Myanmar Cyclone Relief (2008-2010)

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Project Brief

On 2nd May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit the nation of Myanmar. It is the worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar, with at least 146,000 fatalities and 1.5 million people severely affected by the cyclone. As a response, CRS sent a recee team during 7th to 11th June 2008 to examine the disaster situation after some delay in applying for visas. After much evaluation and prayer, CRS decided to work with the local orphanages in Yangon first and recruited volunteers to provide medical aid and conduct children programs there. After the access into the Irrawaddy Delta was approved, relief teams ventured into Bogale, one of the worst hit area in the Irrawaddy Delta division. Into total, CRS sent 5 relief teams to Myanmar in 2008 & 2009. As part of its follow-up work, CRS has sent a team in 2009 and 2010 respectively to continue its ongoing project with the local orphanages. We will prayerfully consider the possibility of future trips.

Reports from the field:

16 Aug - 21 Aug 2008
30 Aug - 4 Sep 2008
13 Dec - 17 Dec 2008
25 Jul - 30 Jul 2009
20 Mar - 24 Mar 2010

16 Aug - 21 Aug 2008

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Children at the Orphanage

Report of Myanmar Team 2 (16th to 21st August 2008)

By Reeta Ramasamy

CRS’s Medical Mission of Hope

CRS Myanmar Team 2, comprising of 8 members, set off early on the 16th of August for a six day trip to Myanmar to render medical aid to various orphanages and the surrounding villages that have been affected by Cyclone Nargis, the seasonal monsoons and long-standing improvised living conditions.

The team arrived at Yangon International Airport and was immediately welcomed by the local pastors who provided invaluable assistance in terms of getting around the city, locating the most reasonably priced medicine as well as establishing contact with the local orphanages and villages.

The team stocked up on medical supplies as well as snacks for the children and spent the rest of the day finalizing on each members’ roles and responsibilities for the rest of the trip. The team unanimously decided to further divide themselves into two broad areas-medical and children’s activities-to ensure that the daily operations ran as smoothly as possible.

The team members also agreed to switch into a new role everyday so that each person would have the opportunity to learn more from each of his/her adopted role for that particular day. Each member was to instruct on his/her duties to the next person who was to take up the role for the preceding day. The first night ended with the team meeting up at the leader’s room and packing medicine while sharing lots of laughs.

The team started their work on the 17th after Sunday service where Hong Yi gave a deeply moving and thoughtful sermon. His interactive workshop style delivery of the sermon managed to get many in the congregation, to actively engage with the ideas that he had intended to raise. Children from Andrew Orphanage and Grace Orphanage made their way to the church to receive medical aid after the service. The children who were kept in the holding area were engaged in arts and craft as well as an outdoor game such as dog and bone while other children were treated at the second level of the church. The children were enthusiastic and had lots of fun with the volunteers and the team. The local youth volunteers helped the team as interpreters and as a result, the team, which comprised of only one 70-year-old retiree doctor, Peng Cheng, managed to treat almost 80 people on the first day. The team was tired but still managed to have an enjoyable dinner cum debrief session before turning in for the day.

The 18th of August began with devotion at 7.30am and breakfast. The team then set out to the city to purchase more medication, snacks, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The team decided that the last two items on the list were included with the intention of teaching the children dental hygiene while they waited to be examined by the doctor. The team went to MSBM Bible School and quickly set up the clinic as villagers had already started coming in by the time the team had arrived. The team was treated to a delicious home cooked lunch and then started work as children and elderly villagers arrived at the clinic. Leong Heng, who used a mixture of jokes and firm instruction, taught the children dental hygiene while they obediently waited to see the doctor. Ester used her good judgment to donate some toys to the day care centre at the village and was moved when the teacher gratefully mentioned that she had been praying for new toys for the children. Nellie worked effectively with Luke to dispense the prescribed medicine while the latter explained to the patients on how they ought to take their medication. Eventually, the team managed to treat over 70 people that day. The team had to set off in the rain as they had an engagement at the Singapore embassy and managed to arrive on time despite incurring two punctured tires along the way. The team managed to meet Ambassador Robert Chua as well as the St John’s St Margaret’s Church’s (SJSM) medical team who had just landed in Yangon earlier that day. The day ended with the team having Burmese dinner that was hosted by Pastor Patrick where the team heard of the plans that the pastor has to generate long-term sustainable projects for the Burmese people.

