Thailand Acted

From newcomer to leader: an inspiring woman emboldening her camp community

Quietly sheltering from the midday sun in the shade of her bamboo terrace, Rebeca, reserved yet smiling, invites us to join her.

Rebeca, 45, arrived in the camp with her husband Lawrence and their three children in 2004, fleeing the violence of a protracted conflict; they are now counted among the 45,562 unregistered refugees of Ban Mae Surin camp.

Given the struggles which many camp residents face through not having any real way of integrating into the labour market outside of the camp, ACTED works with people like Rebeca to provide job skills, self-reliance and livelihood opportunities.

Interested and extremely motivated to join not one, but all the courses, Rebeca enrolled and graduated from courses in advanced computer skills, hair therapy and food processing. Following each course, she completed a 4-8 week long internship in the field from which she received a certificate. “I was interested in doing an internship to learn more about the working condition and situation in Myanmar, to be able to compare between here and there, but also to get practical firsthand experience,” said Rebeca.

Today, Rebeca is a dynamic and supportive member of the community, where she plays an active role in Camp Committee office, supports her children in their education and participates in the “community market” every Wednesday. These markets serve as an income generating activity for camp residents but also as a way for graduates to put their newly gained skill into practice, she cheerfully prepares and sells food. “It is a very good activity as it is not only good for our health but it also helps us to become self-sufficient,” said Rebeca.

Thanks to her drive and enthusiasm, Rebeca has become a reference to all camp residents. “I am a role model for others residents. They look at me and feel motivated,” said Rebeca.

When asked if she considers returning to Myanmar, she replies that her biggest dream is rather to be reunited with her husband in Australia. This is the reason why she has been waiting for her case to be processed ever since her husband was resettled there two years ago. In the meantime, she keeps herself busy with raising her children along with the cooking competition she has been winning every year for the past ten years. She does her best to practice the skills she has acquired on a regular basis so that when the time comes for her to leave the camp, she can secure employment  and reunite with her husband.

I am a role model for others residents. They look at me and feel motivated.


This article relates to the European Union funded project “Vocational training in Transition” (VTiT), that aims to support refugee communities in Thailand, particularly youth, that have never worked outside of camp contexts. ACTED is addressing these challenges through offering learning and vocational trainings courses.

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