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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carl spends summer volunteering in cyclone-ravaged Burma

<urs. That was the amount of time I spent traveling back and forth from Rangoon, the ex-capital of Burma, to the cyclone affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta. These trips were made possible with the support of student-initiated fundraisers, the International Festival Planning Committee, and the help of family and friends. In total, Doh Burma Community raised $2,250 last spring.

With the funds, I was able to purchase supplies for the victims and bring them with me to distribute as I traveled to the villages in the Irrawaddy state. In total, I went to two towns and three villages around Bogalay and Lapputta, reported to have 10,000 and 80,000 fatalities respectively.

On the first trip, three other students from Singapore Institute of Management and I went to two villages, Kyaing Guang Gyi and Kun Thee Chaung, near Bogalay town to distribute school supplies such as stationary, school bags, and raincoats to 200 students. thirty cans of mosquito repellent sprays were also given out to schools and homes.

Two days after the first trip, I departed the city again for Laputta, and then on to Pyin Za Luu, an island that was badly affected by the storm due to its proximity to the coast. It was the second town to be hit by the cyclone. Out of 7,000 households, only 360 remain today. There, medicinal supplies were given to a hospital that sheltered the survivors, who clung onto the rafters during the storm. Three hundredy and sixty steel lunch boxes were given out – one to each household. Additionally, a total of five hundred and forty plastic lunch boxes to the students. The town is in the midst of rebuilding, and the houses are funded by a local private company.

Due to the storm, many villages were wiped out and the survivors now conglomerate in a newly built area where they are provided housing, basic healthcare and schooling. However, there are a few who have ties to their previous homes and choose not to move to the new settlement. These families whose children had to attend school in the town needed transportation. We funded a school boat to ferry the children to and from school for $167.

The remaining 30% of the funds were given to finance a development project in Bogalay, which is initiated by Carleton alum Seth Lin’08.

This summer has been enriching and satisfying for me. I am grateful to all those who contributed towards helping the survivors of the storm. Despite the discomforts, I am also thankful for the long hours I spent on the buses and boats for it was then that I got a chance to witness the remnants of the storm. That was also a time when the survivors retold their experiences during the storm and revealed the scars the disaster had left behind. Almost everyone had lost a wife, a husband, a daughter, or a father.

Not only were the survivors coping with their loss, they now live in fear of the winds and waters which they commanded to make a living in the days before Cyclone Nargis.

I will be sharing my experiences during the trip and what I learned from the survivors on: Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at LDC 104 at 7pm.

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