Mr. Tom Brackett is the founder of the Brackett Refugee Education Fund and a member of the Global Mission Committee of the Diocese. In this post, he shares about his work, together with his wife, Liz Brackett, with refugees from Myanmar (Burma).
Our mission started for Liz (my wife) and me in 1992 when we went to a refugee camp in Thailand under the auspices of the Volunteers in Mission program of the Episcopal Church. Our mission was ostensibly to teach English, but we soon realized that we had bought into much more than that. We had entered a strange new world with unfamiliar food, unfamiliar languages, unfamiliar clothes, and customs. We had taken a spiritual journey toward a new understanding of ourselves as we came to know a culture very different from our own, but also to appreciate the commonality of our shared human condition. We had taken a deeply emotional journey as we joked and laughed, as we talked about love, war, and courage, and as our new friends shared their sad sometimes tragic stories of terror and abuse at the hand of the enemy. A few short months confirmed our belief that we had found our mission, and the refugees would be a part of our lives forever.
But how? How could we keep this noble tribe in our lives and help them through their dark times? We went back every year for the next four years and thought a lot about what we could do to give them the support they really needed. Finally we thought that education might be the best gift. It is a gift which cannot be taken away, a gift that increases their understanding of their situation, a gift that makes them impossible to enslave, and a gift that lasts them a life time.
So in 1997 Liz and I established the Brackett Refugee Education Fund as a 501(C) 3 organization to aid refugees seeking education, at any level from kindergarten through university. We have helped educate people in Thailand, India, Burma, and Bangladesh for almost 20 years and are still going strong. We now have many volunteers who work with us helping to give about 100 university scholarships in Thailand, about 50 in India, and a few in Burma. We support primary, and secondary schools in Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh serving hundreds of students, and we pay a few teachers for refugees in Thailand and internally displaced persons in Myanmar.
We have received many blessings, and learned many lessons in our work in Asia, and I would be very happy to visit your church to discuss them with you. Please contact one of the Global Mission Committee co-chairs to inquire.
Image above: Mae La camp, Tak, Thailand, one of the largest of nine UNHCR camps in Thailand where over 700,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons have fled. Image by Mikhail Esteves from Bangalore, India – Mae La Refugee Camp, CC BY 2.0, Link