Help without Frontiers
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Help without Frontiers(Italian: Aiutare senza Confini; German: Helfen ohne Grenzen; Thai: มูลนิธิช่วยไร้พรมแดน) is an aid agency which aids refugees and other people under threat along the Thailand-Burma border. It has headquarters in Bolzano (South Tyrol, Italy) and branch offices in Ansbach in Germany, Innsbruck in Austria and Bangkok in Thailand (มูลนิธิช่วยไร้พรมแดน Thailand Foundation)).
As a non-profit organisation based on voluntary work, the association helps people of minority groups who are under threat in Burma along the Thai-Burma border. These refugees from Burma and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) inside the country have escaped persecution and suppression at the hands of the Burmese military junta (State Peace and Development Council) and the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw).
Based on the principles of transparency and accountability, Help without Frontiers guarantees that 100% of all donations go directly to the projects. All administration costs as well as traveling and marketing expenses are covered separately by contributions of association members, sales and revenues deriving from a special Italian tax transfer law, as well as appropriated contributions from private and public supporters. Transparency and the 100% guarantee for all donations are certified through two "Safe Donations" seals ("Sicher Spenden" and "Carta della Donazione").
The stated goals of Help without Frontiers are:
- to implement sustainable projects in cooperation with refugees of various minority groups, such as the Karen people and the Shan people, who are seeking refuge in Thailand and in IDP hideouts in the remote jungle areas inside Burma.
- to invest the donated money efficiently in line with a combined approach of cooperation and corporation
- to enable volunteers to contribute to our projects and activities and to enhance their understanding of the complex socio-economic and humanitarian situation of our project sites, which in turn contributes to increasing awareness in their communities and home country societies
- to inform the public and especially people in Italy, Austria, Germany and Thailand about the actual extend of the human tragedy and genocide in Burma
- to regularly inform about developments in Burma and the border area as well as the situation of refugees on the official Help without Frontiers websites and via email newsletters
Medicine and health
Help without Frontiers supports several health projects such as the dental clinic, the surgery department and the prosthetic workshop with trauma department at the Mae Tao Clinic of Dr. Cynthia Maung (250 prosthesis for victims of landmines per year), as well as a small clinic and a first aid practice in the jungle inside Burma (accessible for more than 9.000 people).
School and education
In the area school and education Help without Frontiers supports many schools with a total number of more than 5.500 students along the Thai-Burma border and in the jungle inside Burma (Karen state). Most of the schools operate on primary and secondary education levels, but also high school level education is provided at three of the schools. The subjects being taught are Languages (Burmese, Karen, Thai, English), Math, History, Geography, Biology, etc. Generally the infrastructure of these schools is basic. However, the certificates the graduates of these schools receive are not officially recognized in Thailand.
Help with Frontiers offers additional vocational and further trainings to the students of 9 "Ray of Hope" schools in the Mae Sot region. These trainings are conducted as courses in the evenings, on weekends or in ‘camps’ during the school holidays; specific topics as well as English, Thai, computing and internet, art, music, sports, handicraft, etc. are taught in these units. Furthermore, the organisation enables some of the graduates to join the selection process of other organisations in order to be accepted for a stipend program.
Help without Frontiers cooperates with the Thai Ministry of Education (MOE) and has worked on a draft proposal, which aims at legalising the migrant schools along the border, as well as security and legally recognized certificates for the children. According to this proposal, also the official status of the teachers will legally change and they would not need to live and work in constant fear of deportation. Moreover, the proposal suggests a curriculum with an emphasis on integration of migrants. It is now being gradually implemented and will entail additional training for teachers.
Help without Frontiers is also the local partner of the “Mekong Youth Network – MYN” programme, with youth form 7 countries in South East Asia (among them Burma and Thailand) taking part in capacity building and networking activities. The thematic focus of MYN Mae Sot is on issues such as human rights and child rights, community development and leadership, project management, healthcare, drugs, disaster relief and human trafficking. Since autumn 2009 the team conducts trainings and workshops at all refugee schools in the Mae Sot area and broadcasts a one hour radio programme from a local radio station.
Two income generation projects, primarily for refugee women, have developed to core activities of Help without Frontiers: A food program (“yummy! Meals for Schools” programme) and “The Happy Tailor” sewing workshop for the cost-free provision of healthy meals and school uniforms for the students.
These two projects have been operating since 2008 and have created jobs for more than 20 employees. Working hours are regulated in line with legal requirements and overtime is paid. The workstations are clean, hygienic, safe and designed according to ergonomical standards. Experts assess and improve the projects on a regular basis. Salaries paid to all employees of Help without Frontiers projects are above the local standard wage level (13 salaries per year!), and free food from the kitchen is provided. All employees are covered with health and accident insurance. A voluntarily saving scheme is also offered, which enables staff members to deposit up to 30% of their monthly salaries in an account that is subsidised through a grant by Help without Frontiers. It is also possible for employees to borrow small loans from their employer in order to purchase sewing machines for private usage for instance. This way Help without Frontiers enables these families to generate additional income. Moreover, all employees are provided with an official work- and residence permission. A first aid training has been conducted and the fire brigade of Mae Sot trained all kitchen staff in the correct procedures in case of emergencies and fire.
For the “yummy! Meals for Schools” programme more than 3.200 healthy meals are produced and distributed to the students of 12 schools and 4 dormitories. The average cost per meal is 0,30 Euro; Help without Frontiers covers all expenses and provides the meals services free of charge.
With a drinking water filter system, clean drinking water for the schools and dormitories can be produced and distributed to refugee communities. In an attempt to improve the food programme representatives form all schools meet every month to discuss the menu and to solve possible problems. A professional nutritionist supports the organisation in this matter.
To ensure the long-term health of the children in refugee schools, Help without Frontiers offers fruit and 200 ml of milk once a week (for the cost of 0,15 Euro per week and child). This is an essential nutritional supplement for the children, because at home they never get milk and hardly ever eat fruit. The positive impact on the health of the children is evident.
Since the “yummy! Meals for Schools” programme takes some of the financial burden from poor parents, the drop out rate has been reduced and by the same token children could be kept away from hard labour, begging or collection rubbish.
In the “The Happy Tailor” sewing workshop the compulsory school uniforms are produced in a better quality and to a better price than on the market. For the “Ray of Hope” schools these uniforms are for free, while other schools can purchase uniforms to subsidised prices. Furthermore, shorts and football shirts, work clothes and uniforms for medics etc. are produced to meet the demand of additional orders. Each generated Baht from the sale of these products will remain in the project and enables the organisation to produce and distribute more school uniforms for refugee children.