The Free Burma Rangers (FBR), in cooperation with local pro-democracy ethnic groups, conduct a combined training program on ethnic unity, leadership and relief activities hosted by the Karen National Union (KNU) in the Karen State of Burma for two months each year. The program integrates seminars and training sessions covering ethnic unity, leadership, capacity building, humanitarian relief, medical assistance, reporting and advocacy.
Between 15-20 teams from all over Burma, including Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Lahu, Mon, Naga, Pa-Oh, Shan, Ta’ang and other ethnic areas complete the training and are then sent on relief missions. The training program focuses on preparing ethnic teams to bring help, hope and love to the people of Burma, especially to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Each year, as many as 100 men and women comprising 4-5 person teams, as well as teams of ethnic Karen, Karenni and Shan instructors, participate in the program and ensuing relief missions.
The teams receive training in ethnic issues, leadership, ethics, conflict resolution, public health, first aid, advanced medical and basic dental care, human rights interviewing and documentation, reporting, counseling, video and still photography, map and compass, land navigation, sketching, mule and horse packing, swimming, lifesaving, rappelling, rope bridge building, river crossing techniques, security, solar power and battery management, communications, planning, operation orders and the history of ethnic nationalities of Burma. A women’s workshop after the training with the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) provides useful tools for teams to teach nutrition, sanitation, food preparation and personal hygiene while in IDP sites and villages. Instructors from the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) and Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD) also give expert instruction to the teams on the topics of human rights documentation, relief and reporting. Foreign trainers also provide instruction in topics such as: counseling, leadership, computers, mapping, medicine, and spiritual development.
The program culminates in a two-day field training exercise to test the teams in every area of their training. This exercise is conducted using an IDP scenario with multiple stations to which the students must navigate and complete the assigned tasks. This is conducted under pressure, over difficult terrain with multiple river crossings and no food or sleep. Every team must successfully complete all tasks.
Upon graduation each team is equipped with enough medicine and medical supplies to treat 2,000 IDPs, a video camera, a digital camera, a radio, flashlights, backpacks, hammocks, personal equipment, cash for travel, food for emergency relief, educational supplies (including Bibles and hymnals where requested), “Good Life Club” packs for children, clothing for IDPs, toys, sporting equipment and a reporting format. Each team then conducts a relief mission to IDPs in its respective ethnic area in Burma for 1-3 months. Upon completion of their missions each team sends a completed report to their respective leaders who in turn send them to the FBR office. Any relevant relief, human rights, medical or other information is passed on to the appropriate organizations. The teams are then evaluated, retrained in needed areas, re-supplied and sent on to the next relief mission.