Last week, many of our supporters received an email from Dorcus Moo, one of our board members and an alumna of the very first class at our first EarthRights School. She shared the story of her 15 year relationship with ERI in a beautiful testimonial which spoke to how both her and ERI have grown over the years, and how our commitment to the people of Myanmar has stayed the same.
I was able to meet Dorcus earlier this month when she traveled to D.C. from the Thai-Myanmar border to attend our board meeting, and it was truly a pleasure to speak with her. It isn’t often that you meet someone who is so humble and dedicated to her work, yet still so fun to be around. After hearing her story I couldn’t help but feel proud to work alongside her, and I’m happy to now share her words here on our blog:
Dear ERI supporter,
Before she co-founded EarthRights International, I knew Katie Redford as my teacher. I was fifteen, and she was just out of college. She had come to the Thai-Myanmar border to teach English to me and a handful of other students in the refugee camp where I grew up.
I couldn’t have known it, but those classes were the start of a 15 year journey during which EarthRights and I would grow up alongside each other.
At that time, I had just finished 10th grade, which was as far as schools in the refugee camps went. I knew that I wanted to continue my education, but there were so few options. I also knew that I wanted to serve my community and my people, to fight for our rights and equal treatment. How I would do that, I wasn’t sure.
With EarthRights, I found a place where my passion and hopes for a future advocating for my community began to blossom. I worked as a translator during the first EarthRights case, Doe v. Unocal, interviewing victims who had suffered abuse at the hands of the oil company.
Later, I would enroll in the first class of the EarthRights School for Myanmar. It was there that I met young men and women from all over Myanmar who had lived through experiences like mine — forced to flee our homes when the fighting become too much, living in refugee camps which were also targets for the military.
Many of us grew up with anger and the hunger to resist. I held onto mine, and before I came to EarthRights I was fueled by concerns for my community, my struggle, my fight. At the EarthRights School, I listened to students from ethnic areas all over Myanmar. They all had stories of suffering and hurt, and they were all working to fight injustice. In time I began to see their struggles as my own. My became our, and I became we.
EarthRights and I have both grown a great deal in the 15 years since I was a student. I went on to university and gained my degree in political science, built a career advocating for refugee communities, and I am now working to bring educational opportunities to the youth in the refugee camps and in Karen State, Myanmar. EarthRights has had more success than we ever could have imagined, and the EarthRights Schools have graduated over 200 students, all of whom have gained the tools and support they need to defend their own communities.
Myanmar, too, has seen many changes in recent years. This year, for the very first time, I was able to return to the village where I was born. That in and of itself is progress. However, what I found when I arrived was that the people in my community were now involved in a new struggle. Some found their lands being handed over to industry, and others found the pollution from new factories destroying the environment they depend on for farming. This struggle, just as mine was, is being shared by villages and communities across the country.
Now as ever, Myanmar is in need of committed and trained community leaders who will work to protect the rights of the people and put pressure on the government to continue moving towards a representative and peaceful state. I hope that this giving season you will stand with EarthRights, and help us in our efforts to make the world a more just place.
By supporting EarthRights, you are not only joining in our struggle for human rights and fair treatment for all people, but you are making an investment. You are investing in future leaders and their communities. You are investing in a network of human rights and environmental advocates that are already working for positive change. Finally, you are investing in the possibilities of people who are finding their voice.
Please join me in supporting the work of EarthRights by making a tax-deductible donation today.
In love and solidarity,
EarthRights Board Member
EarthRights School Alumna, Class of 1999
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This post was written by Patrick Boyle, former staff.