COPE (Creating Opportunities for Psychosocial Enhancement) Project
The political instability, unrest, violence, and socio-economic problems in Burma have driven tens of thousands of people away from their homeland. Since the early 1980's, Burmese, Karen, and other ethnic minorities have been fleeing their homes in increasing numbers, moving within Burma and across the border to Thailand. Human rights abuses have been well documented, including execution of those who do not comply with the demands of the soldiers, forced labor, rape, and denial of the right to education. The trauma of active conflict—and the resulting loss of life, family disruption, loss of land and livelihood—has compounded this. As a consequence, children and youth have been witnesses or participants in traumatic events including violence and sometimes the death of their loved ones. Many youth have lost their homes and belongings, and are separated from their families. They often remain silent, absorbing and reflecting the fear and anger of their parents, siblings, and community members—but more often they do not have a way to share their personal painful experiences. If they try to express their fear and concerns, they are often not listened to or are not given the needed support.
Many Burmese children in Thailand experience trauma and stress after their families flee discrimination and violence in their home country.
The COPE Project addresses the psychosocial needs of Burmese refugee and displaced children who have been affected by violence and the societal consequences of political unrest. COPE provides materials and training to refugee teachers, parents, and school directors on how to identify and respond to student behaviors associated with migration-related distress. In recognition that many students might face challenges that go beyond the responsibilities and expertise of the teachers, COPE has also worked with COERR, UNHCR and UNICEF to establish a child protection referral system in the camps that is promoted via the trainings. Initially, COPE activities were implemented specifically with camp-based refugees. However, as need has expanded in the past three years, COPE has expanded its reach to include work with migrant schools and communities. The COPE project has been implemented by World Education since 2004, previously in partnership with ZOA Refugee Care and the Karen Education Department (KED). It is made possible by the support of UNICEF.