Sunday, April 5, 2009

Written by Zach Harrison (13 years)

As we were sitting in our favorite coffee shop in Ratchaburi sipping our caramel lattes and nibbling on our toasted sandwiches, we were reminded of injustice again by receiving a phone call from Samson, the principle of BPDN. He told us that a family of 4 young children one just a few months old, had escaped into Thailand and other villagers had immediately sought help for them. Everyone turned to Samson because they knew he had backup all over the globe (via Connect). The father had to go to hospital and recover from being tortured terribly. The Burmese soldiers had tied a bag to his head, filled it up with dirty water and laugh as he struggled to drink it all in order to take the next breath. The bag was tied to his neck very tight which made it hard for him to swallow and the soldiers had also stabbed a bayonet, at the end of their gun, into his shin.

A couple of weeks later we visited this family in the small bamboo house they’d been given. By the time we visited them, the mother had been able to find some work (paying $5 a day), the father was recovering at home after a second time in hospital and the children were playing with the other village kids. Samson, speaking his hundredth language…this time “Pot Karen”, spoke to the man and translated for us. The man told us that as he was fleeing from captivity under gun fire, he sensed a sort of protection.

While this family escaped many hard things, it hasn’t ended for them yet. The 2 oldest children aren’t able to go to school due to no Thai ID and not enough money coming in. One way they can go to school is by coming to our ‘Home for Students’ (the local school recognizes that we will fund their education and provide them with routine). The new school year is about to start and we hope to bring in more students. Please help us offer opportunities to students by sponsoring or finding sponsors.


Our family watched 'The Great Debaters' again the other night. This quote challenged me again....the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always right now!

These refugee families now living along the Thai/Burma border need help today. Please consider sponsoring or helping us find people who will sponsor.
Sponsorship is $40/month and covers either living or educational expenses. Email if you can help. THANK YOU. Ruth Harrison

Below are photos of 3 of our new students.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


This story appeared in the Courier Mail Newspaper on January 26th. The story of Karen fleeing Burma is a common story. Many of our students tell of being carried as babies in the arms of family memebers as they fled through the Burmese jungle into Thailand. Connect works primarily with Karen who choose to stay out of the refugee camps hoping to one day return to their own land. This is a costly, but understandable, decision for a Karen family to make. Connect continues to embrace, educate and empower these amazing people.

In order to continue our work here at the Thai/Burma border we need sponsors for current and future students. If you can sponsor a child please contact Ruth at for further information.

SCATTERED among the colourful throngs at the more than 60 citizenship ceremonies around Queensland this Australia Day weekend are those whose life stories astonish,
gladden the spirit or rend the heart. Tamla Dwel’s does all three. Sitting in the lounge of his Aspley, north Brisbane, home surrounded by family and friends, the 59-year-old refugee from Burma told The Courier-Mail his story ahead of his own citizenship ceremony. With good humour, he points to his nose, explaining how a bear that attacked him in the Burmese jungle where he lived had nearly bitten it
completely off. This was the second time he’d been attacked by blasted bears, he says. The first time he’d been able to kill his large, brown antagonist. But the
second time he’d been unarmed and had been badly wounded. In the bears versus Tamla Dwel match, he laughs, it is so far a one-all draw.

More seriously, he says the Karen people of Burma — along with other minority ethnic groups — have long been persecuted in the South-East Asian state. But life for them under the junta governments that have ruled since 1962 has become intolerable. ‘‘I spent my whole life in the jungle living in fear and move, move, move,’’ he says, shrugging his wiry shoulders. ‘‘The Burmese military destroy our places again and again.’’ Tamla says one of his brothers was shot dead. Another was tortured in captivity and died.

In 1997 Tamla and members of his family who’d survived yet another burning rampage by the army fled across the Thai border. They’d ended up in one of the nine major refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border, where an estimated 140,000 Burmese
refugees languish. The family spent nine agonising years waiting in the camp before they were granted Australian residency on humanitarian grounds, joining a
growing number of Burmese refugees who are being settled in and around Brisbane.
Tamla’s son, Dwel Htoo Dwel, smiles widely as he tells how much he’s looking forward to becoming one of the more than 3200 Queenslanders who will become Australian citizens at the weekend — the 60th anniversary of the first citizenship ceremony. ‘‘I
feel good," the 26-year-old, who is working as a roofer, laughs. ‘‘Here is very nice, very friendly — even the police are friendly.’’ He, like his father, is studying English at TAFE. Both struggle to find the right words to express how they feel. Dwel Htoo says it’s important because it’ll be the first time he’ll be a
citizen of any country, given he wasn’t recognised as one in Burma.
Tamla nods. ‘‘For the first time I’m not (seen as an) animal. I am human,’’
he says with a triumphant grin.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What in heaven's name do you hope to accomplish

Thomas Bandy in his book Mission Mover likens our lives and faith to a journey. And with any journey knowing your destination is a must. Bandy says 'What is your destination? What great goal and overarching purpose motivates your travels? When all is said and done, where do you want to get to, who do you want to be with, why do you want to go there, and what in heaven's name do you hope to accomplish?'

I used to dismiss doing much in the way of humanitarian work on the grounds that one person couldn't make much of an impact. The huge problem of injustice in the world overwhelmed me. Now it is my understanding of how much one person CAN do that can sometimes overwhelm me.

