A Man Named Rainbow Tells Their Story

News of the families and communities being driven from their homes continues to come from the border, both through conventional news sources, and those working there.  In the first link below, a man named Rainbow tells some of his community’s story.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8095137.stm

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One of many kids in Ler Per Hur

(We met Rainbow briefly several years ago, when, after we delivered rice donated from folks here in Seattle. We accidentally disrupted his class-our friend Noah (at about 6′ 2″+) stood out in the crowd.  The kids were  fascinated with this friendly big guy in the bright yellow shirt (and distracted from their  lessons), so Rainbow told Noah to come teach them something).  

A rainbow, in the Bible, was a sign God would not forget His promises, (and that the rain had stopped). Here, according to friends yesterday, they hope it keeps raining–the shelling stops when it rains…..

God, please remember Rainbow, and all the others under attack at the moment.  They are not a news story-they are real people having families, having schools, doing life in a real hard place.   

Some of the news links from this week:




Within Range of Mortars

Five kilometers (about 3 miles) is just within range of an 81 mm mortar.  You may not care, since there’s none pointed at you, but families in Ler Per Her IDP camp (within range of the mortar mentioned above) are increasingly concerned by them and some are heading to Thailand in case their camp (housing about 1200 people) is attacked again.  (It has been burned down several times in the past by the Burma Army.  (See today’s report from the Karen Human Rights Group ) for details. School at Ler Per Hur

The US Campaign for Burma lists ways we can all help speak for their freedom.   In other countries, murderers go to jail. Here they are in charge, while the UN and others make statements showing their concern….   Ler Per Hur kids
Partners Relief & Development is helping ethnic leaders provide basic necessities for those impacted by the continuing oppression of the Burma Army, including the new arrivals at Ler Per Hur.  They can use our help!







Still More Families Displaced by Burma Army

Friends on the ground in Burma now report another 300 IDPs have just arrived at a village near the Thai-Burma border (along with the 200+ who arrived days ago). These people are fleeing the continued fighting and oppression of the Burma Army and DKBA, usually arriving with only what they can carry.  While this is a more secure location than being under attack in their home villages, this is still a place where kids have to learn in school what a landmine looks like so they don’t accidentally pick one up!  

Urgent needs (other than peace and freedom) in order of priority:

1.  rice and cooking oil
2.  plastic tarps for emergency shelters
3.  mosquito nets
4.  blankets

Anyone wanting to help out with life-saving resources can donate through our friends at Partners Relief & Development  .

“U.S. Good, Burma Not Good…”

It’s amazing what can be communicated with limited English.  I sat with a Burmese friend tonight practicing English and looking at a map of Burma and trying to ask what part he was from.  He pointed to Rangoon and said, “Good.”  Then he pointed to the Chin, Karen and other ethnic areas and said, “Not good,” then pantomined people shooting at each other, and trying to eat while looking over your shoulder ready to flee. “U.S. good.  Burma not good.” 

I know the political issues are “complicated” and there is debate over the best ways accomplish the goal of democracy, freedom, and functioning legal government in Burma and life without fear for the people who live there.   There is debate among some here over whether refugee resettlement is a good idea, or should even be happening with the economic challenges our country currently faces.  That’s someone else’s post.  For me, I hope I don’t forget my friend’s statement, or what he so effectively acted out.  It frames the debate completely out of the theoretical, philosophical, political arena.  This is a human thing.

Welfare, Community Development and the Golden Rule

 How do we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? It’s not easy. They don’t always fit well. Sometimes we don’t like the style, the material they’re made from, or the way they pinch. Other times, we wouldn’t be caught dead in them–it would ruin our fashion image. What if you were in a part of the world where you couldn’t afford shoes in the first place and just getting food for your family was enough of a challenge? We want the power to choose our shoes, (and everything else in our lives), and we don’t want to be in a position where we have to take whatever shoes we can get. But what if it doesn’t work out that way? If you need help, how would you want to be treated? What kind of help would help you?