The team started off on the 19th with a one and a half hour trip out to the villages amidst the rain and uneven roads. However, the heavy rain, flood and the possibility of being stranded in the mud did not stop the team from rallying forth towards the village. The kindness of the locals was evident as some men from the village transported Dr. Peng Cheng and Helen (our resident human thermometer) on a rickshaw towards the village when the truck seemed incapable of moving in the mud. The team managed to arrive at Agape Orphanage and efficiently set up the necessary equipment with the help of the locals. The area was flooded but there was also a large paddy field at the back of the building where the team was treating the patients. Most of the individuals who were treated that day were children. The doctor managed to treat about 70 people that day. The team then left the orphanage early in the evening and then met with Pastor Patrick and the SJSM team for dinner. Both teams decided during 10-course dinner to share resources and personnel in order to treat the patients more effectively. Dr Julia from the SJSM team was to accompany the CRS team to Tender Love orphanage the following day while the SJSM team was to head to another orphanage. After dinner, the team then went to Chinatown to purchase some fruits and nuts while soaking up the atmosphere. The team also has some hot and sweet deserts in Chinatown before heading back to the hotel for a debrief session.

The team began the 20th with an hour drive out to the villages that housed Tender Love orphanage that has flourished over the years under Pastor Patrick’s guidance. The affable Dr. Julia from SJSM joined the CRS team and everyone arrived late in the morning and efficiently set up the various treatment areas. The patriarch of the orphanage blessed everyone before they began their respective roles. Soon the children started streaming into the clinic and by 2pm, the doctors had treated about 50 patients. The pastor’s family had cooked a delicious lunch for the team and everyone used their lunch break to interact with the locals. After lunch, some of the members had made their way to the local market to buy the necessary groceries for the meal that they planned to cook for the children later in the day. Some of the team members eventually started treating more patients in the afternoon while Nellie, Leong Heng, Ester, Helen and Pastor Patrick cooked for the children.

The team managed to treat about 80 patients that day and then went on to serve the food for all the children at the orphanage. The children tucked into a delicious meal and then went on to put up a cultural performance for the CRS team as well as the SJSM team who came over to the orphanage after they had finished treating their patients.

It was an enjoyable evening of cultural exchange as the children put up various cultural dances and sang songs for the audience after the SJSM team had performed magic tricks for the children and the CRS team sang a song for them. At the end of the evening, everyone gave thanks for the opportunity to contribute to the well being of the less fortunate and bade goodbye before heading back.

The team shopped on the 21st at Bogyoke Market and managed to get some gifts and souvenirs that reflected Burmese culture. The team then said goodbye to our generous and helpful local hosts who in turn bought some local delicacies for the team. Everyone then went for lunch at the Aroma Café before heading for the airport to catch the flight home.

The team was united in their sense of purpose and everyone had clearly wanted to make the most of the time that they had been given in Myanmar. They approached each challenge with a shrug of the shoulders, a smile and a ‘can do’ spirit. It was striking to note that all the team members, at various parts of the trip, expressed their gratitude at being given the opportunity to contribute to the Burmese people. They consistently revealed their compassion towards the under privileged, displayed their fortitude in spite of the unfamiliar surrounding and were ever ready to have a good laugh along the way.

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Bringing 2 members on a rickshaw across the flood on the way to Agape Orphanage
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The CRS team with Ambassador of Singapore in Myanmar, Mr. Robert Chua
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Peng Cheng treating a patient
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Helen buying food at the marketplace to prepare dinner
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The children at orphanage having dinner prepared by the team
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The locals performing cultural dance for the team at Tenderlove Orphanage

30 Aug - 4 Sep 2008

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Tea in a make shift coffee shop by a traffic junction

Report of Myanmar Team 3 (30th August to 4th September 2008)

By Sonia Angullia

Our trip to Myanmar was an experience that I can, rest assured, say that each and everyone of us six, would do all over again given the chance.

Being Team 3 to Myanmar, gave us a rough idea of what is to come. But, being the first team to the cyclone hit Irrawaddy Delta left us with just our imaginations. This however, did not discourage us the least bit. In fact, it turned into our adventure.

I remember one of the first things we did as a new team in Yangon was to have tea in a make shift coffee shop by a traffic junction. We all sat in little green chairs around a little table sipping our perfectly brewed tea.

The local pastors invited us to sit under an umbrella that probably only shaded 4 of us due to the direction of the mid afternoon scorching sun. There was on the menu, a choice of sparkling Quench, for those who’d rather cool themselves of with a cool glass-bottled soft drink.

We split for church on the Sunday morning. Half of us went to Andrew’s Orphanage, and the other to Tender Love Orphanage where we would set up clinic later on in the day. We were greeted by children running up to us with bouquets of local flowers wrapped in floral paper and ribbons. As if that was not enough to touch our hearts, I found myself fighting back the tears when worship began with their heart filled song. For these Burmese, hospitality is their specialty anytime, with humility and a big heart.

