Thursday, August 6, 2015

Keeping flood victims afloat

By Zon Pann Pwint ,Nandar Aung   |   Thursday, 06 August 2015
You can hear them halfway down the street. Above the roar of the traffic and the chatter of the tea shop comes the column of young people, collection tins in hand, calling for donations for the victims of flooding.
Photos: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar TimesPhotos: Naing Wynn Htoon / The Myanmar Times
Watch closely as they pass (after handing over your donation). You might see a celebrity.
Artists, film stars, singers, students and ordinary citizens young and old are parading round the busiest streets collecting whatever people are willing to give.
“We get together once a week, usually for shopping and eating and playing games on our phones,” said 18-year-old student Aung Min Hein. “But not this time. This is the time to show our solidarity with others.” He wears a jacket of plastic bottles to signify a life jacket, and a large bag to accept money.
His group has already collected K1,500,000, but aim for a further K500,000 from their street-walking tours. The money will go to flood victims in Hinthada District, Ayeyarwady Region.
He and his friends founded a group called Donation Wave and started working for charity when he finished high school in 2013. They made donations at the pagoda on weekends. Now they walk from Sule Pagoda to Hledan Junction on Pyay Road asking for donations.
As students dependent on their parents for pocket money, they can’t afford much, but they have time and energy, and they can walk, said one 18-year-old member.
“We walk, we shout and we ask for money. We spend a couple of hours doing this, but we’re not tired,” said Su Su, a student at West Yangon Technological University. “This is nothing compared with what people in the disaster areas have to put up with. They need our help.”
She rattles her basket at a passer-by.
Her takings will go to Chin State, the home of her teacher’s parents, via the Department of Social Welfare.
Another group is called Dream Meets, named after the music competition program of the same name. It comprises 30 singers, who serenade pedestrians to hand over their cash near Sule Pagoda.
“I had to act when I saw the photos on Facebook. I felt so sorry for them,” said Yuri, a contralto. “While we are sitting here comfortably, they are fleeing or swimming or trying to find shelter or starving. I could not stand not to do this.”
The money her group makes over the next five days will go to established charities.
The spontaneous volunteer movement has inspired people of every age and profession. People are volunteering their time and handing over more money than they thought they could spare. Underage tea shop waiters, trishaw drivers and housemaids used to stretching a kyat as far as they can are dropping folded wads into the outstretched bags and tins.
Crowd-funding website Indiegogo is asking for donations online, hoping to raise US$22,800 in a 10-day campaign, specifically for much-needed rehabilitation once the waters have receded.
The money will go to post-disaster provision of clean water, medicine and other necessities.
The proceeds will go to established and reputable organisations like the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, the Free Funeral/Burial Service Society and Online Volunteers of Disaster Recovery for Myanmar.
Within two hours of launching the campaign organisers had received $495, rising after 22 hours to $1255. By the end of the second day, a total of 60 people had donated $3062.
Artists and cartoonists have also done their bit. Paintings and sketches of flood victims have been posted on Facebook, and the Yangon gallery River Ayeyarwady is currently holding a charity art show, all proceeds from the sale of the paintings to go to the Free Funeral Service Society, which is assisting flood victims across the country.
“The photos of flood victims on Facebook are very heart-rending. Since I can’t visit flood victims and offer practical help, I donated four of my paintings to the galleries that have raised funds,” said artist Htin Lin Aung. Three of the works have already been sold. The River Ayeyarwady fundraising exhibition will continue until tomorrow.
Yesterday, seven cartoonists and members of the Children Our Future (COF) charity collected donations door-to-door at Pyi Yeik Mon Housing, Hledan, Kamaryut township. Any donor contributing more than K5000 is treated to a caricature drawn by a cartoonist, or given a handmade postcard. Magician Hmaw Zarmani performed magic tricks to attract donors in the housing compound. The group will be back on August 8, in Kyeemyindaing township.
“Some donors generously contributed more than K10,000. They wouldn’t accept a gift, but told me to save these artworks for other donors,” said Thein Tun Oo, a cartoonist and founder of COF.
On August 9, their group, consisting of 80 young people, will go to villages in Minbya, Mrauk-Oo, Kyauktaw, and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine State. The flood-ravaged villages are believed not to have received any assistance.
Flooding caused by Cyclone Komen began on July 30. Twelve out of 14 states and regions are now underwater and thousands of people have lost their homes, farms and gardens, their crops, food, supplies and personal belongings. A range of national and international groups are assisting where they can.
The government said yesterday that 39 people had lost their lives over the past week and more than 200,000 people had been affected by heavy monsoon rains and flooding across the country.
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