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Friday, December 5, 2008

Myanmar Update: rebuilding and healing

Half a year later, Cyclone Nargis survivors in Myanmar are working hard to recover home, health, and occupation. The face of recovery has many different expressions. HOPE International Development Agency is at work with the people on initiatives ranging from road reconstruction to memorial services to honour the dead. The photo shown above was taken at one such service.

Two themes, physical work and communal healing, continue to permeate this rebuilding effort. A HOPE worker describing the clean-up process has said:

An organizing process takes place so that volunteers are matched up with community members from a set of villages near one another. These joint teams select leadership from among the community members and then they work together to clean up not only their own village, but those of their nearby neighbors, as well. In this way, we are trying to use the cyclone as an opportunity to help people reach across former boundaries to create a new sense of community and sharing where the old community and community relationships may no longer exist. HOPE has provided basic cleanup equipment and supplies to each of these teams, along with feeding all the team members during the cleanup process. HOPE has also helped to define the organizing and operating principles that the teams use and has provided counsel to local partners regarding the inevitable trauma experiences that this cleanup process will evoke. Our local partners have managed to gain the support of 1,431 volunteers and community members in these cleanup teams! As one foreign aid worker recently said, work on the Nargis aftermath reminds us of an anthill – thousands of local people are swarming to repair damage in many small and some not-so-small places and ways. The story of this disaster response and of its successes thus far includes actors from both inside and outside the country. But the heroes continue to be the local people who, time and time again, rally to overcome the insurmountable.

Survivors are working hard to put together the broken pieces of their material world, but the task of healing Myanmarese society is always pressing. Many are taking up this task with real heroism.

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