Over the next 6 days, we as a team covered a common goal of reaching out to the less fortunate in medical aid and in ministry. This took place in 2 slums, 2 villages in the Delta, and even just off a road around a corner. Clinic was either in a church or an orphanage. Everyday was differently planned, a different environment to work in, and a different challenge. It was truly God’s gift to us, a team that only knew each other for a day, to remain flexible in any circumstance. The sickest of patients that we stumbled upon, were those that had the poorest sanitation and water supply, in the slum areas. The water that they bathe in is the same water that their waste is dumped in.

In total, it took us 9 hours to Bogale, a town in the Irrawaddy Delta area. We managed, a 4 hour mini-van ride that not only bumped but shook, a 5 hour boat ride that I could bet we were going to tip over and a ten minute trishaw ride that had to fit our team, 6 locals and boxes of medicines and supplies that out numbered us, to get us to our guest house in Bogale. This was part of the adventure. In our journey on boat, we passed many wind swept houses and temples. It was often that we saw houses tipping toward a common direction. Those were considered fortunate, as some were just rubble.

We set clinic up an hour later on the opposite side of the river banks in a blue wooden church. We balanced, or tried to balance, on a floating pair of coconut tree trunks to get from the self-made jetty to the church. Many of us only made it halfway before children ran over them to help us, saving us from a little swim. We were glad to be a form of amusement for the locals, even in such unexpected circumstances. Many of us were put to shame later on as we witness an old lady crossing it without hesitation on her own.

Again, it was different than what we had seen in the previous days or by the looks of it from the view on the boat. Not only was the trauma of the cyclone still very present in the village settling inland, but in it’s people and children as well. Some of the elderly folk had to be carried to clinic and carried back home after by those who are also ill. A common ailment many of the villages had were aches and pains, much of which were diagnosed as stress by the doctor. Drawings by the children when asked to draw their impression of the disaster will be a memory that would stick for a long time, as that was the biggest shock for me when I saw past the drawing into the facts. As the cyclone blew away the generator, we found ourselves scrambling for candles and torches as dusk fell and as the registration and seeing of the doctor was still going on.

I found it hard to fit our 6 days into this page and this is just my side of the story. Ask anyone of my team members, and I am sure you’ll hear a different adventure from their perspective. This is certainly not my last trip to Myanmar. It is just the first.

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Alice and Irene having a good time with the children at Tender Love Orphanage
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Registration and temperature taking at Galilee Orphanage
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One of the buildings in the Irrawaddy Delta area destroyed by the Cyclone
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Alice and Irene on the trishaw with the boxes of medicines to the guest house in Bogale
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Junhao and Chris in their challenge to cross the floating pair of coconut tree trunks
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Children drawing their impression of the cyclone

13 Dec - 17 Dec 2008

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Report of Myanmar Team 4 (13th December to 17th December 2008)

By: Yeo Sue En

Cyclone Nargis began its sweep over Myanmar at the mouth of the Irrawaddy River on Saturday, 3 May 2008. Burmese officials reported a death toll of 10,000. But according to our local guide, the number of deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

A relief team was made up of a group of Singaporeans who belong to the same church, a couple from New Zealand which runs a clinic in Indonesia and a group of locals from relief organization, Ar Yone Oo.

Paperwork was the first item on the to-do list in preparation for the trip. Next came the assigning of responsibilities. Naturally, the men got to put their brawn to full use by taking charge of logistics and stock taking of supplies. The ladies put on their thinking caps to come up with an engaging program for the kids.

Getting up before the break of dawn, the team would begin each day with God through a time of praise and worship, prayer and sharing of the Word. We would then take a short journey on foot to the pier where a double decked bum boat would be waiting to take us to our destination.

The boat ride to a village would vary from two hours to five hours – one way. The clinic and children’s program would run from the early afternoon to the evening. Leaving a village was always bittersweet but under a blanket of stars and cool sea breeze, the rides back offered perfect opportunities for reflection.

The diversity, uniqueness and warmth of each village made everyday a special and memorable one. Thanks to Ar Yone Oo’s trip to the local market everyday, the team got to experience true Burmese cuisine as one household from every village would open their home and whip up a meal for us. At one village we had fresh mud crabs! By Singaporean standards, the crabs were so small that they weren’t worth the effort but it was a great and unexpected experience. The food was fantastic.

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Dr. Derek Allen, our doctor for the entire trip, fractured his toe while negotiating his way over the treacherous planks on the way back from the pier as a section of it broke under his weight. However, his quotes for this trip are ‘loving, caring strong team’, ‘CRS never disappoints’, and “we can go back again in future’.

