Front Films-“Prayer for Peace-Relief & Resistance in Burma’s War Zones”

“Prayer for Peace” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=80614341076993397&hl=en shows the struggle of the Karen in Burma.   (This is only a 3 minute excerpt from the 28 minute film).  Their blog is SO worth the read http://blog.frontfilms.com/.  Words are sometimes inadequate and easily glossed over.  This isn’t.

“This is Our Land” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5273089644495608550&hl=en (also by Front Films) is a 4 minute documentation of the IDP situation.

Video from Burma: SHOOT ON SIGHT

Words are inadequate to describe some situations….this short video from Witness posted on You Tube (from Sept. 2007) describes the IDPs (internally displaced peoples) situation in Burma
  

To ACT NOW: http://www.witness.org/shootonsight. Video advocates BURMA ISSUES travel deep into the jungles of eastern Burma to document one of the world’s most urgent and most forgotten emergencies. (The video was co-produced with WITNESS)”

For current info on the situation: www.freeburmarangers.org

For other insights on how to advocate for those in Burma: http://www.partnersworld.org/advocacy.html

 and Christian Solidarity Worldwide http://csw.org.uk/TakeAction/Protest/index.htm

Other ways I’ve seen people help: getting a group together to make mother and child packs for the Good Life Club (http://www.prayforburma.org/IDX/Get_Involved/GLC/), hosting a Run for Relief in their city or at their sports club (info@freeburmarangers.org can give you info on how to do this), having a concert and donating the funds, attend monthly meetings of the Seattle Burma Roundtable http://students.washington.edu/burma/activities.html at the Greenwood Library on 1st Tuesday of the month for more ideas and action alerts, joining US Campaign for Burma uscampaignforburma.org.

If you have good ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Cyclone Nargis Relief Update

Sent from friends on the ground now, meeting with community based organizations working to meet the many needs….

“All teams we met with so far are focused on four key things in order of priority:
1. meds
2. farming
3. education
4. rebuilding
Meds are a priority for some CBOs still making weekly medical visits to villages.   Team of 4 doctors spend about $200-$250 worth of meds every week treating 300 patients every Sat/Sun weekly. XXX and villages around there are not getting any help from anyone that we are trying to identify CBOs that are willing to go there to provide assistance to them. 
For farming, timing is everything.  KBC is focused on getting tractors to farmers on time so that they can plow in time. There are two more weeks of plowing and seeding time before the season is over. They need 13-15 big tractors @ $1600 a piece ASAP.  They took a huge loan out and bought a bunch of small 1-wheel tractors and got them distributed already. They will also need about 5000 fertilizer bags for 231 villages at $9 a piece. Maybe start a “adopt a village campaign”?.  

Education is another area.  Most schools are reopened, and the kids in those villages need $ for cash to buy uniform and text books.  Estimated needs are $30 per year for elementary school students, $50 per year for middle school students and $80 per year for high school students. Total # of students needing to assistance go to school is 1121 elementary, 533 middle school, 206 high school kids over 240+ villages that our contacts are working in.

Building is still in progress, and there are many villages that is yet to rebuild properly. Rebuilding a hut will cost $90-300 depending on location, family size and materials. 

More news to follow…..

 

 

Cyclone Relief-Two Opinions

An article in yesterday’s Irrawaddy states “an estimated 46% of families in Burma’s Irrawaddy delta have less than two days’ worth of food, according to an initial post-disaster assessment….Food shortages were just part of the preliminary findings, with 60% of households reporting inadequate access to clean drinking water…59% of homes in the delta were severely damaged in the storm and subsequent tidal surge.”  A team of more than 300 people representing a variety of views, solutions and local and international agencies are participating in “the first systematic look” at the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis and the military dictatorship’s response to it.  (See the article: http://www.irrawaddy.org/print_article.php?art_id=12998)

The second article linked below, by Save the Children, gives the good news that the “vast, vast majority of people” have received some aid.  The bad news is “almost no one has received the level of assistance they need to survive and rebuild their lives.”  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7477577.stm

