Recommend
19 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Catan» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Settlers in a Burmese refugee camp rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
John Clark
Australia
Canberra
ACT
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This will be a different kind of session report, mostly because there are no details of the actual games. You will have to bear with me through some background info, but there will be Settlers later on!

In the first two weeks of September, myself and 3 other volunteers visited a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. The refugees were Karen people from Burma, having fled the Burmese military over daunting mountains into Thailand. The historical reasons for this are complex, but boil down to the fact that the Karen want independence from Burma and the Burmese military dictatorship won’t grant it. This is one of many ongoing struggles in Burma, the most famous being the continuing house arrest of the elected leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi since 1990.

Anyway, many of the Karen people have fled, often from direct attacks on their villages, and, since about 1990, have congregated in several camps along the border with Thailand, prevented from going further by the Thai military. The camps are on the Thai side of the border, and the Thai government are content to tolerate their existence.

The camp we visited is called Mae La. It is 3 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. The official population is 30000 people, although there are probably more like 50000 there now. Because the camp has been around for 16-ish years, it is very well established. People do not live in tents, but in houses, more-or-less like the houses in their home villages, made of bamboo, wood and dried leaves on the roof. There is a thriving market, of over 100 stores, an elaborate education system, hospitals and orphanages (many). In fact, it is probably a little like a very big Karen village, except that the people cannot leave. Most people under the age of 15 were either born in the camp or have no memory of anything outside the camp.

The four of us went there for two weeks to run some short courses in various ‘tertiary’ level subjects. You see, while there is a good education system up to grade 10, it peters out after that, and many of the students are keen to continue their studies. Part of their thinking is that when they get out the camp they will need to have kept up with education in order to compete back in ‘normal’ society.

I taught macroeconomics to two small classes (normally I work as an economist for the Commonwealth Treasury in Australia, but am also a qualified High School teacher). I took over 3 sets of Settlers, crammed into one box, to use as a learning aid. For the first two-hour lesson, I explained the game and we played. Their English was quite good, so no translator was required. An interesting challenge was converting some of the aspects of the game into their culture. For example, they did not know what a sheep or wool was, so we called them ‘goats’. Also, they did not know wheat, so we called that ‘corn’. However, after the first game, they were quite happy calling these resources by their actual names.

Both classes had 7 or 8 students, so I could run two games, with either me or one of my colleagues filling in for the fourth player.

Being quite shy people, they were a little slow to get the trading going, but by the end of the games, which took about 90 minutes, they were getting right into it.

After the games, we discussed them and I guided them to three ideas of micro/macroeconomics:

1. Trading is beneficial to both parties, and those who trade do better in the long run than those who do not.
2. The ‘price’ of a resource went up or down depending on … you guessed it – supply and demand.
3. Sometimes you have to spend in order to increase output in the long run – e.g. building more settlements or cities in order to get more resources – and this is called ‘investment’.

In later classes we got down to some slightly duller ‘chalk and talk’ style of teaching, but I referred back to the games many times. At the start of the second week, we played again, and they had certainly improved. In fact, their learning curve was exactly like anyone else’s, which is hardly surprising.

On the Wednesday, I invited any of the students to stay behind after classes, which finished at 3pm, for another game, and the majority did.
On the final day, Friday, several wanted ‘one last game’! Fortunately, one of the three copies of the game was brand new and I left it there for them.

The whole trip was very successful. Settlers was a nice teaching tool and provided some useful (abstract) examples of economics in action. I also took Power Grid over and would have used it had I been there another week, but felt that we were cramming too much in already.

Since leaving on September 9, I have received the following emails from one of the permanent teachers there.

22 September: “Settlers still very busy. Every night they travel up and down till 10 to 11 pm. More and more students are getting attracted to it.”

23 September: “The Settlers are busy even tonight [this was a Saturday]. Every night, every night. Ethi, Paw Da, Nyaw Nyaw, Eh Ler Plaw, Peter, are some regular players and I also see some [outside] students at times.”

I am very pleased to have been a ‘Settlers missionary’, spreading the word to remote parts of the globe

I will put some pictures up of the students playing, but it may take a while …
2 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Shannon L
Canada
Vancouver
BC
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wow, that's awesome. I really respect the work your doing.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Clark
Australia
Canberra
ACT
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One picture up now ...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/150947
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
KK Su
Australia
Melbourne
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Simply brilliant. You've done excellent work.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Matt & Laurel
United Kingdom
Harrogate
flag msg tools
mb
I just wanted to congratulate you on the work you've been doing. It's so very easy to talk about helping people, but another matter entirely to actually put your money where your mouth is (as it were). Of course the added bonus is that you're spreading the word about boardgaming!

Well done.

Matt
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Clark
Australia
Canberra
ACT
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I should add a big thanks to Julian Clarke of Unhalfbricking games in Melbourne for getting a game of Settlers to me at short notice to take over to teh camp.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.