Myanmar Week 4: Humanitarian Response
Health Care | Education | Psycho-spiritual Assistance | Rebuilding
The people of Myanmar had to weather the viruses of Covid-19. As medical staff walked out of their jobs after the military seized power on February 1, the Myanmar Healthcare system shattered. As COVID-19 infections peaked, hospitals could not accommodate the patients, and as a result, countless individuals died in their homes.
In those difficult times, Fr. Paul OP personally went to give medicines and food to the families who contracted the virus and bedridden in their homes. In Loikaw, with the help of a retired nurse, Fr. Moses, OP set up a small clinic for the displaced people in the convent. Besides, he also bought medicines and delivered them to various displaced camps in the state.
To respond to the needs of healthcare, we have formed a Medical Team which consists of Fr. Mariano Kai OP, Sr. Benedetta OP, Sr. Elizabeth Byama OP, a doctor and other volunteers. This team is in charge of buying medical supplies and delivering them to the places in need. This medical team is also providing medical supplies for students who are studying in community-based schools in various displaced camps. Besides, with the help of a volunteer doctor, the members of this team are also touring the camps and tents of displaced people in the forest regularly in order to check the physical conditions of the people and thus give the necessary medical assistance. If the situation permits, and should more funds be received, this medical team will set up a mini clinic for the displaced people in the forest and provide healthcare for the people there.
Schools were closed in 2020 due to wide spreading of Covid-19. After seizing the power, the military junta tried to open schools in 2021 but was not successful because most of the teachers refused to collaborate with them and students didn’t enroll for classes.
This year too, though the military government opened the schools, many students refuse to attend and teachers refuse to collaborate. At this moment, home-schooling and online classes are available for those who can afford, and have facilities, and for those who are living in safe zones. However, for those who have been displaced, opportunities for education are limited. In most camps, the people set up self-supporting schools for the children with the help of volunteer teachers. However, our parishioners and that of another parish do not have the resources.
Therefore, with the limited funds received from our Province and from the donors of the congregation of Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic, we decided to work together as a Dominican Family, and formed an Educational Support Team, composed of Fr. Marko Thoe Reh OP, Sr. Francesca Polo OP, and Bro. Simon Htoo OP and put our effort in this educational sector. We set up a temporary high school, St. Catherine of Siena’s School, in the forest for the students who are taking shelters in that area and with the help of 17 teachers, we are now running this school. The friars and sisters are not only supervising, they are also teaching some subjects to high school students; 187 students are attending the school we are running and 50 of them are boarding in the tents set up near the school. We are paying the teachers and two workers for helping us teach in our school. Besides sponsoring these 187 students, we are also giving minimal assistance to 293 elementary and primary students who are studying in their parents’ self-supporting primary and elementary schools in the forest and also supporting the teachers of these students.
As most of the displaced people are Catholics, pastoral care is also urgently needed. The 2000 Catholics, who are directly under our Dominican care, are also displaced at this moment. In the past year, Fr. Moses Dereh OP, Fr. John Sui OP, and Fr. Philip Soreh, OP had all been giving some pastoral cares to our parishioners by visiting them in their camps, hearing their confessions and regularly celebrating Eucharistic mass for them. Occasionally, the team members also create happy and relaxing moments for the students and children in the camps with the intentions of reducing stress and preventing unforeseen mental disorders . To respond to spiritual and psychological needs of the Catholics who are displaced, a Psycho-spiritual Assistance Team has been formed. This team is composed with Fr. John Maung Sui OP, Sr. Judith Mujar OP, and Sr. Lucia Baw Myar OP, and some catechists and leaders of the people are also added to assist. Months ago, the members of this team were trained for giving the Psychological First Aid to the people who have recently been exposed to a serious crisis event by a staff from the United Nations. Therefore, the team members are also offering a kind of psychotherapy to those who may have been traumatized because of wars, of losing homes, of losing their loved ones or because of other serious crisis. The displaced people are gathered and grouped according to their age and gender, and after some input, the participants are encouraged to share their stories and worries among their groups. The purpose of giving Psychological First Aid to the displaced people is to prevent from developing traumatic disorders.
This team is responsible for providing spiritual needs of the people who are dispersedly taking shelters in the forest. Every now and then, the team tours the camps, celebrate the Eucharistic mass for them, and accompany them in struggles, listen to their stories and offer them words of encouragement. Cooperating with the catechists, this team also organizes catechism classes for the children in order to give faith formation to them.
According to Data for Myanmar, the military and its affiliated groups have burned down over 30,000 civilian houses and still many others have been damaged by shelling. As of September, 20, 2022, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), also known as AAPP, confirmed that 2,299 civilians have been killed by the military forces and a total of 15,580 people have been arrested; currently, 12,435 are still under detention. Still, many other people have gone missing. To assist the people who need financial help in rebuilding their lives, we formed the “Rebuilding Team”, composed of Fr. Paul Aung Myint Win OP, Fr. Moses Dereh OP and Sr. Rosa Mu Mu Lin OP. This team is responsible for:
- giving financial assistance to the families who lost their homes, and to the families who lost their bread earners,
- giving assistance to those who have lost their limbs because of landmines,
- granting scholarships to the high school graduates in their search for vocational training courses.
The Dominican Family in Myanmar is doing its best in providing humanitarian assistance to the neediest people with the limited funds received. Therefore, in order to be able to continue providing assistance in the name of the Order, Myanmar Dominicans urgently need the support of the International Dominican Family.
Mynamar Webinar on Youtube
Our presentation Justice & Peace in Myanmar Webinar Sharing, Expectation, and Possibilities on Myanmar which was presented on Saturday, December 3, is available to view on YouTube via link: https://youtu.be/JZ0dEZwkg3s