On our January trip to we were accompanied by Katie Garrett, a young videographer who has helped us prepare some videos of our work. Our thanks to Katie and her brother Michael for donating these videos. Their website is www.garrettandgarrett.co.uk.
Thanks also to Paddy Gilfeather for the use of earlier footage from the delta!
We’ve commenced a project which promises to revolutionise opportunities for the brighter youngsters in the villages where we’ve built primary schools. At a kick-off meeting in January, we obtained commitment from parents, teachers, and village and district officials, to support a ground-breaking new High School in the village of Yay Kyaw Toe, generously supported by the Direct Aid programme of the Australian embassy.This will provide the critical 10th and 11th grade education that leads to matriculation, and more importantly much improved opportunities for employment, or further education. Up until now this was only available in big towns. May’s powerful speech made a big impact on the audience!
Afterwards we bought the 3 acres of land required, and started making the path to the new school.
We hurriedly rearranged our building schedule to shift NYTB to the top of the list and sent our construction team there at short notice. They are getting very efficient, and the villagers were great at providing labour.
As you can imagine, everyone in the village is highly relieved and delighted!
There are a lot of sharp blades in rural Burma and a lot of corresponding accidents. If they’re left untreated, they can create real problems. This little boy had nearly cut off his thumb with a machete. His mother got him to a clinic in a nearby town, where they not only didn’t attempt to save the thumb, but just removed it, and then sent them home without any care instructions. Our Community Health Worker took care of him, cleansing and re-bandaging the wound until it had healed.
In another incident, the patient fared better. A woman had this time nearly cut off her whole hand, but our CHW’s were there to clean, disinfect, stitch and bandage, then knew who to contact to get her to hospital. The doctors said that their prompt action had saved the hand.
On-the-spot treatment works – and we provide it!
Colourful mobiles in Burmese Delta schools? We love it! Encouraged by Unicef, the education authorities are promoting CCL alongside the traditional learning-by-rote common throughout Asia. The children are responding with great creativity and we’re going to help them by providing art materials and ideas for the teachers.
This picture is of a classroom in ‘our’ district. Just click to enlarge.
We very often get asked about the recent changes in Burma, and how the people are responding. I think the mood there is generally one of cautious optimism, but everyone is conscious of the huge challenges ahead.
Quite apart from the political tasks, and the tensions between the majority Burmese and the ethnic minorities, it’s vital to remember that this is not only one of the world’s poorest countries, but it receives only a small fraction of the international aid per head given to comparable nations.
At HTBD we believe in practical action, village by village, to make people’s lives better. They are always amazed that anyone in a far off country would care about them. Everything our donors contribute means real hope, now.
We’ve recently completed building our twelfth and thirteenth schools in an unusually wet monsoon. The picture shows the finishing touches to the frame and roof, with the concrete feet keeping everything dry. This is in the village of Nga Yoke Ta Bin. The old school, a bamboo shack, had just blown down in some strong wind, so the timing is perfect.
Our fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth schools are now under way! Onwards and upwards!
It must have been quite extraordinary for Aung San Suu Kyi to revisit Europe, and especially the UK, after so many years. Apart from her official engagements, and time with family and friends, there was an event at the Festival Hall primarily for the Burmese expat community. May and Jon were lucky to obtain tickets, and it proved very moving. Daw Suu, beautifully dressed as always, was greeted with a rapturous standing ovation, and spoke directly and powerfully. She stressed that the diaspora should feel grateful to their hosts, but not forget their home country and think hard how they could contribute to its progress now that there was a measure of freedom. As always there were some flashes of humour during question time.
There were also music, songs and dances from representatives of all the races of Burma. Daw Suu has such charisma and inherent honesty, I wish our politicians had the same!
The climate in Burma, and the Delta in particular, goes by extremes. From roughly November to April it’s mostly dry and sunny, which causes painful water shortages in rural areas. From May the monsoon rains arrive, often torrential with strong winds, great for the rice which is the mainstay of the Delta economy, but as you can see not so great for travelling to visit our projects.
Most of the Delta consists of rice paddies, and the farmers work them mostly with water buffaloes. Although they are very large, have sharp horns, and can look a bit aggressive, according to the farmers they are quite moody and temperamental, living in small matriarchal groups – only the females are used for ploughing the fields. In the rainy season they love nothing more than a good wallow in mud.
Many buffaloes were killed in Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and the population is only slowly recovering. We are certainly seeing more little ones around, but it takes years before they are mature enough to work.