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Burmese refugee baker shows us how he makes spicy potato samosas

You might think fusion cooking is only to be found in the restaurants and food festivals of the western world but along the Thai-Burma border there’s an amazing baker making delicious spicy potato Chinese samosas. This baker is also a Burmese refugee who’s built up his business from scratch. He learnt the recipe in a Chinese bakery in Burma before fleeing his home becoming a refugee in Thailand. His baking skills are extremely impressive and his dedication is unequalled. He works incredibly hard, getting up every day at 2:30am to bake and then travels to the market to sell his produce. He buys the ingredients for the next day’s production at the market before heading home and he eventually gets to bed around 9pm.

The pictures below and our Facebook album – Making spicy potato samosas along the Thai-Burma border - show you this incredible culinary master at work.

To find out more about the income generating programmes we support in Thailand visit our project pages - Mae Sot Livelihoods programmes 



1. First, peel and slice the potatoes. In a hot frying pan, fry the potatoes with spices and fresh coriander.

2. Once the filling is ready, prepare the dough. Pour flour onto clean surface, make a well, and add liquid. Mix well to blend the dough.


3. Kneed the dough until smooth and elastic. 


4. Separate dough into even pieces.


5. Roll out each piece into a thin circle. Add filling. Fold, and fry.


6. Sell… or eat!


For a more detailed recipe you can try yourself at home: BBC Good Food spiced potato samosas


What’s happening in South Sudan?

As the two sides in the recent crisis in South Sudan meet for peace talks this week, it’s important to ask ‘What’s happening in South Sudan?’ Are we seeing another ethnic conflict or a political power struggle? And how did it all start?

The answers to these questions are never simple nor straight forward and certainly impossible to answer with a simple blog. However, we wish to help our supporters and others to start to understand the situation by offering our perspective on the current crisis.

 Map of the current South Sudan conflict. Source:BBC News

How did it start?

A simple timeline of how the current crisis started is as follows:

  • In July, President Salva Kiir dismissed the Vice President Riek Machar and other important government leaders including most of his cabinet.
  • In response, the dismissed politicians tried to limit President Kiir’s power via SPLM party institutions but President Kiir merely out manoeuvred them by delaying the party’s National Liberation Council scheduled conference.
  • When the Council was finally called on the 14th December the dispute erupted and the Presidential Guard exchanged shots within their own ranks.
  • Then on the 15th December President Kiir declared that Riek Machar had attempted a coup.
  • Although the violence started in and around army barracks near Bor, the past three weeks have seen the violence spread to eastern South Sudan and across much of South Sudan.
  • Since the fighting began, over 189,000 South Sudanese have been displaced fleeing their homes looking for safety with an estimated 22,610 people crossing over into neighbouring countries.
  • As of 7th January, the two sides have started peace talks to try and agree on a ceasefire.


What this timeline doesn’t show are the much older and deep-seeded reasons for the conflict arising. To understand how and why the conflict has arisen, one needs to look at the creation of South Sudan and its subsequent development as an independent state.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, only gaining independence in 2011 after a decade of violence which killed more than 2 million people. That conflict, to simplify it was between predominately Islamic tribes in what was then northern Sudan (now Sudan) and predominately Christian tribes in then southern Sudan (now South Sudan). While power in the north was ostensibly consolidated in the capital, Khartoum, in the south, power was split among a loose coalition of tribes and local groups. When independence was achieved the binding force of a collective enemy went away and crucially without a strong new South Sudanese identity or state to fill the void. Furthermore when South Sudan started to create its governing bodies and structure it relied on the militia and local community structures, thus emphasising already existing ethnic lines and exacerbating divisions.

So is the conflict in South Sudan an ethnic conflict?

Many media reports have talked about South Sudan as an ethnic conflict. They point out that the President Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar come from South Sudan’s two largest tribes – the Dinka and the Neur respectively. And while there have been reliable reports of ethnically motivated killings, beatings and abductions, to view the conflict as an ethnic conflict is too simple. Instead, we should see the conflict as stemming from political rivalry and exacerbated by South Sudan’s only recently gained independence.

