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Donation Trip to Bogalay

On April 19th. 2009, Saydanar Volunteer Group went on another donation trip. It was the first time that all of group’s members could take part in a donation trip because Sanda/Mala and Reto who run the Swiss section of Saydanar happened to be in Myanmar at the time. The trip took place roughly one year after the devastating storm hit Myanmar.This time, we went to Bogalay, one of the towns in the Ayyerwaddy delta, which was badly hit by Cyclone Nargis. Bogalay is only 86 miles away from Yangon but due to road conditions, it took 4hours by car to get there. On the way one can still see signs of the destruction the storm brought but also the efforts by the people to repair the damage.

Our trip this time was managed and supported by Bogalay Township Association, an independent organisation of (whealthy) Burmans from Yangon who set up their own organisation to help the people affected by the cyclone. Our focus was on two monasteries where the monks take care of orphans who lost their parents to the cyclone and children of poor families, who don’t have enough money to feed their children. The children are fed at the monastery and they get basic education free of charge.

The first monastery we went to was Kanthar Monastery where there are 670 pupils from kindergarden to 7th standard. Of the 670 children 41 are orphans. There are 12 volunteer teachers at the monastery, 9 of them university students and 3 monks who are about to start their university studies.

The most interesting part is that all the teachers were once pupils at the monastery. They were educated there and are now volunteering as teachers themselves and in so doing are giving something back to the monastery and the children that are in need.

We also went to Parahita Monastery where there are 41young monks (from 5 yrs to 15yrs old) and 3 young nuns (from 7yrs to 13yrs old) who lost their parents in the storm. This monastery was severely affected by the storm and its buildings have to renovated or in some cases rebuilt. Apart from taking care of orphans and children in need this monastery plans to open a center for people suffering from HIV in the region. We were told that there are roughly 100000 people or 10% of the population suffering from the virus.

For both Kanthar and Parahita monasteries, we offered lunch with potatoes and chicken curry to all the children, teachers and the monks on that day – a Myanmar custom.

Because rice harvests in the region have been severly impeded due to the salt water intrusion caused by the Nargis tidal wave the people are still dependant on rice donations. For 670 students and their families we therefore provided, 1.5kgs of rice and stationeries for the school children. The orphans, were also given blankets.