Books for Burma Project
Photo provided by David Landells
Books for Burma is a volunteer-run project with a mission to bring books and educational resources to Burmese refugees and activists in Asia who for political and financial reasons are unable to obtain or continue their formal education. Our goal is to support the work of existing grassroots educational organizations while expanding opportunities for independent and informal learning to refugees in the under-served urban areas of Asia.
The project began with a book drive in November 2006 that with the help of supportive bloggers was promoted solely via the internet. Dozens of people all over the country helped launch Books for Burma by donating cash and over 300 books in just one month. Over 50 pounds of those books were hand delivered to refugee organizations in Malaysia, and over 80 pounds of books have been shipped from the US to our partner Burmese organizations in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. Some of those books will find their way across borders into the hands of children and adults living in Burma in conflict zones or other areas controlled by ethnic opposition groups.
All of our partner Burmese organizations are different, so we communicate with them to determine their own needs and priorities for educational resources in order to fulfill those to the best of our ability. Our donation guidelines and book wishlist are based on input and feedback from our partners, and we are working to develop innovative strategies to meet our mission effectively while keeping costs as low as possible.
Backround Estimates place the number of Burmese nationals living in Thailand at well over a million. There are tens of thousands more living in Malaysia, India, and Bangladesh. The majority belong to one of the eight main ethnic minority groups in Burma - Karen, Shan, Kachin, Mon, Arakanese, Rohingya, Karenni, and Chin. Although over 600,000 Burmese are registered as migrant workers in Thailand, it is likely that most all of them are living in various states of exile - unwilling or unable to return home due to the Burmese junta's widespread oppression of ethnic minorities and political dissidents, and its stranglehold on a failing economy.
University students have long played an important role in Burmese politics and education is given a high priority. Students led the infamous 1988 protests, which resulted in thousands dead at the hands of the government and led to an exodus of political dissidents. Further student protests in 1996 resulted in the universities being shut down for an extended period, and led to more politically active students fleeing the country - many sacrificing their chance to finish their schooling. Through school closings, control over curriculum, and corruption, the Burmese junta uses the denial and manipulation of education within the country as a tool of oppression. There are strong networks of ethnic youth, student, and women's groups in Asia that work to expose the the junta's human rights abuses, and work towards the political and social development of their country.
They also work to provide educational and training opportunities to those living in exile. There are just as many refugees who struggle to get by on migrant wage labor, with little to no access to services like health care, education, or legal protection for themselves or their children. They all share a common belief in education as the path to a better future, whether their future is rebuilding a free Burma, or building a future for their family in a resettled third country in the West.
Books for Burma gives individuals a chance to help their cause by donating time, money, or books - to activists who are on the frontlines of the struggle for democracy in Burma, or refugee children who are unable to attend local schools.
If you have any other questions about this project please feel free to contact Tara or Richard and thanks in advance for your support.