(Mae La camp)

Since childhood, Saw Thin Paw has had a limp. For much of his early life, that meant he coped with feelings of insecurity.

In 1997, the then father of five and his family arrived in Mae La camp, where he felt he had few prospects.

For the first few years, he was jobless. He didn’t know what kind of employment might be available for someone with his disability, or who he might approach, he said.

Over time, however, the relationships and trust he developed with peers in the camp resulted in people encouraging him to work as a security officer. Saw Thin Paw took on that role, and it wasn’t long before he was nominated to be a part of a Section Committee.

About four years ago, he was elected Section Leader in a role that required that he address housing and camp management issues and respond as necessary to community needs.

Along the way, he changed his mind about the future.

After applying at one point for resettlement, he eventually asked for the process to be stopped. He had begun to hope that the situation in Burma/Myanmar would progress, and he could return one day with his family to the place he calls his ‘homeland.’

Change can happen, he has seen.

Years ago, it was not possible for him to take adequate care of his wife and children. He didn’t believe that people would treat him as a contributing member of the community.

Today, he is a leader and someone who is treated with respect by others.

This has helped him gain further confidence in his capacity to do his job, and in his ability to return and take care of his family some day in the old village life that he dearly misses.

TBC stipend staff such as section leaders provide vital support and leadership in the management and governance of the camps. TBC supports stipend staff with a disability so that they can fully participate in camp governance, increasing their self-reliance and confidence.