work as teachers, medics, journalists, community organization workers. They are all bright future leaders of their people.

Read more about PUB’s current work.