The Back Pack Health Worker Team did not always have its own compound, with offices, training rooms and accommodation for medics and administrative staff. When it was created in 1998, its founders worked out of a small back room of the Mae Tao Clinic, which was often referred to as Back Pack’s “mother organisation” and had provided healthcare since 1989 to activists, displaced villagers and migrant workers from Burma. Ten years after its foundation, Back Pack’s system of “cross-border aid” had expanded significantly in reach and scope. This system was upheld as an alternative model for humanitarian assistance within and beyond Burma’s “chronic emergency” (Mahn et al. 2008). The organisation had also become an influential actor in the politics of aid, deeply embedded within a farreaching transnational activist network. Through this network, Back Pack’s leaders brought the situation in ethnic minority areas to the attention of international audiences and advocated for political change in Burma. By the time I started working with Back Pack in late 2009, the organisation’s headquarters had moved into a large compound on the outskirts of Mae Sot. As the number of medics working in Burma increased over the years, so too had the number of Thailand-based staff; and new training rooms and bamboo huts with leaf thatching were built in what was originally a dusty field at the back of the compound. The main office was in the lower floor of a Thai-style wooden house nestled amidst a ramshackle assortment of buildings. You left your shoes at the entrance of the office and had to be careful not to hit your head as you went down the steps into the sunken room. More junior office staff members were in this first room, sitting at computers, working on budgets and reports, playing with one of the “Back Pack babies”, or watching YouTube videos – John Denver’s Country Roads was a favourite. One of Back Pack’s older members, also the Pastor at a nearby Karen Church, was teaching a new intern how to type in Burmese. The “data guys” were discussing Back Pack’s Health Information Systems with a young Amer ican woman from one of their partner organisations. There were health promotion posters on the walls, piles of paper everywhere, and a whiteboard listing upcoming meetings, trainings and a financial audit. At the back of the office was a smaller room, where the Director and a few of the Leading Group members worked. A framed photograph showed four of the

original Back Pack medics – much younger and skinnier than when I first met them. They were in the Karen jungle, standing side by side with a tall Caucasian man, one of their long-term international partners. Although Back Pack had evolved significantly since its early days, the vision, leadership and shared experiences of the men in this photograph – and of those with whom they worked from the late 1980s and 1990s onwards – remained key to the development and functioning of the organisation.