CTF Thailand and CTF Indonesia Collaborate
Nearly a year after the landfall of Cyclone Nargis in May, 2008 the populations of Thailand and Myanmar continue to feel the effects of the catastrophe on their livelihoods and quality of existence. The CTF, in collaboration with other organizations, responded to the disaster by providing for the following needs of the affected: medical, the disbursement of supplies and funding, the provision of agricultural equipment, consolation in the form of spiritual and emotional support. See Recent Disaster Response: CTF Thailand – Myanmar Mission #1 – Part 1.
In our previous report on the efforts of CTF Thailand and CTF Indonesia (Myanmar Mission 2 – Part 1) in the Camillian Task Force SOS DRS April 2009 Newsletter, we discussed both the preparations required for the success of Mission 2 and some of the challenging delays our team encountered due to governmental intervention and the uprisings at the Suvarnabhumi Airport. We also recounted the efforts of Theresia Sinaga at the Camillian Home for People with Disabilities as she awaited authorization to travel.
The Joint Mission to Chiangrai
Finally, despite interruptions, God interceded on behalf of both His suffering people and the Camillian team. The latter was finally able to solidify travel arrangements for a mission into Myanmar scheduled for December 14 through 19. As the team awaited for final clearance to travel into the country, though, the partners of the Camillians in Myanmar and 23 BDA volunteers, under the leadership of Mr. Myo Thein, commenced with the previously proposed activities. In Kyauktan (near Yangon), they served the Zamburatanar Nunnery School where they provided medical services and provided an enjoyable afternoon for the young students by serving a lunch consisting of rice, chicken curry, preserved fish and other savory fare.
Meanwhile, the Camillian team in Thailand decided to zealously serve the Lord and their neighbors by helping the cyclone-affected populations in Chiangrai, Thailand. This area is located in the forested hill country of Thailand near the Myanmar border. The residents there often sport traditional Thai attire yet speak Burmese (Myanmarian). Luckily, students were present to translate. In their subsequent communication, team members expressed both feelings of joy for the opportunity to serve and alienation (as they were unable to access the internet to communicate with others regarding their activities!).
In her correspondence Theresia Sinaga highlights how activities commenced in Chiangrai on December 7 with the celebration of the Eucharist. Afterwards, the Camillian team ministered to the needs of about 100 patients through two mobile clinics.
The 40 mobile-clinic team members consisted of three doctors: Dr. Chusak Pankerd (Camillian Hospital, Bangkok), Dr. Manas Ratanachokthorani, and Dr. Pusha Nakrue (San Camillo Hospital). There were also a dentist, nurses and volunteers from the two hopitals – Camillian and San Camillo. During four days they served approximately 100 residents in two villages – predominantly children.
Theresia Sinaga reported that the populations of the remote farming villages they served were living in poverty. Road conditions left much to be desired. Although clean water was available, a cold climate and a lack of funds for supplies contributed to less than optimal hygiene. Baths were often a weekly luxury for the villagers. Common maladies included skin diseases and infestation by lice. Medical services in the locality are limited to those provided annually by mobile clinics.
After her return to Bangkok and prior to departing for the December mission into Myanmar, Theresia reported she was very much moved by the Holy Spirit as she witnessed both two Camillian brothers taking their final vows and later the ordination of three Camillian priests.
The team flew from Bangkok into Myanmar via Thai Airways. The option of driving would have added many hours to the journey, and the passage through security checkpoints presented the hazard of even more delays. Officials are reluctant to allow visitors to travel outside of Yangon. Even donations on behalf of the population were restricted. By mandate, disbursements to the needy could be made only through the local authorities.
Upon the arrival of the team in Myanmar, Fr. Rocco met with the Chairman of the BDA and Ms. Daw Moe Soe (founder of the CSI) regarding the arranged programs and future joint collaboration with the BDA and the CSI. The participants discussed the medical and agriculture needs of the affected Myanmarian population, including the feasibility of providing a water purification system to satisfy the immediate need for drinking water.
Subsequently, the Camillian team members embarked upon their journey to Bogolay. When they arrived at the pier, the team was greeted by CSI volunteers, who arrived armed with supplies, medication, and two boxes of Safe Delivery Kits donated by UNFPA. They crossed the Yangon River to Bogolay by ferry and then transferred to a taxi with four bald tires and no air conditioning. Traveling for 5 hours via roads that were under construction, the passengers braced themselves during the turbulent journey. They were moved with compassion as they observed the local citizens using the polluted river water for washing and drinking purposes.
