This is an appeal to gain funds for a very worthy cause. Help International Burma.
Those of you who know my posts may recall that back in 2005, I worked for a few months in Thailand on a grass-roots tsunami relief project, in an area that had received no assistance at all - neither from the Thailand government nor any NGO. Yojimbo posted a thread about it, and I believe several dopers kindly made a contribution to this cause.
The situation in the cyclone-damaged areas of Burma is similar to what we encountered in Thailand regarding governmental neglect, only vastly larger, and far, far worse.
In Thailand I worked alongside a wonderful Thai woman called G___, who was volunteering as a representative of a Christian charity from Chiang Mai in the north of the country. My respect for G___ and her group is immense: though missionaries they worked tirelessly, motivated out of compassion, and did not seek to convert or proselytize to the Buddhist and Muslim people they were assisting.
G___ is now trying to get into Burma to provide the same assistance that we did in Thailand: clearance, rebuilding, restocking of damaged businesses, providing replacement agricultural equipment or fishing boats, and moral support and friendship. Unfortunately I can’t currently give any details of G___'s group, as she is currently trying to get a visa, and does not want any publicity, since the Burmese authorities are so atrocious and may block them if details are publicised.
The group I worked for, Help International Phi Phi, went on to win one of Time Magazine’s Asia’s Heroes awards (the only tsunami group to receive this honor). The ethos of HI Phi Phi was to start small, and to work with the victims to help themselves: there were no hand-outs. People were either given replacements for lost tools of their trade, to start being able to earn again, or directly employed to help their peers and the volunteers to rebuild their communities. It’s the most worthwile thing I’ve ever been involved with, and proved to me that nothing is ever completely hopeless: today, thanks to HI Phi Phi, the island of Phi Phi, which had more than 70% of its buildings destroyed, and lost 30% of its population, is rebuilt and is a thriving community again.
HI Phi Phi is now scattered all over the world, back in our home countries, but a core of about a hundred volunteers still keep in touch with each other online. G___ contacted us for help and we have decided to resurrect the group’s philosophy, and help her raise as much money as we can. Thus we have formed Help International Burma (HI Burma).
Because of her Thai nationality, G___ is far more likely to be able to get a visa from the Burmese government than her western counterparts. She’s going on an exploratory trip to Yangon in May 25th, then returning to Thailand to stock up, then will head to the heart of the disaster zone. Additionally, two or three western volunteers are travelling out to Thailand (at their own expense) from the US, Canada, and the UK, and will attempt to cross the border. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to get there myself, or I’d be there like a shot to try to help out. My contribution so far is to set up the organization’s website.
Though international governments and the UN are now starting to be allowed to provide the fundamentals to keep people alive, their problems have really only just begun - and there’s another cyclone brewing. HI Burma will help them rebuild once their lives are saved. Unlike larger NGOs, an contributions will go direct to the volunteer in the field to buy supplies for the victims of the cyclone. There are few administrative expenses, no middle-man, and no expenses for the volunteers, as they are already completely self-funded.
We currently have a PayPal account, accessible through the website, but are working to get charitable status in the US, and following that, contributions will be tax-deductible. However, this may take a while, and we need help now. Should the Burmese government utterly refuse to allow the volunteers in, the funds will be transferred to other validated Burma cyclone appeals.
Thanks very much for reading this, and thanks for any contributions you can make.
If you have any questions, please respond in this thread, or PM or email me.
*I have sought and permission from TPTB to post this thread, and received permission to do so - with gratitude.