 I guess the good news is that someone is finally being able to assess the damage and make a plan for future needs and create a basis for sharing information between parties involved in the solution.  The bad news is, while media/world attention wanders off to the next disaster, those in the delta will still be trying to survive on their resilience and creativity and little else.  As a westerner, it’s hard for me to even start to understand what it is like to barely survive (to have the limited choices in basic matters that poverty forces on you), and then what it’s like to have a lot of those choices ripped away by circumstances way beyond your control…I will never understand.  However, as a mother, I understand, you do what you must to survive and to try to ensure the survival of your kids. But we can do better.  

An internet search will reveal lots of large, and some small, organizations working to help provide assistance to those in the delta.  I don’t know people from the large organizations, but I do know the people at Thirst Aid, Partners Relief & Development, World Aid, Inc., and Free Burma Rangers, who are supporting the work of the networks already in place before the cyclone, and working with the community based organizations of all faiths, any faith, or no faith, who are able to get relief to their people.  If you can give, choose a way to give.  If you can pray, please do, for whatever disaster or people your heart connects to.  If you can advocate for justice, please do whatever large or small steps, you feel compelled to do! If you can do all three, better yet.  Thanks!

 

Donors Responding to Border Food Crisis (TBBC Update)

Below is an update received from friends in Thailand on the food crisis in the refugee camps…

 
MEDIA RELEASE 

Donors Responding to Border Food Crisis


During the last few months the Thailand Burma Border Consortium has been appealing for attention to a pending crisis for over 140,000 Burmese refugees along the Thailand Burma border due to soaring rice prices. Just two weeks ago there was serious concern that unless a funding shortage of US$6.8 million (EUR 4.3 million) was addressed, refugee rations might have to be cut by up to one half.
 
At a crucial meeting last night it was possible for the TBBC Board to postpone any decision on ration cuts until its next meeting scheduled for 13th August due to a combination of a significant improvement in the funding situation and an easing of rice prices. Although there is still a funding shortage of USD 3.5 million (EUR 2.3 million) the reduced shortfall allows another two months to resolve the problem.
 
“We are extremely grateful to the Canadian Government who this week announced an additional contribution of C$ 1 million (USD 1 million, EUR 650,000) for 2008, the UK Government for an additional contribution of GBP 330,000 (USD 600,000, EUR 425,000) and many other donors and friends who have contributed smaller amounts at this critical time” said Jack Dunford, TBBC’s Executive Director, “After a very worrying time, rice prices also appear to be falling and with foreign exchange rates improving slightly everything is now hopefully moving in the right direction”.
 
The situation remains fragile with rice prices still volatile. Fund raising is ongoing to address the US$ 3.5 million shortfall and responses are awaited from the US, Spanish and Australian governments amongst others. “We are hopeful that Royal Thai Government may also be able to help”, commented Mr. Dunford.
 
“The future for Burma remains very uncertain after Cyclone Nargis and further migration cannot be ruled out” he added. “There are likely to be many new challenges ahead for refugees and displaced people, but it has been crucial to maintain stability on the border during these uncertain times.  I am increasingly hopeful that we can solve the short term crisis. We still need to raise the balance outstanding but then we will be in a position to respond as the situation develops”. 
 
Media contact:               
Sally Thompson
TBBC Deputy Executive Director
sally@tbbc.org

See their web site at tbbc.org

 

While the world moves on….attacks in Burma continue

A report published by the Karen Human Rights Group  on June 12, 2008 concludes:

While the international media remains focused on the SPDC’s post-cyclone intransigence regarding relief aid in the Irrawaddy Delta, the Burma Army has continued military attacks against civilians in northern Karen State. This continuation of military expansion and attacks is disastrously undermining the health, education and livelihood options for villagers in these areas; areas in which the regime has restricted relief efforts, even more tightly than the Irrawaddy Delta.”

The Karen Human Rights group has spent the last 16 years documenting in painstaking detail the burning of over 3000 villages, the destruction of food supplies, rape, murder and forced labor perpetrated by the Burma Army.  Free Burma Rangers also has documented the incredible bravery and persistence of the various ethnic groups in Eastern Burma in trying to protect their people from the attacks of the illegal military dictator’s army, and to pursue their human rights to life, raise their children, farm their land, have medical care, and live in peace.  (Detailed reports on their web site).

The world (I realize that’s a generalization) calls those defending their family “rebels”  and the paranoid military junta (who ignored an election they lost and threw the elected government in jail), it calls a government.  Isn’t that backwards? 

Isn’t their a different standard we can apply?  The ethnic people who are setting up schols (and when they are attacked, moving to another place and doing it again), training medics and providing care to those hiding in the jungle from the Burma Army, running health systems, advocating for justice, sharing the little they have, refusing to quit, and working for a day when they will be able to live in peace….reminds me of something I read: (the paraphrase is from Mark 9:34-35, but the principle is universal to all faiths and those of no particular faith)….”if you want to lead, you’ve got to serve.” (Now wouldn’t that be a principle to use to make a good government?)

 Photo: Internally displaced kids with teacher making school where they can find it….

 

Earthquake relief donor

He “walked” across; we thought he was passing by…
 

“I want to donate!” He drew out a few coins hidden in his palms. An officer lent a hand but he insisted that he place his money into the donation box.

 

All are speechless as he gives back to society in his own way!

 

“I still have money!” Again, we are astonished.

 

He drew out a few ten dollar notes and donated…

Like another story, a long time ago….(Mark 12:42-44)…”Jesus sat down opposite the place where offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury  than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.” 

 

 

Another Cyclone Nargis survivor, in his words….

The Delta Cyclone in Nargis

 

            “My name is xxx. I stayed in xxx area. I am the leader of the xxx villages and also the farmer. And I also have one small truck. On 2 May 2008 morning about 9 am the wind started to blow softly and about 11 am and the wind started to blow a litter bit harder. And about 2 O’clock in the afternoon the wind blow harder and it started to rain. Because of it raining and the wind blow harder me and my workers we try to cover my truck. The wind blow harder even the roofing iron sheet, we have to hold it two and three person so that we can put nail on it. That time I send my son and daughter to the village to be with my sister. About 5 pm I went to the village to see my children and after I see them I came back about 6 pm at my place near the river. When I arrived my house I saw the roof of my house and truck and my storage was damage and even my house was not straight, the shape was moving.

            When I went back home about 6 pm while on our way with my two friends, we can’t walked on the road because of the heavy storm we were swept to the river side. I tried hard to get back to the road and I was alone at that time I can’t find my friends any more. I can’t walk on the road and face the storm so I have to go to the river and try to escape that way. When I reached the church I met my family and other people and there we started to pray hard. About 7 pm the Nargis cyclone was getting stronger and the youth came to us and tell us that some of the houses in the village were destroyed and the trees were broke down so some of us stayed in the church and some that their house were not destroyed they just stayed at their house. After about 8:30 pm the storm stop at that time the water camp up very fast and the children and sister house till the house was full. The children were started to cry very loud and after I send them back to my sister house I came back to the church. I called my friends and we arrange the chairs and put on the stage in the church and we let the elders and the children stayed at the stage to put them higher and the ceiling of the church height about 15 feet and some children we put them there. After that about 5 hours later the level of the water getting higher about 6 feet and the cyclone started to come again and it’s started to rain. We have to close our eyes and we can’t see anything we just heart the sound of the storm and heavy wind. And a few minutes we were hit by the wave and me and my families and friends that stayed at the church my hands and me and my daughter we were at the other side of the church. At that time I was under water and I drank water and I remember in the time of Noah and I believe that we all would die. When I was under the water at my other hand I lifted my daughter high above the water. Even I can’t breath but I want my daughter that she can breath. But later my daughter told me she’s also drank water and also stayed under the water. When I stay under the water and can’t hold my breath any more I try to move my head above the water so I can breath. I was under the water and swept by the water and my cloth was stick with some branch and I hold it strongly. I also told my daughter to hold my neck tide and we stayed under the storm and wave about 3 hours at that time my and my daughter we prayed to God. God take care of us so about one O’clock in the morning the storm and raining started to stop and water also going down. About 3 O’clock in the morning we can step down on the earth now and sat down. When the cyclone came I don’t know where my son was, if he still alive or not we do not know. But after the cyclone stop and we try to look for each other called each other names and one girl she recognized my voice so she told me your son was with me and he’s cry and look for you all the time. I’m very happy and thanks God for sparing my life and my children. While the cyclone was happened my wife and my elder son went to visit my father in law after two days I went to see them and I saw them they were safe and were okay.

            The next day after the cyclone we were not happy that we saw many died. When I see the housed were destroyed and buildings were broken that’s okay with me but we lost our friends and the villagers and the dead bodies were all over the village. I can’t buried them all and some I just placed them like that, I have no strength. For two days we have to drink water. The third day we started to dig some well and drink clean water but not too deep well. My dear mother, my sister, my niece, my nephew and my other two sisters and others all 15 people were lost in the Nargis cyclone.

            After the Nargis cyclone the next day we hope that the government will come and help us. Our hopes pass day by day without seeing the help from the government. We saw the ship of the fisher men and were very happy when we went to see them we thought they were sent by the government to come and bring us food. But when we talk with them they said their company asked them to be back so they came back. So we asked them to send us message to xxx port because of the cyclone we can’t go anywhere. We stayed in the village about 7 to 8 days and the people that have relative in other village they went to their relative. We decided that we will still in the village but we can’t stay longer in the village because of the dirty water, the rice was wet and bad smell, no salt so we have to leave the village. At that time I heard in xxx the Christian leaders there came and take us so on 8 May 2008 I send my wife, children and the villagers about 20 people to xxx through my friends in xxx. After I send them I took some villagers with me and on 9 May 2008 we all moved out from our village, we can’t stayed in the village any more and we also don’t have any food in the village. “We didn’t receive any helps from the government.” 

            When we arrived in xxx the xxx welcome us and help us very well. I stayed there for 2 days and I don’t have anything to do. So I feel like I need to find some work in Rangoon. When I arrived in Rangoon I heard my sister in Australia want to see me, so we talked on the phone and said that she will help me and our families and if I want to come and stayed in the Thai and Burma border. And when even we are in trouble she always help us so I talked to my wife and we come up to the border. When I count about the lost in our village in our Karen Christian families we lost about 311 people in the village that include my dear mother. We do not know about the Burmese, we estimate was more than 50 people altogether the Karen and Burmese that died about 360 and we don’t know about in the other village.

            On 3 June 2008 is the day that I can’t forget. We arrived in the border safely with the protection and blessing from God. When we arrived at the border the leader here help us and take care of us very well and give us encouragement. And their words of encouragement help us a lot. So I thank the Lord for His Goodness and thank our leaders here in the border. May God bless you alls.

The experience of a Cyclone Nargis survivor

A survivor’s story forwarded from friends  assisting survivors of Cyclone Nargis…..

                                       

            I lived in xxx Township, xxx village Track, xxx village. When the storm- (Nargis) began on 2 .05 .08, I was then in the village. At noon 12:00 am I realised that the wind became stronger than as it was usual. However I didn’t think that such a terrible misfortune would happen. When evening came, about 6:00 pm, I realised the flooding water covered all the ground under my house. The wind began stronger. We thought that the situation would remain as usual and not moved to the church as a precaution from danger. We kept watching and listened to the progress situation of the storm. My house was located in the midst of a garden. When the first storm swept through the village the roof of my house was blown off, but the house remained un-collapsed as my house was not too high enough and still could with stand forces of the wind. Forces of the storm decreased at about 8:00 pm for awhile, but the tide rapidly flooded the ground surface, estimated at a man height. I built up a shelf within my house to keep my wife and children safe. Soon after moving my family on to the shelf, the second burst of wind began to blow. The wind, this time was really strong as my wife and children began to cry and pray to God, No sooner, the waves, one after another hit my house and within minutes, we all were scattered among the waves in darkness. I noticed that my elder sister was on the shelf when we made the first moved on to the shelf, but after the waves bitterly stormed my house, I could not see her anymore. As it was dark, we could not see each other, but one of my children was still holding on to my Neck, and the other two were holding each of my hands. We could not breathe as the waves continuously roll one after another over us. No sooner, I realised that two of my children holding my respective hands were slipped off my hands for lack of hold and sank into the water, drowning.

            When I drew the one in my hand out of the water, he was already dead. All I could do was to release and let him be carried away by the waves. I was then left alone and swam for my life in darkness. I, fortunately, reached a bamboo and hold on to it and stayed there for the whole night till dawn. During the incident I saw my wife holding her breast-feeding baby, but when I was looking for her dead at dawn, I found only her body, with no baby at all. I knew that my eldest son was still alive only when he returned to me in the morning. I sorry sorrowfully buried my wife in the morning. I never found my four children that were lost during the night. I could no more bore the experience and do not want to live any more in this world.

            When I was living about one week in the village, I received some small amount of food from some of our neighbors. Next day, the village chief ask me with two other person, to go and ask for rice in a near by big village, but we got nothing at all. I knew that it was hard to get help from human being then. By the grace of God, on returning to he village, I heard that some Christian leaders from xxx came down to take the victims to a relief center. We got ready, came up to xxx and took a car to xxx.

            We were welcomed and well Treated with kindness by the Christian leaders in xxx. While we were there, my brother came and told me not to go for work any more in Rangoon. He told me that our elder sister living in Australia phoned him that she will ask one of her friend, working somewhere close to the border to take us to a safer place. I thanks God that we were now safe and pray that God bless all our brothers and sisters who are lending their helping hand for “Nargis” victims who are still in the midst of great Troubles.”                                                                                                                                                                                       

 

                                                                                                                         (Nargis Victim)  

Rice cuts to refugee camps

High food prices here in the US means (for a lot of us middle class folks who have choices) we buy less of some of what we like, shop smarter, and eat out less. For the rest of the world, the cost of high food prices is much higher….refugees in camps in Thailand are having their rations cut (these were rations, not excesses!).  The following is an appeal received from friends in Thailand, put out by the Thai-Burma Border Consortium  (www.tbbc.org) which has provided for the refugee camps housing, at the moment 140,000+ people from Burma.  

TBBC, FAMILY AND FRIENDS APPEAL

Support refugees from Burma: put rice in the pot

Today, more than 140,000 refugees from Burma are living in nine camps along the Thailand Burma border.  Unlike most other situations around the world there is no United Nations-coordinating mechanism responsible for these refugees. The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), a non-profit organisation, provides all of the food to these camps and must raise its own funds. Rice is the main ingredient of the refugees’ food basket, the price of which has been seriously affected by the global food crisis.

During 2008, rice prices have more than doubled. Unless more funds can be raised quickly to cover the increased cost, TBBC will have to cut the refugee food rations to as little as 50% of the international minimum standard required to sustain life.  World attention is currently focused on the victims of cyclone Nargis and once again, we are witnessing the incapacity and unwillingness of the military junta to respond to the needs of its own people.

The people of Burma have suffered decades of human rights abuses, civil war and economic mismanagement and for 24 years, TBBC has been providing assistance to those who have had no choice but to flee to the border.  These refugees must not be forgotten. Before fleeing to Thailand, they suffered serious human rights abuses including forced labour, rape and torture and most have lost everything they owned as their villages were destroyed by the army. The refugees from Burma are confined to camps but if TBBC cannot support them with adequate food, they will be compelled to leave the camps, risking arrest, abuse, exploitation, and possible deportation back to Burma. We can expect to see serious malnutrition and health problems within a matter of weeks. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are most at risk. We are appealing to all traditional donors including governments to help us through this crisis. But we are also challenging ourselves as staff, friends and families. We believe that the huge network of family and friends we all have will make a difference.

We are setting ourselves a target of Thai baht 1.6 million (USD 50,000, EUR 32,000, GBP 25,000) by the end of June. That would be enough to provide rice to 1000 refugees to the end of 2008.  A contribution of just baht 300 (US$10, EUR 6, GBP 5) would cover the cost of rice for one refugee for a whole month, baht 1,800 (US$60, EUR36, GBP30) for the entire second half of 2008.

We can make a difference – even a little means a lot.

Donations can be made online at their web site:  www.tbbc.org for those who are interested. 

 

Dealing with what is, not what we wish was….

Looking at some of the suffering in Burma and other parts of the world, our western way of wanting to fix it falls short.  We are not in control, as the following forward from a friend working in Burma/Thailand so eloquently points out.  A great reminder that supporting the communities who are doing the work that us outsiders can’t do is the best way to be part of the solution.  

Forwarded by a friend working in Burma/Thailand….

“To many people who have come to know me over the years I’m a walking conundrum; alternately the ultimate cynic – relentlessly pointing out that as a species we haven’t managed to evolve over the last 5,000 years and are probably not worth saving, to the hopeless optimist – willing to put everything on the line to prove that a few good people can change the world.  Oddly, I think it’s this split personality that helps me function in Burma.
In the most of the world, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; in Burma this could not be further from the truth.  What’s occurring right now in Burma cannot be understood by using conventional wisdom as Burma has never been a part of convention.  Burma lives in a world of it own.
As westerners we want western solutions for Burma.  We want planes to fly in supplies to save people who we know could be saved.  We live in a world where we can replace bad hearts with good hearts, clone organs, and do bone marrow transplants.  We think putting men on the moon is old school.  Flying in a plane load of life saving supplies should be child’s play. 
In Burma making a phone call is difficult.  Only seven percent of the country’s 52 million people have electricity.  For Burma’s excessively paranoid generals we might just as well ask them if we can fly in a plane load of anthrax as one of aid.  To them, this act might save lives but it would poison the culture, and while it may be a culture of fear and defeat, they unfortunately see it as their culture to defend.
To make a difference in Burma we have no choice but to deal with what is, not what we as westerners think should be. 

I detest the current regime.  I can’t for the life of me comprehend their cruelty.  This is the side of humanity that makes me want to throw up my hands in utter despair and quit, but I can’t because quitting is what allows governments like this to continue.
I am so proud right now to be working with a group of people who haven’t quit Burma.  A group that spans the globe, a group that is organizing in the face of utter despair and effectively getting help to cyclone victims in ways that could get many of them arrested if they were ever found out.
What is in Burma is that international aid is failing; goods sent in to help disaster victims are being co-opted by the government.  The military, once stuck with the problem of how to feed and clothe their 400,000 soldiers now has enough rice stores to feed them for years to come.  Likewise with medicine. 


However, what is also happening in Burma is that internal aid is working.  Granted that it lacks the fairy tale effect of a white horse riding in complete with knight in shining armor, or wizards with magic wands that can turn the horrible truth into a happy ending, but in a very real way, in a very empowering way, Burma’s people are saving themselves – despite the generals.
Supported by those who refuse to quit, a quiet revolt is taking place.  A strong grassroots movement is evolving to bring goods to those in need.  It travels many routes and is crossing continents and cultures – some routes are above ground – small convoys of concerned citizens with used clothing and humble donations, businessmen with enough clout and connections to get permission to transport small quantities of relief – many adopting a village and rallying friends to sustain support – and some routes go underground – traveling through bank accounts and well established black market trades long used by insurgents and smugglers.  Even many military officials, appalled by the suffering they face each day, are denying orders and secretly transporting aid.


