5th July

This time we went as far as Late-Kyune, a village situated
just half an hour drive by boat from the river mouth; approximately
three and a half miles away from the sea, according to the villagers.
Against the wind and rising tide it took us a little more than two
hours to touch its bank, in addition to two and a half hour’s drive from
Yangon to Day-da-ye. Galloping on the sea waves, we saw the village humbly lying
amidst coconut trees and ” long posts ” which actually were coconut
trees, the crown of which have been chopped clean by the sharp blades of
Nargis.
” We owed our lives to these remaining coconut trees,” said U
Myint, 62 years old, who also survived on the coconut and its juice
for the first couples of day immediately after the cyclone.
Everything, my house, my possessions and all have gone but that is not
the worst. What’s really tragic is the loss of my wife, my
daughter, and my daughter-in-law. They thought it was safer to stay
in the wooden house of our friend in the village and there they
died together with five members of that family. My daughter, she is a
university student and it makes my heart ache to think of her,”
the elderly Nargis victim said.
The village has 152 house-holds and 100 students. 4 Pyis (32
containers of condensed milk) of rice, 1 Pyi (8 containers of
condensed milk), 30 tickles of cooking oil, and 2 bars of laundry soap
was the quota for each house-hold. For each student we distributed 6
note-books, a pencil, an eraser, and a ruler. Also snacks and candies
for the children. An amount of 20000 kyats was donated to the
presiding monk. It was the presiding monk’s wish that we set aside 5
bags of rise and a bag of bean for Kyone-ka-do, a village which is
Late-kyune’s neighbour. We really appreciate the villagers helping us
distributing the rice. Without their help it would have forced us to
return late as some of our volunteers weren’t able to come with us
owing to their tight schedule and we had to make do with those we had.
Looking around the village what we saw besides the tarpaulin
capped, make-shift huts were the few lucky cattels feeding themselves
on the grass grew on the fields left unploughed. No trace of
ploughing-machine whatsoever is seen. In the village, Nargis spared
only the monestry and seven structures the roofs of which were also
blown apart while the only primary school and a hundred more houses
were wiped clean except some traces to suggest where they use to be.
Out of six houses that survived the cyclone only two are of well-to-do
residence whereas the remaining four are more big huts than houses. ”
That library was just finished and opened in the early summer and
destroyed before the season was out,” lamented the villager who showed
us around, pointing to a small wooden structure inclined backward
yawning to the sky. The location of the village, being near to the sea and far from the town, is one of the reasons the village receive few donors. On our way back, the villagers gave us lots of coconut juice as a present.

Nyi Zay Min

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July 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment

25th June – Accounts from Inside

“Slightly better, seemingly better,” was the whisper frequently repeating itself whenever I noticed blue or white tarpaulins-draped hats which were dotted along the way to Hmawbi, one of the villages in cyclone-hit Deydaye` township. Just three weeks ago, we went there and made donations to two villages alongside the Irrawaddy River. Unlike what we saw on previous trips, all major police checkpoints now disappeared into nowhere probably because there were no more individual donation cars coming down from Yangon. Saturday it was, we were the only donation group heading to the delta, brining with us dozens of notebooks, stationery, snacks and pairs of slippers. We passed two cyclone-hit townships, Kauk Hmu and Kun Chan Kone, and it took us over three hours to get to Deydaye` jetty. Despite the frequent sights of cyclone destructions along the road, occasionally coming into our view were tarpaulin roofs and hats distributed by a UN organization and an NGO just a few days ago—the only sign that led us to conclude that the situation “seems” better.

Why did we decide to go to Hmawbi village? In our last trip, once we got to Deydaye jetty, many villagers approached us and started campaigning to go to this village or that village. Having no idea of which village we should go, we were much bewildered and decided to go to two villages after a few impromptu cross-check interviews with local residents. This time around, we got into contact with a monk of the Hmawbi village and decide to go to his village. Once we got to Deydaye, we bought forty bags of rice that cost us K480, 000. We also brought with us 100 notebooks (K90, 000), water guard bottles (K77, 000). The material contributions were 100 water guard bottles, snacks stationery and slippers. Unlike in the past two trips, we could no longer receive so many types of help necessary for a trip to happen—car owners drive their car buying fuel with their own money and neighbors contributing old clothes and giving us lunch boxes for the volunteers. This time we had to spend K70, 000 for car rental. The total cost for this trip is over K800, 000 with K300, 000 receiving from NICA and the rest coming from individuals at home and abroad.

