Thanlyin mothers welcoming us to their village
November 2017 marks our ten year partnership with Jetstar, known as StarKids.
For the past ten years, StarKids has helped support humanitarian relief and community-based development projects across Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia and more.
Thanks to the generous donations from Jetstar customers and team members, more than $9.4 million has been raised, helping to improve the lives of children and their families.
Earlier this year Jetstar team members travelled to Myanmar to visit communities who had benefited from these donations – Bianca shares her experience of the trip.
As we cross the Rangoon River in our bright yellow bus, it is obvious that we are leaving the city of Yangon. Motorcycles that are banned in the city, now surround the bus and fill all possible and impossible spaces, dodging in and out of pedestrians, trucks and buses, all overflowing with locals on their morning commute to work. Lining the streets are makeshift market tents, branded with all sorts of advertising from Coca-Cola and Peters ice-cream to Burmese script promoting the local hair salon. Young wide-eyed families stare out of their shelters, wondering who may be peering back from inside this bright coloured bus making its way into the depths of Thanlyin.
As we approach the World Vision Thanlyin Area Development Program office (ADP), we can see the staff eagerly awaiting our arrival. They welcome us with the most excited and generous hospitality, offering to look after our belongings and provide us with anything to make our visit more comfortable. We will soon discover this is not uncommon of the Myanmar people. They introduce themselves and the program we will be taking part in over the next few days.
Now accompanied by a small group of local World Vision staff, we begin our three days of field trip visits, that we now know will have a lifelong impact on us individually and for our group as a whole.
Over the three days, we will learn of the many ways World Vision works with the local groups and ADPs to improve the livelihood of the Myanmar people. During this time, three themes will become apparent as the driving forces of the communities and their relationship with World Vision. Strength, Unity and Pride.
We visited a variety of centres focused toward women; strengthening women, strengthening their independence and their skills. By empowering a particular group through teaching them new skills such as sewing or medical training, these women are able to provide a second source of income for their families, learn new skills to pass on to generations to come, whilst also being able to continue with their everyday life and tasks.
Our last stop on day 1 is to a youth group, an ‘after school group’ of sorts, where they are taught and continue to make shampoo and soap to sell at local markets to increase revenue for the group and to support the community and struggling families. Three of the group’s leaders stood before us and answered our questions through our World Vision Myanmar representative and our pseudo translator, Phoebe.
Two girls and a boy, all around 14 years of age, were asked, when they grow older, what do they aspire to make of their lives. Each and every one answered separately with a response that focused solely on unity, of the group, of the younger generations within the wider population and the community itself.
“I hope we can raise more profit to increase our group members, to continue the youth group for a long time, and to teach the younger children these new skills.” A unified youth group that strives to further unify the larger community. An inspirational group of young adults whose only focus is to strengthen the bond of the community, to strive, and succeed, in creating a better future for all.
One thing we noticed from the moment we arrived in Yangon, through every meeting we had with the various Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Youth Groups and ADPs and until our very last farewell; is the pride they exude. The Myanmar people are resilient and passionate people who are proud of their country, their achievements and of each other and are excited to share this with visitors. Upon our arrival at every project, new community group or development centre, we were greeted with an enthusiastic presentation of the history of the group.
A Thanlyin CBO focused on creating profit and a means of transport, were lending motorcycles and allowing its members to pay them off over a 6-month period. By creating a more affordable option of lending, this CBO has turned 3 motorcycles into 97 over the space of just 3 years. Initially being educated by WVA and given 3 motorbikes to begin this process, the CBO have over this time, generated enough profit to fund local community projects, maternal and child health education, save money for future tuition and stationary needs of children to complete schooling and a variety of different community focused schemes. The committee members are oozing with pride, with passion for their work and the resulting benefits it brings to the community, they are a strong, proud community.
When the heat and humidity reach its peak and even the locals appear to be struggling, right on cue the skies open and the rain starts pelting down. Over our three days of visits to a variety of World Vision supported communities, we will discover that some are better equipped to withstand the rain than others. Although, as we drive back through Thanlyin on our return to Yangon, the struggle becomes more visible. Those young families staring curiously from their shelters as we passed in the morning, are now sitting looking broken yet seemingly un-phased as water flows through their space, lapping up against their stove tops, chairs and coming right up to their knees. Wet season in Myanmar is getting longer with each year, becoming more of a struggle with each downpour, yet the Myanmar people will fight, they will work harder than ever imagined, and they will do so with the strength, pride and unity as they only know how.