Sunshine Coast Youth Serves Refugees in Thailand

  • 9 January 2012

Refugee children at Hilltribe Centre

While other year 12 graduates spend “Schoolies” sleeping and celebrating, Laura Fairbanks, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was hard at work in a remote mountain village of Thailand.Laura with nine-month old child left at Musikee HRDC

Laura helped teach English, sew clothes, and cook for refugees in Musikee, where The Hilltribe Resource Development Centre (HRDC) has set up accommodation for victims of tribal persecution occurring in Myanmar (Burma).

Laura not only paid her own way to Thailand, but she also raised money for much-needed winter clothing and blankets.
“Many of the refugees arrive at the HRDC with only the clothes they are wearing. They need so much,” Laura explains, “especially for the mountain winter.” Supported by her Church youth group and others, Laura came up with $600, which she presented to the centre when she arrived.

In Musikee and other HRDC selected villages, children of the escaping families have access to schools where they can learn trades. Work skills are particularly important for girls, who are otherwise at risk of exploitation and child trafficking.

Every few days the electric power in Musikee went off, so Laura and the other Australian student volunteer would then conduct learning activities for the children out of doors. The meals were typically rice-based, although Laura made some western food for her new friends to try, such as pizza and scones.

Her “daily hot shower” was a bucket of cold water. “But if you leave it until afternoon,” says Laura, “the sun will warms it up a little.” Cold wash water, however, is of little consequence in the face of the hardship she saw in the life of the refugees.

Laura returned from her month-long service with memories to last a lifetime and greatly missing those she served and served with. She keeps alive a hope of returning.

Laura is a member of the Budruim Ward, Sunshine coast Stake.