Hmawbi is a village of 317 households. Though there were not many good houses in the village, the villagers claimed that their economy was not so bad before the cyclone. The water surged up to 5 feet when the cyclone hit, leaving 21 villagers and many cattle dead. Daw Loon, a 70-year-old woman said that she used to own 12 buffaloes before the cyclone, but now she has only two with her. Although she and all the family members survived the disaster, she lost many of her belongings like her fellow villagers. The rear part of her house has still no roof and she is now living in the front part of the house under the bamboo roof. Since the cyclone, all the villagers have been living on rice that got wet in the rain— that gave them stomach problems in the first week but now they said they are used to it. Under the supervision of the abbot of the village, we donated 6 Kg of rice plus one water guard bottle for each household, 6 notebooks to every student, and other materials were distributed too. Including Kyaw Thu’s, five individual donor groups have already visited their village, giving them rice and clothes. Through the local officials, the government gave one sachet of coffee, a small packet of instant noodle and one egg for each household. Asked what they received from the government until now, villagers started murmuring with each other—some wanted to tell the truth and some did not for fear of the Big Brother. But many are eager to start their farming. The government has allotted two tractors (of 5000 donated by foreign countries) for the whole village—one being used by the village chairman and another already broken. Even if they have the tractors, they said they have no money to buy fuel, and even if someone provided them with fuel, they still could not start their work without the paddy seeds, which were destroyed in the cyclone.

While the villagers are in need of help to resume their livelihood, Yangon residents with their limited resources have tried their best to help their fellow countrymen and are already exhausted in their relief efforts. On the other hand, WFP has announced that its operations will soon stop due to lack of funding. Our group will continue to make more visits, with our donations focused on helping the victims get back to work and the educational needs of the children.
Nyi Zay Min

June 25, 2008 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

9th June – Accounts from Inside

Hlaing Thayar, Yangon—Following the trips to the delta region, our group’s attention turned to the cyclone victims in the outskirts of Yangon. Before the donation day, we made two assessment trips to the victims in Hlaing Thayar Township which is located in the northern part of Yangon. To our surprise, we found that their living conditions were shocking and extremely worse than the villages we reached in our previous trips. Since they cannot cheaply get bamboos and thatches like people we met in the delta, they all are living in makeshift huts that are mere assortments of bamboo, grass and plastic sheets. Some hats have no roof whatever, either plastic or grass. Many seem to be facing starvation, and some people and children are obviously sick with all of them having no access to clean water or medical care. After the cyclone hit their houses, many of them moved to the nearby monasteries, schools and construction sites. All these places they all have been forced to leave and seek their own shelter. According to the victims, the government allowed them to build temporary shelters on a concrete lane, but they received no particular help from the government or any NGO. While the attention is concentrated on the delta region, few donors have come to their help. But they said that World Vision recently distributed tarpaulins to some of them. This is the general picture of cyclone victims in Hlaing Thayar.


How did we decide to donate what? On our assessment trips, we carefully looked at their huts and noted down the estimated costs of housing materials for each household. We really wanted to buy them bamboos and plastic sheets. But we did not do that, believing many of them who are eager to start small businesses would re-sell those materials at a lower price, hence the loss to our efforts. Then we thought of giving them cash, but we did not do that too. As different households need different amount of cash, our financial assistance would be different, and this difference would probably make some of the victims feel uncomfortable. So, we increased the amount of food originally planned and made distributions worth of 300,000 Ks. For fifty households, we bought 4 bags of rice that cost us (K 76000), 2 bags of beans (K 125,000) and fish paste (K 22,500). The material contributions we received include 100 dresses and snacks. Our volunteer doctor also checked the sick people, using the medicines we bought on our previous trip.

