Humanitarian Mission to Myanmar, January 2015
By PDG Steve Yoshida, We Rotary E-Club of D5000 Hawaii
At the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii January 2013, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi (Daw Suu) appealed to Rotarians to help her country of Myanmar.
In the early 1960s, Myanmar was the richest country in Asia, but then it closed its economy to the outside world and became the poorest country in the region. Myanmar once again is opening up its economy to the world and making a comeback. Yangon, the largest city, is booming with new hotels, bustling business and snarled traffic.
Rotary is also coming back. On 16 May 2014 RI announced the re-establishment of the Rotary Club of Yangon, active from 1929 until it was closed in 1977. The club held its charter ceremony in February, 2015.
Dr. (Eddie) Lim, a Burmese living in Honolulu, Hawaii, joined the Rotary E-Club of D5000 Hawaii (We Rotary). Daw Tin May Aung, whose father, Dr. Saw Mra Aung, was president of the Mandalay Rotary Club 50 years ago, and Venerable Uzin Blue, a high ranking buddhist monk in the Rakhine State, both from Yangon, also joined.
The three Burmese Rotarians with the support from their club put out a call for a humanitarian mission to the Rakhine State, where the family name of Dr. Saw Mra Aung is well known and respected. The Rakhine State is a narrow strip of a coastal region intersected with the flows of rivers, valleys and mountain ranges. It is a culturally and resource rich area, but the people are some of the poorest in Myanmar.
Dr. Eddie recruited doctors, dentists and a pharmacist from the US (Hawaii, California), UK, Australia, and New Zealand; We Rotary engaged Rotarians from the US (Hawaii, Alaska, California), Taiwan, Australia, and Hong Kong; and Tin May and Uzin Blue organized the mission near Sittwe and Mrauk Oo in the Rakhine State.
In January 2015, 15 Rotarians and 25 medical volunteers from 8 countries answered the call. They came prepared for water, health education, English teacher training, dental, medical and solar panel projects.
The local people had never seen so many foreign volunteers. The regional chief monk and local officials held an elaborate opening ceremony to welcome the visitors. The national speaker of the house came by helicopter to attend. The solar lighting equipment donated by the Rotary club of Taipei Twins and other Rotary donations were on display. Dr. Eddie described the projects and thanked the government officials and Buddhist monks for their cooperation.
Over 3000 villagers came to Sittwe and Mrauk Oo to be served by the 16 medical doctors, 4 dentists, and 5 students with prescription medicine, dental clinics, and medical consultations. The mission was open to people from all religious and cultural backgrounds.
Rotarians conducted training classes for English teachers, held health education and dental fairs, purchased desks for schools, distributed solar lamp systems to schools, fitted patients with prosthetic hands, funded water lines and bridges, and designed water catchment ponds and filtration systems.
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All participants agreed that the mission was a great success. The volunteers formed a close bond with each other and the people they served. They are eager to continue their work and return again to help the needy people of Myanmar.
Daw Suu must be pleased at Rotary’s response to her plea. Rotary is bound to return to its former prominence in Myanmar as the number of Rotarians and projects in Myanmar increase. This is just the beginning.