As part of Centre College’s annual Poverty and Homelessness Week, the Center for Global Citizenship and the Bonner Program are sponsoring an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) dinner on Thursday, Nov. 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Ewen Room in the Campus Center.
“The whole purpose of the dinner is to give students and the Centre community a sense of what the IDPs typical dinner would look like, since there are limited resources, specifically food,” Eh Nay Thaw ’18 said. “What we’re going to have there will be very limited.”
While Poverty and Homelessness Week often focuses on the domestic issues, Thaw wanted to bring an emphasis to the international side.
“When I had my internship abroad this past summer in Myanmar, I was working with the IDPs, and coming back from there I asked myself, ‘What can I do to raise awareness? What can I do in my position to help the people?,” he explained. “Then I came back and I proposed this project and Centre faculty were very supportive, as well as the Bonner Program.”
IDPs are similar to refugees, but instead of fleeing their country, they are forced to flee their home while remaining within the country boarders. They are often referred to as refugees, but don’t fall within the legal qualifications of one.
“Often, IDPs are much more vulnerable than a refugee because there’s no guarantee of security,” Thaw added. “They are still in their area of conflict and there’s no international organization that would provide them with basic needs, such as food, clothing, medical needs and education.”
During the dinner, participants will be given various scenarios based on experiences of those in the Myaing Gyi Ngu IDP Camp in Myanmar.
“There’s no expectations; come in with an open mind,” Thaw said. “It might be uncomfortable for certain people, given the scenario that they put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
“Because we are trying to represent what the IDPs are going through, the food will be totally different from what we would normally eat here on campus. It will be very limited, and the food will mostly be rice and maybe curry and potatoes, but do not expect much nutrition in it, because it’s supposed to be a representation of their daily diets,” he continued.
In addition, there will be a discussion about the topic of poverty and homelessness, along with the devastation in Myanmar between the government and ethnic groups that has been going on for seven decades.
“We will discuss why we don’t know about the ongoing conflicts in Myanmar, why don’t we hear about it in the media and why we can’t even pinpoint where Myanmar is exactly,” Thaw said. There will also be a group from the Karen Myanmar Refugee Community in Louisville who will share stories about their experiences as refugees.
“While our goal is to raise awareness and inform our Centre community about global poverty, we also pledge to raise $5,000 to support the IDP camp, because the food assistance in the camp has been cut, and our goal is to raise funds to support their needs,” Thaw explained.
In order to help reach their goal, there are several other opportunities to donate to the IDP camp throughout the week through the Box Sleep Out.
Students are also encouraged to donate their Friday night meal swipe to raise money for IDP and not swipe into Cowan on Friday, Nov. 17 for dinner.
“Often Centre students feel like they are powerless and that they cannot help,” Thaw continued. “That mentality is wrong and Centre students have the power to make an impact on what’s happening on the other side of the world.
“I would like to encourage Centre students to participate in the events,” he concluded. “The fact that our school always emphasizes the idea of an informed global citizen, this is an opportunity for students to come together and learn about our global issues. We can only learn so much in class, but if we do not experience ourselves and see it for ourselves, our intellectual understanding may be totally different.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
November 14, 2017