When South Sudan gained independence the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) came into power and Salva Kiir became President. The SPLM is made up of local leaders and their supporting militia. The rivalries between its internal groups have continued and its leaders have started to vie for political power – most visibly in President Kiir’s dismissal of Vice President Riek Machar and most of the cabinet. This political, as opposed to ethnic, rivalry is also visible in that so far none of the leaders themselves have referred the conflict by using ethnic phraseology but instead talk about usurpations of power. However, political rivalry and power struggles are not the whole picture. The complication arises from the internal divisions within the SPLM, and wider South Sudanese politics which tend to fall along ethnic lines – President Kiir from the Dinka tribe and Vice President Riek Machar from the Neur tribe. So while competition for political power may have sparked the conflict, the danger is that ethnic divisions could exacerbate the violence.

To make the situation worse, unlike other African countries who tended to inherit some form of state structure from their colonial rulers upon independence, South Sudan did not. Instead ‘communal belong’ is seen as the defining structure of South Sudanese politics with individuals identifying themselves with their tribe, or local community, and view protection and security as a communal matter (as opposed to the state’s responsibility). This localism has continued despite South Sudan gaining independence for primarily two reasons. One the army remains a collection of local militias divided along ethnic lines, and two government policies made ethnic identity the basis for the newly formed local government units. Add to this the inability of the SPLM to form a uniting South Sudanese identity, and you have all the ingredients for potential ethnic conflict.

Is peace possible?

With strong political rivalries being drawn along longstanding ethnic divisions, is peace possible or will South Sudan succumb to the violence and even possibly civil war? The hopeful answer is no – peace is possible. The two sides have agreed to talks over a ceasefire and there is strong foreign pressure for peace. However, maintaining a ceasefire and ensuring long-term peace is no easy task and will require more than just political agreement. And with South Sudan’s oil there will certainly by heightened tensions.

What about International Refugee Trust’s projects in South Sudan?

We would like to take this opportunity to reassure our supporters that so far the projects we support and the people we know and love have not been directly affected by the violence. So far the fighting is heaviest in the east, where the oil fields are, and our projects are based in the west. Of course everyone is nervous to see how the conflict develops, but they remain hopeful and pray for peace. We will continue to keep you updated and let you know of any further developments.

Please follow us on Twitter @IntRefugeeTrust for ongoing news regarding the conflict, and you can read more about our work in South Sudan on our project pages.


For further reading:

BBC News 'Analysis: South Sudan's bitter divide

African Arguments blog 'South Sudan:attempted coup or politics as usual?


Update from Uganda - CEO Adrian Hatch

Adrian Hatch visited Uganda in November to monitor progress at IRT's projects in the region.

The team at International Refugee Trust regularly conduct visits to the projects and organisations we support. On these trips we provide one-to-one management support and direct oversight and inspections to help monitor progress and spending.  Recently at the end of November, our CEO Adrian Hatch went to Northern Uganda for over two weeks to visit a number of projects IRT support in the region. 

Farms at Moyo Baby’s Home and Redeemer Children’s Home are progressing well

The primary focus on Adrian’s trip this time was to visit the Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home both of which run income generating projects including farms, a shop and beekeeping. Since these projects are a valuable source of income and help support the running of the Homes, IRT are very closely involved in supporting them and helping them develop further. Adrian therefore brought along 2 consultants from the Kulika Trust to help inspect the farms and suggest improvements to increase outputs and profits. The Kulika Trust is a local Ugandan NGO specialising in sustainable agriculture so they are able to provide valuable insights.

 The farms support the Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home providing food for the children and some extra financial support.