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Arrival at Yangon Airpot. Check out our supplies.
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Mistresses of the children’s program in their killer uniform! Left to right: Yeo Sue En, Christine Kwan and Wendy Foo
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Water storage containers for the villages. Left to right: Simon Foo, Derek Allen, Margaret Thorpe, Wendy Foo and Christopher Kee
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Real life banker and in-house treasurer, Mark Teo, feeling right at home. “Why so serious?”

25 Jul - 30 Jul 2009

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Group Pic (from left: Dr Shanna, Yee Cher, Seraphina, Danny and Joshua)

Report of Myanmar Team 1 (25th July to 30th July 2009)

By: Danny Thomas J.

Myanmar Team 1 2009 comprised entirely of first-timers who have never been on a relief trip before. Apart from Yee Cher (nurse) and Shanna (doctor), the rest of the team lacked medical expertise. Despite the lack of relief trip and medical know-how, God showed each one of us that we could do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

The members were:

  • 1. Thomas Danny Jeyaseelan
  • 2. Joshua Huang Thien En
  • 3. Dr Ng Shan Yi Shanna
  • 4. Tan Yee Cher
  • 5. Aaron Chiong
  • 6. Seraphina Chong

We were greatly blessed to set up mobile clinics and treat the adults and children and also conduct children’s programmes in these places: Andrew Orphanage (Pastor Lian and Moses); Galilee Town (Pastor Abraham Ramaya); New Generation Youth Development Central (Pastor Abraham Bawi Thang); and Tender Love Mission International (Luke & Dr Michael).

“Our team was a diverse (and divine) mix of talents and personalities. It was simply amazing how God united us in Spirit to work as one and shine so brightly the love of Christ wherever we went. This trip will always be a wonderful reminder of how we can all play an active part of Christ’s amazing work by availing ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.” – Danny

“Seeing how the children worshipped God with loud voices and sincere hearts really touched me and made me think about the expressiveness of my own reverence of Him.” – Seraphina

“We learnt through the challenges encountered in the trip that God and God alone is the one takes us through every obstacle. Moving forward, we can be sure that if we make Him our trust and lean not on our own strength and wisdom but on Him alone, He will always take us through.” – Joshua

“I was astounded by the people in Myanmar who are so contented with the little they have. In comparison, we have so much to be thankful for in Singapore and yet we complain. Moving forward, I want to put God first in every area of my life and also experience true contentment.” – Shanna

“I was amazed at the high number of patients we saw each day and I just hope that every medication that was dispensed to them will bring healing to their bodies.” – Yee Cher

“I’m used to seeing through highly organised operations and so the fluidity and unstructured nature of
this trip really caught me off guard. But it was incredible how well things unfolded—purely by grace I’m sure and through His divine intervention. I’ve been on trips like this before but this one is special to me and I’m glad to have played a part in this trip.” – Aaron

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Worshipping unto the Lord
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Singing a new song
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Children putting up a song and dance item
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Dr Shanna assisted by local girls.
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Fellowship over a communal meal.
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Lookalikes!

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Local Choir
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The joy of the Lord is my strength.
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Clinic in operation.
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Consulting the elders before
commencement of the clinic.
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Danny and Chwan Meow taking a break.

20 Mar - 24 Mar 2010

Report of Myanmar Team 1 (20th March to 24th March 2010)

by Dr. Jennifer Chan.

Day 1 Saturday 20 March 2010
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(group pic at Changi – from left: Ann Phua, Dr Jennifer Chan, Kevin Loke, Alice Chan, Pastor Patrick Foo & Carrie Tan)
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The same pickup and driver
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All set to go!
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Dinner at Jumbo Restaurant
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Welcome to Myanmar
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2nd Sunday service at Tender Love Orphanage
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Pastor Patrick preaching the sermon, translated by Michael Daizacin
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Patients from Galilee Orphanage and the surrounding community came to the mobile clinic at Tender Love Orphanage on 21 March 2010
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Setting up the clinic
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Clinic helpers
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Pharmacy at Tender Love
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Rev Dr Mung and his family
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Topping up on our medical supplies from a local pharmacy

Day 3 Monday 22 March 2010

New Generation Orphanage

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Impromptu clinic for 10 patients
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Visit to Pastor Lian Thang’s Andrew 2 Orphanage

Tuesday 23 March 2010

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Visit to the Singapore Embassy in Yangon.
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New Heritage Orphanage
– Pastor James and his wife, Elizabeth
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Day 5 24 March 2010

R&R (Rest & Recreation)
Nasi Briyani with Soo Jin and Seow who came for the 11th Nursing Aides’ Graduation on 25 March 2010 at Tender Love.