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MYANMAR: One Year After the Cyclone

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MYANMAR - A dilapidated car took some Tzu Chi volunteers from Malaysia to a pier in Kung Yangon, Myanmar. They boarded a small boat and arrived 90 minutes later at the village of Mayan—a scenic, serene, rustic spot with dirt roads and straw houses. Paved roads and concrete houses were nowhere to be seen. The village had been ravaged by Cyclone Nargis and received rice seeds, fertilizer, food, and daily essentials from Tzu Chi in July 2008.

The Malaysian volunteers were here to see how the distributions of eight months before and subsequent aid activities were helping the lives of the villagers. They went to the home of U That Win Aung, the Mayan village head. His wife, Daw Gyi Gyi San, talked about the time after the cyclone hit. She said that the village was devoid of just about everything after the cyclone. “Just when we were at our most helpless, Tzu Chi gave us a hand. We got not only rice seeds, but also fertilizer.”

Because of the help from Tzu Chi, farmers in Mayan could work their fields just in time for the planting season, and they harvested about a hundred days later in November. They averaged about 3,220 pounds of rice per acre, which was 70 percent more than in years past. The bumper harvest helped the farmers to reestablish themselves after the devastation. Everyone was most grateful.

Dan Tun, a rice farmer, is the bread earner in his family of eight. He also catches shrimp to supplement his income. Their home was wiped out by the cyclone. Fortunately his whole family escaped to the safety of a temple. Without a home to return to and without any food to cook, they were devastated. “If it weren’t for Tzu Chi’s aid, we wouldn’t have been able to stand up again,” Dan Tun said. His six-acre rice field has given his family a reasonable income of 400 U.S. dollars over the two harvests since the disaster. They have had enough rice to eat, and they have been able to put away rice seeds for the next planting.

U That Win Aung, the village head, estimated that the farmers got about 4,600 pounds per acre for the dry-season rice crop, planted in December and harvested in April. He said, “After this April harvest, we need to keep rice seeds and valuables high above the ground, away from the threat of flood water.” People are digging ponds in every village in preparation for the upcoming rainy season. Ponds can store rain water and serve as buffers to absorb flash floods.

The village head and his wife thanked Tzu Chi volunteers for their continuous care and help. “We used to regard Tzu Chi volunteers as our benefactors, but now we feel you are more like our family.”

Paying back
U Yin is another village that received rice seeds from Tzu Chi after the cyclone. Villagers decided to pay back the kindness in kind by donating 46 pounds of rice seeds for each acre they harvested. On May 6, U Nanda Wun Da, a monk at a local temple, represented the villagers and donated 36,800 pounds of rice seeds to Tzu Chi. He said, “When we were in need, Tzu Chi came through with aid. Now we want to give like Tzu Chi volunteers and donate rice seeds to people less fortunate than us.” U Nyan Tin Aung, a villager, said, “Donating rice seeds to Tzu Chi makes me really happy. I just feel that I haven’t donated enough.”

The village has been making great progress since Tzu Chi’s aid arrived in the wake of the cyclone. The rudimentary pier made with coconut trees and bamboo trunks has been replaced by a more sturdy one, and muddy roads have been paved with concrete. To commemorate Tzu Chi’s aid, villagers have decided to build a road to connect the pier to the temple. The road will cost about 8,000 U.S. dollars, of which they have already raised 5,000 dollars so far.

Changing from people who receive to people who give, the villagers have clearly demonstrated a motto of Tzu Chi: Whatever your financial situation, you can give and help others.

Schools and scholarships

While two other schools are almost ready to start construction, No. 4 Thingangyun Middle School, the first school that Tzu Chi has built to replace a school destroyed by Nargis, is close to being completed. Ground for Thingangyun was broken on November 2, 2008, and the school is scheduled to reopen in June 2009. There are only about eight months to complete all the work. Such a tight schedule is typical of Tzu Chi-sponsored school rebuilding projects for disaster sites because children’s education can’t wait. The construction crew is busy working on the site to meet the tight specifications and deadline.

Cyclone Nargis left the Thingangyun school with only a few classrooms standing. Since then, the 700-plus students have had to take turns using those classrooms. In fact, six classes are jammed into one classroom with six teachers teaching at their own places in the room. While students can face their own blackboard and their own teacher, they hear six teachers talking at once. It is next to impossible to not hear the other five teachers! Learning in such a situation is extremely difficult.

“I tell my students to put up with it, to wait hopefully. All this trouble will soon be a memory once the new school is open,” said teacher Lae Lae Win. “The destroyed classrooms made me really sad. However, I am very happy for the children now that Tzu Chi is about to finish a much better school for us.”

In addition to rebuilding schools, Tzu Chi also helps put needy students through school. Kyaw Myo Zin is the first Myanmar recipient of Tzu Chi educational assistance. He is now studying education at a teachers college in Yangon. He has given up the chance to get into a more popular discipline and instead has chosen to become a teacher, because he wants to return to his hometown to help educate children who need help just as he did.

He is well aware that teachers in Myanmar don’t make much, but he looks forward to the days when he can help his hometown children. He said, “There are many poor families in rural areas that can’t even afford food regularly. They can’t send their children to school, and as soon as their children are old enough to work, they send them to work with dim financial prospects for life. I want to be a teacher to help such children through school.”

His mother, Daw Pyone Kyi, is happy about his career choice. “He wants to educate poor children with his love. I’m very proud of him. A greedy person gets nothing in life. My husband and I had little education, so we can only rely on hard labor to make a living. It is okay for us to work hard so long as our children can have a good education and a chance to lead a better life.”

Kyaw Myo Zin works very hard to take full advantage of the financial assistance from Tzu Chi. He often studies till the wee hours of the morning. His father, U Kyaw Than Win, said lovingly, “We couldn’t afford his education, but now Tzu Chi has removed that obstacle for us. I’m glad that my son is studying hard, but I hope that he doesn’t study so hard as to hurt his health.”

Kyaw Myo Zin hopes the village will be filled with not just children’s singing and laughter, but also, one day soon, the sweet sound of them reading out loud.

In the year since the cyclone, Tzu Chi volunteers from Malaysia have made more than 3,500 person-visits to Myanmar, with some taking repeat trips. They have taken rice seeds, fertilizer, and daily necessities to the needy there. They have also run free clinics, helped build schools, and given scholarships and financial aid.

Ye Tzu Jing (葉慈靖), 68, the leader of the Malaysian team, introduced Tzu Chi to Malaysia in 1993; now she is spreading seeds of Great Love in Myanmar. The good deeds of the volunteers have convinced 66 Burmese to take up training to become Tzu Chi commissioners.

While the Tzu Chi volunteers have done their best to help the local people over the past year, the Burmese have never ceased to inspire the volunteers by their example to cultivate their compassion and humility too. The simplicity and kind-heartedness of local farmers helps lead the volunteers to cultivate gratitude and a pure, uncomplicated mind. They are also reminded to reduce their desires and expand their Great Love.

A seed can become a million plants, and a thought of compassion can set in motion a ceaseless cycle of love. Hopefully, that love can expand in this land and brighten the life of every person in despair.
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Source: Tzu Chi Quarterly Summer 2009
Translated by Tang Yau-yang

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Мы выигрывали отдельные бои, но проиграли войну в целом, Римо.

Я услышал, как те, что "Учет и отчетность граждан, осуществляющих самостоятельно предпринимательскую деятельность"стояли ближе, бормотали, чтобы я поостерегся, как будто опасаясь "Учет и отчетность на сельскохозяйственном предприятии"за меня.

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