The farms at both Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home help to provide food for the children and raise money from selling cash crops. The Moyo Babies’ Home has a small farm at only 20 acres but the farm at the Redeemer Children’s Home totals 50 acres. The principle crop is cassava (or manioc) – an edible starchy root. It provides a major source of carbohydrates and is the basis for many meals. The other crops grown include beans, maize, millet, sesame and peanuts. Despite the recent heavy rainfall and flooding, Adrian was glad to see that the harvest is going very well. 

Harvesting the cassava roots

In addition to the farm, Redeemer Children’s Home also runs a local shop and piggery. The shop is very popular with the local community because they know its profits support the home. It sells a wide range of goods from food to toiletries and clothing. When Adrian visited everyone was busy buying in preparation for Christmas. The piggery is also proving to be a success with the pigs selling well. However the consultants did advise on some improvements to the design so as to better house the mother sows and their piglets together.

The shop run by the Redeemer Children’s Home sells a wide range of goods and is very popular with the local community.

Finally, Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home jointly manage a beekeeping project of 100 hives. IRT helped setup the project va little over 6 months ago and already it is going well with a good harvest is predicted for 2014. This project has the potential to be a very good income generator because of the value of honey in Uganda and its high level of demand.

Here you can see one of the 100 beehives started 6 months ago. The beekeeping project is going well with a good honey harvest predicted for 2014.

Overall Adrian was very pleased with how all the projects are progressing and everyone at International Refugee Trust are excited about what they mean for the future of Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home.

Adrian continued his trip, visiting Gulu and Amuru

After visiting the two Homes, Adrian travelled to Gulu where he met with the Comboni Samaritans of Gulu. They are a local NGO dedicated to HIV/AIDS control and adherence to antiretroviral drug treatment. International Refugee Trust have supported them for a number of years primarily through providing them with and maintaining an ambulance which serves the local area.

The ambulance IRT donated to the Smaritans of Gulu.

 Then it was off to Amuru where Adrian ended his trip with a visit and inspection of the Omee Group who support and train local farmers. International Refugee Trust recently supported the Group by providing each of the 19 farming ‘clusters’ with a pair of oxen as part of a 50% cost-sharing programme. Adrian was also pleased to hear that after taking savings and credit training, the Group managed to save 2 million Ugandan shillings from its first harvest last year and are currently saving for a grinding mill. With such plans in place, Adrian is proud to report back that the Group are making the first steps to sustainable self-reliance.

On the left, Adrian visits the Omee Group in Northern Uganda and hears about their plans for a grinding mill. On the right, oxen plough one of the Omee Group farms in Amuru.

Overall Adrian was pleased to see what is happening in Uganda and all the team at International Refugee Trust are very positive about their futures. We promise to keep you updated and in the mean time you can find about more about these projects by exploring our website (see links below).



Interviews with staff at Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home 

Oxen Agricultural Project: Amuru District




International Migrants Day - #IAmAMigrant


*Source, UNHCR


18th December is International Migrants Day. Currently, the UN estimates the world’s migrant population to total some 232 million persons – or three and a half times the population of the United Kingdom.

Who are these migrants? The United Nations defines a migrant as “an individual who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate”. While the recent, overwhelmingly xenophobic debate tends to portray immigrants as poor, lowly-skilled economic migrants, there are in fact many categories of migrants, including economic migrants, which can be legal or irregular, skilled or unskilled, temporary or permanent; family migrants, which actually represent the largest category of legal entry for most developed states; and forced migrants, a category of particular concern to IRT.

This year, UNHCR estimates that the number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide totals some 45.2 million, a figure which includes 15.4 million refugees, 28.8 million internally displaced persons, and hundreds of thousands of asylum applicants… Syria has become the stage of one of the worst refugee crises in recent history, with over 2 million Syrians having fled the country since the onset of hostilities in March 2011.

They could be you. You could be offered a job in Korea, and move to Seoul. You could marry a Swiss, and move to Geneva. Or, in the worst case scenario, you could be forced across a border by fighting in your country of origin.

