A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit refugee camps in Thailand. I traveled with two Lutheran World Relief employees, Melanie Gibbons, who heads up the quilt and kit ministry at LWR, and Joanne Fairley who oversees LWR’s work in Asia and the Middle East.
We were there to see your quilts in action. And we saw them in every household we visited. In fact, your quilts are the only bed coverings that the nearly 150,000 refugees in nine camps along the Thailand/Burma border currently receive. Up until a few years ago, they also received warm, wool blankets from another organization. But no longer.
The refugees are so thankful for the quilts, and you’ll read more about that in the January/February 2013 issue of Gather magazine. LWR is attempting to ramp up its quilt distribution, and that means it hopes to receive more quilts from you in 2013. The goal is 500,000. If you are in a group that makes quilts for LWR, consider increasing your 2013 goal.
On the trip, I met an amazing woman: Ko Lo Wah, the newly elected chairman of the Karen Women Organization in the Mae La refugee camp. I would equate her position with one of our presidents of an SWO (synodical women’s organization). Ko Lo Wah is a Christian who cares deeply about the welfare of women in her community. “We look after each other,” she said. “The ladies have to stand for the ladies.”
Ko Lo Wah, who trained as a medic, left Burma because of civil strife between the government and rebel forces. She didn’t escape, however, before she witnessed the government-run military shoot dead a man and the grandmother he carried on his back. “I will never forget it,” she said.
Ko Lo Wah, her husband and two children live in a thatched hut; they eat the meager rations given to them by the NGO (non-governmental agency) that runs the camp; and they sleep under your quilts. How many more quilts will you make in 2013 to help women like Ko Lo Wah and their families?
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine.