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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Part 2 of 2 – Report from the Field (May 15 – 18 2008)

I am back ! Sorry I could not report to you all sooner. I was really down and had to recharge. The trip to MM was quite short but we were able to accomplish most of our missions.

Day One - May 17 2008:

- Arrived Yangon around 11 a.m. with 160kgs (330.7lbs) of goods. The custom officials were quite OK with our boxes. As soon as they see that it is for cyclone victims, they let us go.
Yangon, once it is known as Garden city is now Garbage city. Most of the big trees are all gone and whatever left is on pavement waiting to be collected.

- Went to Q and had a short meeting with one of his staff. Her group went to delta regions last weekend (May 11th -12th) and she was sharing their experience. They are able and willing to go to these villages where it can only be reached by small boats. If the funding was provided they can go to these areas. According to her ppl, going to these remote villages must take rubber boots as the mud can reach knee high. We gave them 1,000,000 kyats to buy rice bags and some rubber slippers. She will report the detail status of their trip this week.

- Met with medical students and made arrangements for May 18 trip. We planned to go with the medical students group accompanied by their teachers and some other volunteers. Bought some medicine and some supplies recommended/requested by the doctors.

Day Two - May 18 2008

- 4:30 am went to meeting point and loaded a truck with Rice bags, Dry Beans, Clothes, some dry food, milk power bags, Ovaltine, Milo and some medicine. We also took some plastic sheets donated from BKK. This group of about 40 volunteers also boarded the same truck.

- As soon as we left Yangon, around Hlaing Thar Yar, we started seeing trucks full of supplies heading to the delta regions. It was an amazing scene where a lot of local citizens (who has very little) chipping in and helping the cyclone victims. The cars were driving bumper to bumper with the speed of 20 KM per hour.

- We did not see any check-points along the way.

- Our rice truck was able to go without anyone asking questions. We also saw several trucks with rice bags along the way.

- We started seeing people (villagers/victims) lining along the road right after Twan Te Township. There were cars stopping and distributing various supplies such as rice, beans, biscuits and also shampoo packages.

- Monks and some local patrol were helping the crowd to stay in line and also helping the flow of traffic.

- We saw some ppl dropping things from their cars. It was a narrow two way road and it is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!! for the kids as they run after the goods. So anyone who is going to these regions, PLEASE DO NOT DROP THE GOODS FROM THE CAR.

- As I went on this trip, I have some doubts about Water Purification Tablets (WPT). We were not able to hand them to the villagers because it can be harmful to them if they don't use them properly. According to some villagers they have no problems with water as it rains everyday and this is what they been using all their life. The monasteries and local shelters are also using the rain water and as it constantly rains, they are not worry about water supply. I think WPT are only useful at hospitals and some large organized camp sites. Definitely, should not give them to the villagers.

- Myanmar rainy season is really a rainy season: rain all day. The only difference is pouring rain to drizzling rain. It is really hard to function on this constant rain. You can only imagine ppl living in these 4 feets high huts with very little cover on them surrounded by muddy floor. A lot of villagers asked for clothes and plastic sheets.

- The scene of rows and rows of people sitting along the road was heartbreaking. As most of the people (volunteers) were not being able (or too dangerous) to go to the remote villages, these villagers came out from these remote regions and waited for the supplies along the road. Of course, the young children and elderly were left at the villages.

- Our car became a mobile medical facility for the doctors and medical students. They treated the patients while we distributed the goods. I took some plastic lunch boxes from BKK and I put small towels for elderly and milk power for mothers with ORS, Tylenol and Ovaltine in every single box. Most people wanted the box more than the content. :(

- A lot of heartbreaking stories: parents lost their children and children lost their parents. I don't know which one is worse. I can only hope that their void will be fulfilled somehow. The orphans can be targeted by human traffickers and we must do something for them. At the moment, most of the monasteries have been looking after them.

- Around 5 p.m. we started distributing Plastic sheets we got from BKK's donor. We were able to help 5 families, a roof to sleep in and they were extremely pleased with our sheets. The Da-Neet they've used for roofing is out of supply and they were reusing the leftover from cyclone.

- Gave 4 heavy duty sheets to one family of seven people. They installed the sheets right in front of us. Gave 2 sheets to a woman (widow) with two kids, living in half-finished roof as she can't afford to finish the rest of the roof. The Da-Neet cost Kyat 15,000 for 100 and it is not even available to buy.

- Gave 1 Big sheet to the old Man living in the monastery. We saw this bamboo framed small house, but no one was there. We asked the neighbor and said this house belongs to Old Man who treats kids for free with traditional medicine. The whole neighborhood was happy for the old man even the monks came out and said we made the right choice.

A few comments (quotable quotes) from the villagers:

" Guys, our goal is to get rice"

" Are there any people left in Yangon?"

" I can't take the smell of gas anymore" (They were sitting 1 ft away from the car)

" Do you have any clothes/sweaters for us? "

" How come it is always women clothes?"

That's it for now, I will give you the details of things we distributed along with the receipts tomorrow morning. Regards to all,


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