While migrants are regularly used as scapegoats for economic downturns, migration can in fact generate substantial benefits for sending and receiving countries alike – the sum of remittances sent back to countries of origin doubles that of foreign aid; in receiving countries, migrants often address labour shortages. In fact, many have argued that open borders would substantially increase global GDP.

So, how can we explain marginalization, discrimination, xenophobia? How can we explain restrictive immigration policies?

A key principle of the liberal tradition is that of equal moral worth. And yet, by restricting immigration and discriminating against migrants, we would appear to be arguing that some people are worth less.  Migrants, whether forced or voluntary, temporary or permanent, skilled or unskilled, are all human – and by virtue of being human, they are entitled to basic human rights. They are worth no more than you, no less than you. Indeed, in a way, they are you.


To find out more about International Migrants Day and participate in the UN's #IAmAMigrant campaign, please visit teh official International Migrants Day website



Who is your family when you have no family?

Family is who you love and who loves you back

Christmas is a time for families but what if you don’t have a family? Who cares for you, helps you and loves you, when you are an orphan?

This is the reality for the children at the Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Home in Northern Uganda - the children are orphans. But there is hope, there is love and there is family. Their families are the people who care for them and love them everyday – they are the dedicated staff of these two Homes.

These individuals have dedicated their lives to helping and caring for these children and in turn have become their family – their surrogate parents even. No two people highlight this loving family better than Unzia Apolonia and Serafino Rabanga.



Unzia Apolonia – Moyo Babies’ Home

"Feeding the babies is my favourite part, I find it very therapeutic." - Unzia Apolonia

Unzia has worked at the Moyo Babies’ home as a nursery Care Assistant for 13 years. She holds a special place in this family because she is one of the women who care for the youngest of the babies – many under the age of 1 year old.

Babies at this age need a lot of care and attention, as any parent will sympathise with, but imaging taking care of 7 all at once! The 14 Care Assistances work in pairs each caring for 7 babies. They work 12 hour shifts - 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am – with only one day off a week.

The women take good care of the babies. They bath them, change their nappies and feed them with formula milk 5 times during the day and 5 times at night – that’s 35 bottles per shift. But the women love their work and love the babies. Unzia particularly likes the feeding part of her job finding it to be very therapeutic, although of course the nightshifts are always a challenge.

Unzia Apolonia mixes the formula for the babies.

 Because of the around the clock care these babies need and the difficulty travelling around the area, Unzia and the other carers live on site. Until 2009, they had only very basic accommodation – it was poorly built and rundown. But IRT ran an appeal and thanks to your generous support we were able to raise enough money to completely rebuild and equip a new dormitory for them. Now Unzia and the other women have a clean and comfortable place to rest when off duty.



Serafino Rubanga – Redeemer Chidren’s Home

Serafino is 63 years old and over the past 7 years has acted as a father figure to the boys who live at Redeemmer Chidren’s Home – an Home for children aged 6 -18 and run by the Sisters of The Sacred Heart.

Serafino Rubanga, counsellor at Redeemer Chidren's Home

In the beginning, Serafino was a volunteer teacher but very quickly the Home’s Director, Sr. Pasqua, recognised the valuable role he was playing in the boys lives and asked him to work fulltime at the Home. He works and lives at Redeemer fulltime, organising activities, including chores, for the boys, thus teaching them responsibility. Most importantly, he is a trained counsellor and thus provides counselling to those boys who have problems (some of whom are ex-child soldiers) and ensures the older boys look after the younger ones. As such he is a role model to boys who have no fathers, no uncles, no grandfathers. They in turn look up to him and give him the utmost respect.

Serafino Rubanga provides counselling to those boys who have problems.









 No definition of family

Everyone’s families are different, what makes a family is love and caring. Thus the children at the Moyo Babies’ Home and Redeemer Children’s Homes have found their own families. Their families are the nurses and teachers who care for them and love them every day.

Some of the children and staff at Moyo Babies Home.

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