to KhaMer


Dear Aunty K ~ After returning from the last trip, I did not have a chance to write to you.  I have now left my government job.  With all the sending of CVs to NGOs, I haven't had any free time.

The last place we visited was the worst of all the places we have been to on our trips.  It is actually in the Yangon district, but quite inaccessible.  We went by car to KyaukTan, and from the docks there took a motor boat, the boat was only half-covered (some time ago I had asked about these 'motor boats', if they had any roofing; monsoon is still going strong).  We headed towards the sea.

At one junction in the river, we entered a tiny stream, it is wide enough for only two boats abreast.  There was deep mud on either side, all along the stream.  The villagers who were on the boat said it would take an hour, but due to low water, we took over two hours to reach our destination.  We saw people catching fish in the stream.  We had been told that there were villages along the route, but in fact there were only a scattering, one here and one there, quite far from each other.  In the paddyfields were huts.  We were told that the people in this area work the fields.  Electricity has not arrived there, and the water source is a pond, not really clean.

Half way on our journey, the boat we were on could not longer continue.  We had to change to a smaller boat with an engine attached.  We were carrying rice, lentils, onions, potatoes, bread, clothes, and post natal kits.  Four villagers came to receive us.  One person amongst our group had relatives in this village, that is how we came to know of its existence in such a place.

There were only two doctors this time, my other colleagues were not free to come along that weekend.  There were three people for giving out medicines, two young men for distributing the other donations, so altogethere seven of us on this trip.

When we got there, those distributing stuff got busy and we began treating people.  Just when we were only two doctors, there were lots of people needing attention!  There were at least 80 patients.  We could have something to eat for lunch only at 2pm;  luckily, we had been snacking on the boat.  We left after lunch, to go to the monastery where we again gave medical attention.

In the village, there are not enough toilets for the number of houses, the latrine system is not good either.  It is quite dirty.  Also, since Nargis, the people in this area have not been able to rebuild their homes.  In the Twante region, the people although poor can harvest bamboo locally, it is abundant there, and they only need to find DaNi for the roofing.  Here, they would have to buy all the materials and so cannot afford to rebuild, and families have ended up moving in with relatives where possible.

We saw a lot of skin infection, not surprising with the lack of cleanliness.  Many with hypertension as well.

When we reached KyaukTan, it was after 4pm.  We went to the shop selling rice to check the rice out.  The shop house is on the river bank.  Their toilet system was even worse!  The droppings seemed to be all dropping into the river, it was most distressing.  The thought came to mind that if it is like this in the town, of course it would be terrible out in the rural areas.

KhaMer village (the place they had visited) - its isolation, how cut off it is from communication - is attested to by the fact that when news of the cyclone came from the monastery upstream, the water was already at chest height.  There is no TV, no newspaper, no other kind of media (only the communication carried by people themselves).

On the way back, in the Yangon district, in the northern section of New Dagon, we visited the Happy Haven Humanitarian Centre, ThuKhaYeikMyone, the home of the HIV orphans.  We had taken for them books, pencils and colouring pencils, erasers, clothes, assorted goodies, packets of dried noodles, Quaker Oats cereals, Ovaltine, potatoes and onions.

I am a member of this children's project.  There are 21 children who are HIV positive, from two years old to thirteen years of age.  Teachers have been hired to teach them.  Living with them and looking after them, cooking for them, are five nurses who have also been hired, one senior nurse and four young ones.  It is they who cook and care for the children, best for them that they eat no food from outside.

As we are able to, we members go there to help and supervise;  the group usually holds monthly meetings.  The woman writer X is a member of the group.  On a donor's land, there was held a fund raising event, attended by actors and actresses, singers and film directors.  It was held before actor Y died.  From the funds raised at this celebration, the home for the children was built.

Not far from this home, a fellow member of this group has set up a place for handicapped children, MyaNadiMaThanMaSuon.  The children are given lessons each morning and are cared for, for free.  We visited this place as well, giving to them like we had to the HIV kids.  The doctor's name is X, she is also a writer.  Together with herself, there is a teacher (hired from her own funds), and together these two teach 20 children.  The kids suffer from Down's Syndrome, cerebral palsy, or are otherwise mentally retarded.  They start with the alphabet.  They are taught to paint as well.

It was raining furiously on our way back.  At these two places, it was difficult to unload the stuff we were donating, pelted with rain as we were.

Are you well?  I answered Ben's note that he sent in your stead, he said you were busy on a course.  You are always in my thoughts.  Please offer a prayer for me, that I will quickly find new work.  With two young kids, I will not be able to take an NGO job that requires me to live out in the rural areas.  If I can get one based in the Yangon area, making trips out, that would be workable, I have to look for this kind of job.  I am suffering from stress, nearly every day I have a headache.

May you and your family enjoy health and peace of mind.

How is the weather there?  Here in Yangon, it pours with rain every day.

In remembrance always, thamee (daughter) H.