In English class I read a story called “Is There Life After Welfare?” written by a former welfare mom. In her story, we met a news story, a faceless statistic, and a self-described “hussy.” But that’s not all. We met a resilient woman who is an author, a college graduate, and someone who can teach us about helping. We need to see through her eyes and try to walk for a morning in her shoes. Many who have much to say about “those ‘tramps’ just using the system” have no idea what it’s like to work for minimum wage for long hours and still be looked at as a bum; to be treated like dirt because the only insurance you can get is medical coupons, or because food stamps help you feed your children. They haven’t been nameless faceless nobodies to a stranger with power to approve or disapprove the paperwork that either helps provide a house for your kids or leaves you homeless. This woman’s story provides a different view than we normally get from our self-righteous high horses and comfortably distanced lives.

Many of us have never had to live without choice. Many of us have never really been poor.  I have never been poor. I have always lived in the wealthiest country in the world and had access to plenty of food, to transportation, to a dry place to live, and  skills to get some kind of job.   If  I want to pay the price in money, energy, commitment, paperwork and homework, I have the choice to get an education. I’m not only white–I’m a white American, so there’s a whole system that supports my success, unlike that of others with richer skin tones.  Unfair? Yes.

Although I have wealthy friends who have at times been appalled at the so called “poverty” evidenced by the cars we drove (or push started at times:), the outhouse we used while we waited to afford indoor plumbing (while we were building a home), or the fact that we are currently in a functional rental triplex and not the owners of our own palatial dwelling space at the moment, my life is blessed. I am privileged and grateful. 

My husband and I are on the board of a local non-profit that provides help to internally displaced people in Burma, among other things.  As a non-profit, we wrestle with how to best give without demeaning those on the receiving end; how to give ownership and empowerment, while maintaining stewardship of the resources we are responsible for. The IRS and the donors need one thing. Those on the receiving end of the gift need something else. In America, agencies proudly put their name on projects….”brought to you by______,” or “your tax dollars at work.” We “give,” but too often it’s still all about us.

We have tried to go a different path in this, following the example of friends who have worked overseas with community development for many years. They have seen the problems that occur when the giving takes away from those receiving and demeans (like welfare) those we are attempting to empower. So, if you look for “World Aid projects” overseas to be identified by big plaques or banners with our name on it, you won’t find them. You’ll find schools, clinics, orphanages, and food supplies under the name and management of the communities who benefit from them. Our job isn’t to make OUR name known; it’s to build up the communities we serve. While it is necessary for to be able to demonstrate to donors and the IRS here in the US and elsewhere what their generosity has accomplished, and so to be able to say “what World Aid did this year….”, on the receiving end, it is not necessary or helpful for it to continue to be “our project.” Our side of the accounting/giving equation needs to demonstrate our stewardship and accountability, but on the receiving end, those we serve need ownership and power of their own lives and over the resources we have been blessed to be able to give them. It wasn’t ours in the first place (it’s been given to us to us to give), and after we give it, it’s theirs, not ours.

It all seems to go back to the golden rule—treating other people the way we want to be treated. Community development and human development….do they have to be that different? Is there a way to help empower people without making them nameless and faceless? Can we learn to listen to each other’s story?  Can we discover what makes the difference between those who rise above their circumstances and those who don’t? Is it luck? Character? Attitude? Or is it realizing how much power and choice they do have to make things happen, like Annie Downey?

America is not the center of the world, but only a part of it. There is great poverty of many kinds here, as well as in the countries my heart is attached to in Southeast Asia. Americans have much to teach, but also much to learn from our sisters and brothers in places we can’t pronounce, and in the houses next door. Everyone has a story and a dream. 

All of us can change the part of the world we are responsible for, if we’re willing to pay the price. For some, the path to dignity means long hours, faceless interviews and menial tasks for low wages.  For refugee friends, it means leaving the familiar and taking a risk that the promise of America is real, and that if you work hard and listen well you can learn to survive in a place where the government might not be the enemy, you can be free, and your kids can get an education. For us at World Aid, it means listening to the hopes and needs of the communities we work with. They already have the culture, the language and the heart. We can help provide funding and help share their stories with the rest of the world. One of their fears is being forgotten….that no one knows their story, their reality, or their dreams. If we listen to each other, and learn from each other, treat other people the way we want to be treated, that can be changed. The Golden Rule still works.