Our little organization is radically impacting the lives of many here at the border of Thailand and Burma. I wish I could tell you all the changes in the lives of children that we have seen in this first year. There simply are too many to tell. Let me give you a glimpse though. Two of our students came 1st and 2nd academically in their school of 800 students. Five of our students were top in sport. Three of our students couldn't read and now can. Many of our students have started to dream about their future...something they simply didn't know how to do previously. Many of our students live safe lives away from physically abusive parents. Some students now have constant care where previously they were not in anyone's care. Our students came 2nd in the local volleyball competition. Our students are learning farming skills, personal care skills, English, Karen and cooking skills. The list goes on and on. Thanks to an excellent diet and time for rest and recreation the students are generally healthy. There are many smiles, thanks, hugs, laughter and letters every time we go out to Baan Puk Dek Nakrean. Never do Colin and I visit the school without feeling astounded at the impact that ordinary people (who join together) can have. We get that God doesn't need us.....but we do see that He has opened up an opportunity for us (and our children, family and friends) to accomplish something heaven's name...and we are deeply grateful to him for that.

We continue to be deeply moved by the support and commitment of our friends. So many people have given finances so generously. People have also raised funds. Let me tell you about Natalie. Natalie wrote to Bunnings Warehouse and asked for the opportunity to have a fundraiser BBQ. Yesterday Natalie, with her husband Ben, their 3 little girls and their team of helpers (and their children) raised $1100 for Connect. Bunnings have asked for them to come again at Easter for another fundraiser event for Connect. Last month a different family gave a large portion of their stimulus money (given by the Australian govt in Dec to families). Another family asked for donations to Connect instead of Christmas presents. One woman bought a sofa on sale and gave the money she saved to Connect. Another lady had a Tupperware party and raised $250 for Connect. Then her friend had a Tupperware party and raised another $50. One group of women made and sold craft and were able to give $500 to Connect.

Two people sold educational toys to their friends and gained credit to buy things from the company. They did just that...sending puzzles and bingo (with words and numbers) to the students. These have been a huge hit. The puzzle was (without exaggeration) put together and taken apart over 60 times in the first 5 days. Another lady hand knitted/made baby clothes and we were able to give them out to surrounding villages. A kindergarten teacher organized parents to get children's books for the students at BPDN. Others have come and volunteered. Currently we have Kerry, Rebecca and Lynley (pictured) playing with, teaching, working alongside and loving the students.

Thank you to family and friends and friends of friends who are giving financially. Thank you to those who are praying. Thank you to all who are caring about these people. In heaven's name....we are accomplishing something significant.

But...we are nowhere...nowhere...near finished. We cannot smile, settle back and relax. On the contrary....the need is greater than what we initially thought. Please keep praying. Please keep giving. Please keep telling your friends about the Karen people. Please don't let a day go by without accomplishing heaven's name!

Monday, November 17, 2008

50 for 60

My parents have always wished people a very real Christmas. Not a happy, prosperous or merry Christmas…but real. This year I finally get it. I think this is what Jesus hopes for each of us. A very real Christmas. A Christmas where we would stand apart from what society says Christmas is and not just accept it. A Christmas where we would dodge all that consumerism throws at us. A Christmas where we would respond to bringing about ‘peace on earth’ and not simply sing about it. A real Christmas. One that we really make about Jesus. His life. His hope. His love. His call for us to be imitators of him. So…Connect invites you to have a very real Christmas alongside of us. It may not be as glamorous, or pretty or flash. It may not be as full of boxes and paper and toys. However a real Christmas is deeply satisfying, soul nourishing and grand. It has in it the potential to change the trajectory of lives…of those giving and those receiving. A real Christmas. Sounds sort of daring….don’t you think?

To see how you can be involved alongside Connect this details to the right!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Part of my hope for Connect continues to be that Australians, Americans, Kiwis and the Irish (we currently have sponsors from all four countries) and others, would alongside of us, urgently seek to bring justice to people who need it. Furthermore that those responding would extend beyond adults to include children. Colin and I have 5 children and expect that each one would have an acute awareness for the urgent need to seek justice. Our hope is that their faith would not simply be about carrying a membership card in their back pocket but rather it would be a faith that has implications for every aspect of their lives.

Ben and Natalie are a couple who have given substantially of their finances and their energies to the Karen people. Through their generosity they have significantly impacted lives here in Thailand. However, I believe, some of their greatest impact has been in their family. Their girls (they have three little girls under the age of 5) watching and listening to their parents have begun to copy (as children do) the behavior of their parents. Their eldest girl is Mary and recently, after saving for a long time, she gave all of her pocket money ($46) to Baan Puk Dek Nakrean. I was able to use that money last week to buy a volleyball net and ball for our students. This was an exciting gift for each of them and they were so thankful. The students were grateful when I told them that even children in Australia and other countries are seeking justice for them and showing generosity toward them. Mary had thought she would use the money to buy Care Bears but having watched her parents give to the Karen people, she wanted in also. What a huge challenge for us as parents. Are our children always asking for the next thing? Are they always saving for the new toy? Perhaps to foster generosity in their hearts, we need to first foster it in our own?

Below is the letter from Natalie.

Mary has saved her money and she has $46.00, she would like you to "give the money to the poor people please". Mary said "they can buy whatever they want". We will transfer the money to your account now.

Mary would like to keep on giving her money to the poor people, Mary and Katie would like you to say hello to our sponsor child Supapon.

Thanks Ruth, l was tring to write exactly what she wanted to say... l'm very happy that she choose to give you the money instead of buying some Care Bears!!!