Follow us by email

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Restoring hope and dignity for families in Mynamar

It will soon be five years since families in Mynamar’s conflict-ridden North Shan and Kachin states fled their homes in search of safety. The camps families currently inhabit were never meant to be permanent, but rather, a safe respite from the violence that plagues the region.

Life in the camps is tough on children and parents alike. A high proportion of people in the camps are farming families who are used to being self-reliant rather than dependent. And while the families recognize they need aid in order to survive, what they really want is to be self-reliant again and regain the dignity stolen from them by the conflict that surrounds them.

It is hard to maintain a sense of dignity while being dependent on outside support for food, shelter, and other aspects of life. Mothers and fathers do whatever they can to make themselves available for any type of odd job that comes their way, but odd jobs are in short supply and not always available, leaving parents and their families vulnerable.

HOPE International Development Agency is helping ensure that children living in the camps can continue their education are not be lost to poverty because of the conflict (see recent post).

We are also working with parents who are having a very difficult time providing for their families. Skills training and assistance are being provided to help parents enhance their camp-based livelihoods. These initiatives reduce dependency, enhance dignity, and build up the capabilities of families.

In camps where agricultural land is available, communal farming tool sets, including rakes, hoes, watering cans, have been provided in order to give families what they need in order to till the soil and grow their own food. Families also collect local seeds, including dill, mustard, long bean, tomato, parsley, eggplant, and cucumber, and share them amongst themselves so that seeds do not have to be purchased. Aside from saving money, using local seeds enables families to collect and save their own seeds for subsequent crop plantings.

In camps where agriculture is not possible due to space constraints, we are helping families establish savings and loans groups.

Local staff work with group members to develop viable business plans, provide financial management training, and create group rules to manage savings and loans. Each group receives a cash grant to provide low-interest short-term loans to their group members. Small businesses created so far include small vegetable shops and grocery stores, pig raising, noodle shops, and handicraft enterprises.

To date, 100% of the small loans given to group members have been paid back to their groups, enabling the funds provided through this initiative to be used many times over to help even more families attain self-sufficiency.

Income earned through new businesses is helping parents send their children to school, buy nutritious food, and make repairs to their modest dwellings.

Families living in the camps are regaining their dignity and a sense of hope, as well as skills for the future when they return to their home villages.

A savings and loan group member tends her small grocery stall.