Starfish tossing

I don’t know where the story originally came from, but most of you have probably heard it….the one where the guy is running along a beach in the morning and he comes to part of the beach that’s covered with beached starfish.  There’s a little girl there picking up starfish and tossing them back in the sea.  The man questions her on what she’s doing, and tries to tell her she can’t save all of them-asks what difference she can make.  The little girl responds, as she throws in another one, “Made a difference to that one…..”  Being unqualified, uneducated, inexperienced, and doing too little, too late, with not enough, for too few seems a lot like that sometimes.  But to the one (or more!) that you do get to encourage, bless, walk beside, befriend, help feed, house, care for or educate by the actions you do, I got to believe it makes some kind of difference!  

In the words of St. Francis, “Preach the gospel.  If necessary, use words.”

World Aid, Inc. Year End Report

Thank you for your support for World Aid in 2008.  Because of partners like you, many people in Burma, and those being resettled to a new life in the US, received both practical help, and the hope and encouragement that the rest of the world has not forgotten them.

Currently in the Karen state, the Burma Army continues to increase the number of troops deployed against civilians in the ethnic areas. Meanwhile, the offensive against the ethnic nationalities has gone on with minimal effective response from the international community for over 60 years. 

 In May of 2008, the world watched as Cyclone Nargis devastated the delta region of Burma, killing over 84,530 and 53,836 reported missing (Asean Report). The Burma Army at first blocked aid to those devastated by Cyclone Nargis, and then later arrested some of those who tried to help their own people.

In 2008, World Aid continued our partnerships with the ethnic peoples in Burma.  Some of the ongoing projects included:

  • Providing relief to communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis in partnership with Karen churches, Buddhist monks, Thirst Aid, and others already in the cyclone area.  We continue to help in expanding an ongoing communications network, provided over 800 water filter units (each $20 filter produces enough safe water for a family of 6 or 24 children during a school day),and continue partnering to provide food (and the means to grow it), medical and educational resources, and resources needed for rebuilding communities.  
  • Providing medical supplies, food and support for villages in remote areas where no other source of supply is available.  In 2008, we provided funding three clinics in areas of Burma where they are the only medical help available.
  • Partnering with the Karen Teacher’s Working Group (KTWG)—a network of Karen teachers working throughout Karen state providing education and teacher training (see ktwg.org) and Partners Relief & Development. Generous donors made it possible for the first time, for all 2875 teachers working with the 913 schools and 59,604 internally displaced students to receive a $40 year stipend, helping them to be able to continue teaching instead of having to quit teaching in order to raise their own food.  KSEAG Film About Schools in Burma
  • Partnering with Free Burma Rangers (Freeburmarangers.org) to support their work of training multi-ethnic relief teams, providing relief to IDPs, and working for ethnic unity.  Currently in 2008, there are 50 full time FBR teams active in the Karen, Karenni, Shan, Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Lahu and Pa’O areas of Burma. Each team is comprised of 4-6 men and women who have received training in public health, first aid, advanced medical and basic dental care, human rights reporting, counseling, video and still camera, map and compass, land navigation, solar power, and communications. Each team conducts 2-3 month relief missions each year and is equipped with enough medical supplies to treat 2,000 IDPs, as well as packs for children, clothing for IDPs, toys, and sporting equipment. Since 1997, relief teams have treated over 300,000 patients and helped over 750,000 people.
  • Partnership with Christians Concerned for Burma by continuing to support the Global Day of Prayer for Burma (coming March 8, 2009).
  • Partnering with the Karen Women’s Organization (Karenwomen.org) selling handcrafts for IDP relief.  100% of funds raised here go back to the Karen community to help with relief efforts for internally displaced people.
  • Partnering with the Karen refugee community here in Seattle  in supporting refugees being resettled to new life in the US.

 Thank you for your partnership in helping to serve the people of Burma.  Your support continues to allow for humanitarian projects of all sizes, big and small, to be possible. We at World Aid are grateful for your help! 

 For the World Aid team     

worldaidinc@gmail.com                                     http://www.worldaidinc.org