Surviving Against the Odds

Refugees in Thailand have no legal rights to work, access education, or receive medical services. They can be arrested and detained in centres for extended periods of time. But this has not deterred many of them who want to upskill and further their education. Philip, our JRS volunteer speaks with a graduate from our digital marketing course who has shown such perseverance.

It has been a privileged for me to interview Mr U (as he would like to be known), another graduate of the JRS digital marketing course and a refugee currently residing in Thailand. Despite facing numerous challenges due to his lack of legal status, Mr U. has shown remarkable resourcefulness and perseverance in finding ways to support himself and his family. Integrating into Thai society has been extremely difficult for him and his family. They have no proper source of income and cannot afford to provide an education for their daughter, who faces difficulty travelling to school due to police checkpoints. The threat of arrest and detention looms over them constantly. In a particularly harrowing account, Mr. U also shared the trauma he faced from a past arrest by immigration police.

However, these challenges have not deterred Mr U and he continues to dedicate himself to furthering his education and skill-building. After completing the JRS digital marketing course, he was presented with the Ingrid Suwandi award. This award was named in memory of a long time JRS volunteer, who tirelessly supported vulnerable women in Singapore and was an advocate of the internship programme.

Receiving the scholarship at the JRS Thailand office.

Mr U received the award for his enthusiastic and active participation in class and a perfect attendance and assignment record! He served as an intern to JRS in Thailand and was engaged to do a profiling project. He was awarded a scholarship to enrol in an MBA programme and completed the first semester with A grades in all subjects. His story highlights the resourcefulness and perseverance that refugees demonstrate in the face of immense challenges. Despite limited rights and protection, refugees like Mr. U continue to strive for a better future not only for themselves and their families but also for others who find themselves in a similar plight.

It is crucial that we come together to provide protection and pathways for refugees to rebuild their lives with dignity and security. More needs to be done to ensure that refugees can access basic rights like education, healthcare, and work. May we continue to keep all our refugee brothers and sister in our prayers, and in the words of Pope Francis, to “see with the eyes of the Lord to help us realise that we are part of the same human family”.