Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Mae La is the largest of 10 refugee camps along the Thailand Burma border.  They are made up of ethnic minorities (primarily Karen refugees) fleeing atrocities and ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar (Burmese) Military government. The Karen (pronounced Kor-EN) People are a semi-nomadic tribe who traditionally lived in the hills. The military government has used the minority peoples as slave labor,  burned their villages, planted land mines around their villages and murdered entire villages of the Karen hill people.
Thousands of refugees have been driven out of Burma by the brutal assaults of the Burmese army.
In the early 1980’s, the Thai government started setting up temporary refugee camps for the Burmese refugees.  The refugee camps have become more strict with who can enter and leave -a refugee has to apply for papers to work outside of the camp and in order to get into the camp, they have to apply for asylum from the Thai government. According to the figures used by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), the 10 camps have a total estimated population of 148,793 (based on how many people are fed by the TBBC  and 90,489 actual refugees officially registered by the UNHCR (which takes years to obtain). Mae La has an estimated pop of ~49,418 however, only those who are registered are actually counted.  The estimates are an underestimate because there are many reasons why some refugees don’t want their presence officially known.  There may actually be upwards of 80,000 people who live in this camp!
Mae La Refugee Camp is a huge village with very little space, which is rationed and only small gardens are allowed, and entire families (including grandparents, and other relatives) often live in a small house ~150 sq ft -the size of a large bedroom in the west. There is no official market or official shops, since there are no actual working jobs or money besides what the few people who work outside the camp bring in. There are people of various religions Buddhism, Christianity and Muslim living peacefully together -perhaps united by the larger issue of having no true home. A big problem is that there are so many refugees who have nothing to do but sit around the camp and wait -waiting for things to improve, for a country to go back to, or for something to change.   One of the beautiful things about these people is the warmth -they only have each other and for the most part, they seem to value and appreciate their community. For the children in the refugee camp -this place is all they have known.  Education is very important for them -to give them some hope for the future and skills that they can utilize.
Art is also very important for many children… I found this beautiful blog -Unseen Mae La with beautiful art by very talented Karen Refugee Children. There is a lot that anyone who wants to volunteer here can do -you just have to get connected with the right NGOs and organizations.
Medical volunteers are very much in demand.  The numbers of refugees are growing and oftentimes, the clinics help to connect people with work and education opportunities.

Rangeley Lake State Park, located in western Maine, features over 800 acres of forested land and a clean, clear lake. Lily Bay State Park is located on Moosehead Lake in the Maine Highlands region, giving campers access to excellent fishing as well as nearby mountains. Baxter State Park, in the Maine Highlands region, is a popular site for campers and hikers. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a 92-mile stretch of rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.
The White Mountains National Forest stretches across the New Hampshire-Maine state line, spanning over 1,000 square miles.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the United States, with thousands of people attempting to hike its entire 2,184-mile length every year. Almost 50,000 people gather every year in late August and early September in intense conditions with temperatures time and again breaking 100?F during the day and dropping below 40?F at night with irregular wind-driven dust storms. I was actually able to participate in some art classes taught by my friend – a Thai art teacher from Chiang Rai. From the rugged coastal areas to forested mountains, wilderness lovers will find dozens of camping opportunities. There are approximately 50 campsites located near the lakeshore, giving you easy access to watersports as well as hiking trails. Blue State Park is the largest state park in Maine, consisting of over 8,000 acres of protected land.
There are two campgrounds with 90 campsites total, all of which have nearby access to toilets. The island can only be accessed by personal watercraft, offering a secluded camping experience at one of 12 campsites. Camping is permitted at designated places along the waterway, and visitors are encouraged to make advance reservations to ensure a campsite is available.
Although 95% of the forest is in New Hampshire, the Maine portion of the forest offers spectacular camping opportunities.
Participants liberally express themselves in every possible way including art projects, gifts, performances, themed camps, informational workshops, and music that attracts many top DJ’s from around the world.

The campsites are maintained and staffed during the summer months from May 15 through Columbus Day. Dozens of campsites dot the trail, most of which are accessible by kayak, boat, or other personal watercraft. In other areas, primitive backcountry campsites allow you to get away from civilization for a few days. Campsites fill up quickly in this popular park, so consider making an advance reservation during the summer months.
Both summer and winter camping opportunities are available, giving you a variety of ways to experience the Allagash Wilderness. The amenities at these campgrounds vary; some have running water and flush toilets, while others do not. Choose a camping experience suitable for your experience and wilderness abilities, and Maine will not disappoint. Although most visitors camp at Baxter State Park in the summer, winter camping opportunities are also available. Detailed information about trail campsites can be found in the Maine Island Trail Guide, updated annually. It was first started informally in 1986 and now draws thousands from around the world, is a short-term community in a remote Nevada Desert where participants combine artistic and personal freedom. Hiring a Registered Maine Guide is an excellent way to learn more about camping and survival in Maine.
Campers must register at a ranger station and ensure that they have appropriate warm-weather gear.
Over 250 backpacking shelters dot the Appalachian Trail, providing primitive accommodations for campers.

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