What challenges we faced? In order to avoid any clashes with the local authorities, we had the people gather in the compound of nearby monastery and made quiet distribution. It was raining very hard. People are living in the rain. Even before the distribution was over, some have boiled the beans we donated and were already preparing their lunch. Into over one month since Nargis hit our country, many victims have not received any significant help from anyone, and individual donors who make up a large part of the rescue operations are starting to get worn out. Yet still, the life of the victims does not improve.

Nyi Zay Min

June 9, 2008 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

3rd June – Accounts from Inside

On June 1, our group chose to go to two villages around the Deydaye` township . The amount of funding we used was over 600,000 Ks (600 US $) plus material aids such as clothes, snacks, notebooks and stationery. We received 330,000 Ks from NICA and the rest of the money came from individual donors inside Burma. Over 200,000 Ks were used to buy seven bags of rice and another 200,000 went for beans and a few snack boxes for children. Also, we spent 130,000 Ks to buy medications since we had a volunteer doctor to treat the sick victims. The material aids we received include ten bags of rice, two hundred dozens of notebooks, 800 pencils, hundreds of clothes, two water guard bottles and snacks for children.

As we wanted to donate the stationery to the elementary school in Mayan village at Kun-Chan-Kone where we went on May 27, it was our stop-over on the way to Deydaye. It took us over two hours to reach Mayan village. As we had seen on our last visit, except two or three lines of unoccupied blue tents , we still did not see any government or UN aid efforts in the villages on the way to and around Kun-Chan-Kone, which is one of the hardest-hit areas. With the din of the hammer blaring into the air, houses are still being repaired. Old monasteries turned into wreckage were still on the ground; broken tree branches and twisted corrugated iron sheets still scattered almost everywhere. As it was Sunday, we also saw many other individual donor groups, but no obvious UN or government aids we often heard on radio.

At 11:00 a.m. we reached the Mayan village. The elementary school had still no roof and the broken bricks were still on the floor. We could not understand why the government announced that the schools were reopened. But the new academic year has started for Mayan children who have no school to go to. Our group donated notebooks, pencils and snacks for those children. And our volunteer doctor did some medical check-up for the villagers and distributed medicines. Then, we left the village. On our way, the dead body we saw last time was still in the field. Within a ten-minute-walk from the dead man we saw, a Buddhist religious ceremony was taking place for the forty villagers killed in the cyclone.

According to the official data, the death toll is 78,000 and over 50000 are still missing. Everyone knows that it is not accurate. “Since there is no systematic and effective relief effort by the government or UN or NGOs, there can be no accurate data on the dead or the missing,” said Ashin Nyanissara in his interview with RFA.

It took us another hour to drive to Deydaye`, the destination of our trip. As we wished to go to villages few donors go, we decided to go to the Yaybuwa located along the Irrawaddy river by boat. It is a village of 270 households. Based on the household list we got, we could systematically distribute rice, beans and clothes. And our volunteer doctor gave medical treatment to the villagers. Because we still had more rice and beans though the distribution was finished, we decided to go a village on the other side of the bank. Huge clouds were hanging overhead; the rain was on its way. The darkening sky and huge swath of river was threatening us, but we successfully crossed the river and reached a tiny village called “Kyaung Galay.. There ,we donated the remaining materials to the villagers. To our sorrow, we found that Kyaungalay was much poorer and in greater need of help than Yaybuwa where much of the distribution was done. But in neither village, no effective government or UN aid was seen.

Nyi Zay Min

June 3, 2008 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

28th May – Accounts from Inside

The 200,000 Kyatts given to a group of young men was part of this donation of 600.000 Kyatts that took place yesterday.

from Nyi Zay Min

May 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

26th May – Accounts from Inside

We received 1,360,000 Kyatts ( USD 1,180) on the 3rd round of funding.

200,000 Kyatts was given to a group of young persons doing and giving aids, report will be given soon.

Yesterday, 25th, we used 145,000 Kyatts to buy 150 bottle( 0.3 l) of cooking oil and donated it to a village named Kyone Dar near the coast. It is 1.5 hr by boat away from Deydaye which is 4 hrs drive from Rangoon.

Today we used 240,000 Kyatts to buy 70 mosquitoe nets to be given out on 27th May to victims of Nargis living in Hlaing Thayar

May 26, 2008 at 11:09 pm Leave a comment

The JUNTA did this!!!

May 22, 2008 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

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