karen refugees Sao-Hin is a group of villages 20 kilometers from the Thai border. Of the 590 families living there, the majority are Karen, a tribal group originally from Burma.

It is estimated the Karen people have inhabited the land for more than 60 years, relocating there soon after the Burmese government started persecuting minorities.

In order to reach Sao-Hin, one must drive through all kinds of conditions including rocks, mud, sand and sometimes rivers. In the rainy season, it is impossible to enter or leave.

Mr. Charoensak, director of the Sampaan Rak Student Center shares,

“Last year, a young mother died because she attempted to cross the rapid current in rainy season. She was very sick. And the only way to survive was to risk the river. She didn’t reach the hospital.”

Three main problems in these villages are documentation, education and health. For more than half a century, the quality of life for children and adults in Sao-Hin has remained low.

Without citizenship, parents do not have legal land to work on because the land belongs to the government. Hence, they have no income. They cannot acquire ownership rights from the government and they cannot travel to other districts, or they will be deported.

With no education and no access to quality medical treatment, children are cut off from the future.

But, 17 Leadership Development Program students entered a deep jungle near the Thailand-Burma border to minister to the children and adults living in Sao-Hin.

Dust billowed from the ground as boys and girls ran toward the river, followed closely by the Leadership Development Program students towing bags of shampoo and soap on their shoulders.

After a long, hot day studying the Thai alphabet and listening to a village elder teach about Karen cultural wisdom, the kids were ecstatic to reach the water. There were shrieks of laughter and big splashes.

Leadership Development Program student Krisada shares,

“It was a chaotic moment. But it was so fun!

I had to pull lice out of some kids’ hair. They mustn’t have washed it for a long time.”

The students gently washed the children.

They rubbed the children’s hair with shampoo, soaped their gangly bodies that were covered with dust and soot, and towel-dried them.

They also dressed them in new clothes.

While the Leadership Development Program education students looked after the kids, the Leadership Development Program medical students took care of the adults.

Equipped with stethoscopes, thermometers, measuring tapes, scales and first-aid medicine, they visited every home in the village to provide health check-ups and gather baseline information for the child development center’s future health reinforcement plans.

Mr. Charoensak tells us,

“I am very happy that the Leadership Development Program students are here. We are thankful for their services. The villagers said that they wish the students would stay for a month.

To me, these students are a fruit of compassion. They are evidence of our program that works.”

The students tirelessly served the Karen people from sunrise to sunset. They obediently followed Jesus’ footsteps – to love and to serve the poor – because, when they look into the children’s eyes, they see themselves.

karen refugees

They were the ones running half-naked in the fields, crying at the thought of venturing out to school and fighting hard to cling to hope when all they heard was “just give up.”

But now, they are transformed people. They have come out of poverty.

At this time, we are seeing great clouds hovering over the horizon. We are “smelling the rain,” as Wess Stafford puts it.

The Leadership Development Program students will shower the parched land with their God-given talents, the humbleness to serve and a fierce love for the Lord and His people.

We can expect poverty to end because the evidence is here – the students are agents of change. One generation is being released and already liberating the next generation.


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  1. Nov 2, 2012
    at 4:10 am

    Thank you for this story. Often times it seems like the problems are too big to fix. Compassion regularly reminds me that they are never too big for God.

  2. Kate
    Nov 2, 2012
    at 7:06 am

    Is there a leadership development programme in El Salvador? My sponsored child wants to be a doctor when she grows up…

    • Jacquie Parella
      Nov 2, 2012
      at 9:02 am

      Yes Kate! As of 2009 the both the Child Survival Program and the Leadership Development Program started in El Salvador. That’s awesome about your sponsored child wanting to be a doctor!

  3. Nov 2, 2012
    at 11:46 am

    Love this story! What a wonderful story; I can just imagine it, having met so many of the LDP students here!

  4. Sandy H.
    Nov 2, 2012
    at 12:58 pm

    What about Indonesia and Columbia? Do they have Leadership Development Programs? My sponsored kids there want to be doctors. And my kids in Kenya & Honduras want to be teachers.

  5. Nov 4, 2012
    at 5:55 am

    What a wonderful account of compassion and love in an area that desperately needs God’s love! Thanks for sharing this story.

  6. sue avery
    Nov 4, 2012
    at 11:16 am

    Deeply touched to hear this wonderful story of God’s love flowing from one generation to the next. They have been blessed to be a blessing!

  7. meaw
    Nov 4, 2012
    at 7:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story with wonderful pictures.

  8. Tondja Woods Colvin
    Nov 6, 2012
    at 2:57 am

    The worlds problems are large but God is bigger. Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is.

  9. Geng Lis
    Nov 6, 2012
    at 6:51 am

    Thanks for sharing. May God encorage them to bring His love to show to other more and more.

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