I was really amazed when the Saffron Revolution was so easily quashed.  I was saddened to see the despondent faces of those I passed everyday on the street afterward, people who had had the opportunity to support their most revered and had failed to do so.  Defeat went well beyond the monks and deep into the heart of the entire country.
But this time is different.  Perhaps because of that defeat, perhaps because the general’s decisions to refuse lifesaving aid is just more callous than anyone can accept, I’m seeing strength and unification among people who otherwise may have continued to remain passive.
I really don’t know if this will come to fruition, if this will be the catalyst that actually unites an active resistance movement and that that movement will grow.  I don’t know if the temptation of controlling a well fed army will serve as the tipping point for internal conflict in the military, but what I do know is that in the face of it all, my faith in humanity is once again being restored.  So long as we don’t give up, there is hope for those cyclone victims still surviving.  So long as we don’t give up there is still hope that Burma will change for the better, and in our lifetime.  So long as we don’t give up, others won’t give up.
My thanks really goes out to all those of you who continue to lend support, to all of you who understand that the gap between what should be and what is is currently too wide to jump in Burma, that even planes can’t cross it, but that this is not a reason to stop helping.
What should be may never come to Burma, but what is is still worth saving.
Many thanks …” 

Money changers

The Burmese military dictatorship has found a new cash cow and shouldn’t be missing all the dead water buffalo left by Cyclone Nargis too much, if the assertions in the articles below are true.  I’m not a numbers person, but these articles had some interesting statistics….  So, does this mean, if you go into Burma to do relief work through government-approved channels, the exchange rate is going to create an incredible profit for the SPDC (military government)? Money coming in through government channels is worth 6.7 kyat per $US, but money changed on the black market (non-government channels) is worth 1000 kyat (or more) per dollar.  I am way out of my economic depth here, but it just seems so WRONG that they can block aid, drag their heels, perpetuate suffering and death for thousands of people, and then still make a profit!

Trying to understand, but probably never will!

From the Japan times: “The Rape of Burma: where did the wealth go?” http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20080502a1.html

From Open Democracy: “Burma: cyclone, aid and sanctions” http://http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/burma-cyclone-aid-and-sanctions

“…a drop in the bucket” (Cyclone relief update)

Processing donations the other day for the non-profit I work with, there was a note from a donor enclosed with a cyclone relief check that said…”I know it’s just a drop in the bucket…..” I’ve thought about that for a few days, and I agree.  What small groups like the one I work with can do is very small.  Helping those trying to survive the circumstances of Cyclone Nargis and the government-induced disaster that has followed it requires everyone working together (governments, big NGO’s, local grass roots organizations…everyone who can do anything!).  But, if the “drop in the bucket” is the only drop in your bucket, then it counts.  If you need clean water, food, medical supplies, and you have nothing, anything that comes to make your bucket less empty matters.  Small groups working with networks of locals can help in less conspicuous, more mobile ways than the big players. 

Some quotes from a report passed on by a friend in Thailand received from people she personally knows who are working with a network in the delta area:

… “We bought rice, noodles, blankets, longyi (for men and women), drinking water and medicine and bring along…. 

While waiting, I met many of those who lost their family members. Some of them left alone. Some lost all the family members and also all relatives. Most of the houses in their village were destroyed, but did not get death toll from them either…(The death toll is high at the villages close to the sea.)…

Those helping have man power, but need financial support to bring more students and let them stay in the villages. They are working closely with the groups networking in the delta.  Attached letters are from those who received your contributions. I trust them as I saw they are doing the relief works reaching directly to the victims….”   

God bless those doing great things, in big ways, and those who are putting drops in the buckets of those whose buckets are empty!!

Here’s a couple of this morning’s articles on the situation:

http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=12354 (Cyclone refugees being sent home from camps)

http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=12366 (Burma government on “open access”)