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QTI Member Articles

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BTI to Aid Teachers From Burma

Graham Cook, who recently graduated with a primary teaching degree from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute (BTI), is Graham Cook  travelling to Thailand to spend 6 months in refugee camps as BTI’s on- the-ground representative.

BTI is currently exploring how it can provide teacher education support to “prospective teachers from the Karen people, who at this point in time live in refugee camps in Thailand because they have been ousted from their homes in Burma,” said the Institute’s Dean, Dr Andrew Smith, at this year’s graduation ceremony.

It’s not your average first time teaching position, but then Graham is not your average guy.

Three years ago, Graham left a dream job in adventure tourism in order to study to become a primary teacher.

“I was working in the Bay of Islands,” explains Graham. “Life was pretty easy. For me everything was free from the top of the North to the bottom of the South. It was all very easy, and it was boring, you know. I needed more.”

After some reflection, Graham realised that teaching was that ‘more’. He says, “When people asked me why I wanted to teach I would say, ‘I want to teach the children nobody else wants, you know the ones who have been left behind by the system.’ Here I am three and a half years later, and I’m going to teach children in a refugee camp who have been persecuted by a regime. I was kind of thinking small, and God sort of blew that out of the water. That’s why I teach – to give hope to children.”

Graham knows that he is going into a difficult environment, and it’s clear he has done his homework on the history of the region. “Burma is the second most corrupt country in the world…and it’s also the second poorest nation in Asia behind Afghanistan,” he explains.

“There’s currently 180,000 people in the refugee camps, 44,000 children, and they have had to endure all sorts of things from systematic torture, rape, forced labour camps – any war atrocity that you can name…so it’s a pretty troubled region. They are wanting to try and raise up some teachers in these camps to help all of these people.”

Graham has worked and saved the necessary money to support himself in Thailand for the duration of his time there. After all his planning, and despite the natural nerves surrounding a plunge into the unknown, Graham is feeling ready to go.

“I’m feeling excited. Excited, nervous, anxious – afraid in a good way but trusting 100% in God that he has my best interests at heart, and he has things for me to do there.”

Graham has set up a travel blog where he will post updates as often as possible: Graham Cook blog

You can also watch an interview with Graham here: Graham Cook interview


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