Refugee youth preparing for further study
Background to BP

Marist Training Resources

MTR draws inspiration from the Society of Mary's (Marist Fathers) option for the young and the poor, alienated and marginalised in society.

All know that education is a key for people to lift themselves out of poverty, suppression and hopelessness – a situation common amongst those fleeing the violence of Burma.

Education of the poor
Historically the Society of Mary’s first works included education of the poor. In this spirit the Marist Mission Centre (MMC Australia) has supported hostel and further education projects in a number of border camps since 1998.

Hundreds of young people have been helped by these projects. But after finishing their camp high school education many either return to the risk of living with their families in Burma or leave to seek illegal livelihood in one or other of the border towns in Thailand.

Online studies
Through Marist funding in 2004 a ground-breaking program of online studies for Karen refugee youth began with Australian Catholic University.  The first graduations were in Apr 2006. The program continues to the present time with candidate selection in the hands of local coordinators and visiting ACU staff.


Graduation has put these young persons at significant advantage in resettling to English-speaking third countries or taking scholarship places in Thai and other universities.  Others have returned to their people better equipped to play major roles in local community organisations.

Back in the camps
Meanwhile, in recent times, back in the camps and having exhausted their educational possibilities, some students have asked for help and advice about further steps in their education. They want to ‘bridge the gap’ between refugee camp education and tertiary studies.

The Bridge Program
In response to this, MTR has set up the Bridge Program, a simple, online educational opportunity for eligible Burmese refugee youth.

BP’s hope is to 'bridge the gap' between Thai-Burma border post-10 refugee camp education and potential selection for online studies with participating universities internationally -- or other tertiary studies.


BP focuses on developing skills in these principal areas:

  • Clear communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Personal self-management

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Since 2011 ‘BP-ers’ have been mostly Burmese refugee young adults who had completed or were currently concluding post-10th standard education in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. Some were selected on the basis of their participation and success in MTR English competitions.

The program was inspired by these participants, some of whom have shown outstanding commitment to developing their English skills.

They are emerging as responsible and eager young adults with clear potential for tertiary education.

BP offers such motivated young people the chance to develop further skills in English language, personal self-management and communication to enhance their likelihood of selection for online studies.

The program provides regular online assignments and opportunities for conversational English development.

Interested and enthusiastic young adults will be asked to give evidence of their basic English skills as well as access to computer and Internet.

Reliable access to and familarity with Skype video chats are essential.
MTR’s web site has dedicated pages for the Bridge Program.

Program schedule, resources and support
After an initial selection process and trial period participants are required to do at least two fortnightly assignments online, usually over a 20-week period.

The program is supported by ‘BP friends’ in Australia.


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Earlier examples of other Marist initiatives in ‘bridging’

In each example Marist support has enabled young people to move into new areas of education and endeavour.

Woodlawn College’s (Lismore, NSW, Australia) aboriginal scholarships
This Marist tradition has helped numerous indigenous youngsters to bridge the gap between their limited home situations and high school and tertiary education.

Internal scholarship program, MMC Hostel, Maera Moo refugee camp

In 2005 & 2006 students presenting small scholarship proposals were provided with further resources and local tuition in English, art, music and handicrafts.

For many this meant bridging the gap between poor and successful results in high school.

AYDP (Asia-Pacific Youth Development Program)
Over several years these development workshops assisted young people from a number of S.E. Asian and Pacific countries to gain skills helping them move forward in personal self-management and leadership.

Numerous examples exist of fruitful application of these new skills in Thai-Burma border refugee organisations as well as Cambodian and Pacific agencies.

Karen and Karenni SOTY (Student of the Year) workshops
These Marist-initiated projects enabled peer identification of outstanding potential leaders in a number of refugee organisations, with  support for them to assume leadership and management roles in ethnic and border organisations.

YODIFEE (Youth with Disabilities Foundation for Education and Employment, Takmao, Cambodia
In 1998 Marist Fathers’ funding enabled the establishment of the Marist Brothers’ Lavalla school for physically disabled primary school aged children, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

Through a Marist Fathers’ initiative in 2002 the PELG program commenced (Program for Employment of Lavalla Graduates).

This later developed into YODIFEE, bridging the gap between Lavalla’s informal primary education to secondary education, work skills training and employment and the establishment of YODICRAFT.