What We Do and Why We Do It

Roughly one and a half years ago the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar (former Burma) was hit by a ferocious tropical storm. Cyclone Nargis caused immense damage and killed approximately 135000 people. Whole villages and the livelihoods of the delta people were destroyed.

Saydanar, which means goodwill in Burmese, consists of a group of Swiss people with close ties to Myanmar and local Burmese. The events at the beginning of May 2008 were a huge shock to them. A few days after the natural catastrophe, when the extent of the destruction began to emerge, it gradually became clear that something needed to be done, that some form of engagement was necessary in order to help the stricken population of the Irrawaddy Delta and the surrounding areas.

Saydanar's first reaction was to petition their Swiss friends to donate money to main stream Swiss charities. At the same time, as communication to Burma, and Yangon in particular, was restored, they were made aware by their friends in Burma of local aid and relief missions organized by wealthy business people and private Burmese people including their friends and they decided to support these on the ground initiatives financially.

Direct help struck them as being extraordinarily effective as it was clear that the people who were directly affected or who had access to affected areas and the inhabitants were in a much more qualified position to assess the damage and the corresponding needs of the affected people. These relief efforts also had the advantage of being one hundred per cent volunteer driven with absolutely no overhead costs whatsoever.

At this time the above mentioned Burmese friends were already organizing the first truck load of emergency goods and sending it to the badly hit delta area.Therefore, on 13 May 2008 the founders of Saydanar started to collect money among friends, family and work colleagues. Over the course of one year approximately 30'000 CHF were collected and sent to Burma via friends.

Most of the money was spent on drinking water and food, especially rice, but also certain household items such as tools to help the affected people get their businesses and households up and running again. Although food aid is still of considerable importance, Saydanar has started to fund the construction of tube wells because the tidal wave that flooded large parts of the Irrawaddy Delta contaminated fresh water wells and ponds.

A large part of the money is distributed via local Buddhist monasteries. These monasteries form a vital institution in Myanmar because they are responsible for the education of a large part of the children and form a kind of  social service by taking care of the poor and those in need. Also, the help that Saydanar provides is closely coordinated with local volunteer groups. Together with these groups and the monasteries the projects are defined and money is only paid upon completion and bills have to be presented.

Saydanar is an association formed under Swiss law applying for tax emption which was granted by the authorities of the Canton of Zürich in July 2009. Donations are now tax deductable.