When the team arrived at the temple in Bogolay, they utilized candles and a car battery for power and light. For three nights, eleven people slept on the temple floor on straw mats beneath the protection of mosquito nets. The following day, the team commenced on their mission to offer assistance to a series of local villages that had been affected by the wrath of Nargis.
Population: 646 (158 families)
Elementary students: 164; Teachers: 5
Population: 762 (195 families)
Subsistence: Farming, fishing
Travel Time: 1 hour+ (2 km)
The team departed from the pier near the Bogolay Temple along with the temple Abbot in a small boat laden with oils, onions & candles for distribution. Along the way, Fr. Rocco observed that the palm trees along the river banks were bare except for a few young leaves. The mature leaves had been used for construction following the disaster.
The village school had collapsed during the Cyclone and had been replaced with two small tents covered with plastic. The temperatures within were stifling. Residents had been waiting in vain for governmental support for new construction for over a year (estimated at US $17,000). When activities were concluded, team members realized that the tides had relocated their vessel: they trudged about a kilometer with their supplies before they were able to depart.
Pin Lai Thein Village, Bogolay Township
Population: 724 (132 Families)
Travel Time: 2 hours
The following day, while the team gulped down a hurried meal, obliging villagers assisted by loading supplies onto the boat. Upon arrival, the team discovered that the school consisted of a temporary shelter. Although CTF Thailand had previously provided some financial support for renovation, the need for a new temple and community facility was evident.
Oak Tube Village, Bogolay Township
Population: 2080 (410 Families)
Students: 180 (5 teachers)
Subsistence: Farming, fishing
The team performed medical services in the monastery compound, which doubled as the school. Once again, tidal influences prevented a timely departure. The team worked into the wee hours and staggered to their boat in darkness, with only a few flashlights to illuminate their path. Upon arriving in Bogolay, the exhausted missionaries were left with only one hour to recuperate until their scheduled departure to the next location.
Ngwe Taung Yan Village, Bogolay Township
Travel time: 2 hours
Upon arrival, the fatigued missionaries were greeted by the Abbot of Pyisimaryone Monastery, U Cin Tita Likara. In the Burmese culture, monasteries serve the communities in numerous capacities. They function as schools for underprivileged children and as points of distribution for supplies and shelter during disasters. “According to the social welfare department, 740 monasteries were destroyed and 3,235 monasteries were badly damaged when Cyclone Nargis made landfall on May 2 and 3 (See MYANMAR: Cyclone-hit monasteries in need).
The monks themselves often receive more respect and credibility than the village officials for maintaining, spiritual social and material balance within their communities. Thus, the Abbott is a key reference person for identifying the needs of the members of his community.
CTF Thailand had previously provided support to Ngwe Taung Yan Village for the erection of a clinic and housing. The team was pleased at the efficiency with which the clinic was operated. Since its grand opening on November 26, 2008, it has provided free services to 346 patients, and saved 4 lives. Medical services are provided by physicians and volunteers on a rotating schedule under the supervision of the Abbot. Fr. Rocco provided the Abbot with an advance for the expenses of medications for another three months, as per agreement.
Upper Kyane Lada Village, Mawkyun Township
Population: 944 (218 Families)
Students: (Government Primary School): 120 (Grades 1-8)
Upon arrival to Upper Kyane Lada Village by boat, the team was welcomed by Abbot Dhama Tarmi of Maha Bodi Monastery. The team discovered that nearly every house in the village had been destroyed by Cyclone Nargis. The nearest health care facilities, accessible only via a narrow path through a field, were 6 km away.
On December 17 – Fr. Rocco, Myo Thein, U Cin Tita Likara, Marissa Khomin and U Dhama Tarmi discussed future collaboration. The St. Camillus Foundation of Thailand agreed to provide help in conjunction with the Pyisimaryone Monastery to facilitate the construction of a medical clinic with basic medical equipment, medical supplies and medications, along with a commitment to support the clinic with medications for one year. Abbott U Cin Tita Likara agreed to provide management, quality control, quarterly reporting and technical support. The clinic was to be modeled after the existing facility in Ngwe Taung Yan Village. The Pyisimaryone Monastery and the St. Camillus Foundation agreed to evaluate and monitor the clinic.
Upper Katha Bond Village, Mawkyun Township
Population: 350 (families – 100)
Pyisimaryone Monastery, Mawkyun
The group returned to Pyisimaryone Monastery where the Abbot had arranged for Fr. Rocco Pairat to distribute stationary to over 1,000 students at the monastic school that receives educational grants from the Camillians in Thailand. The subsequent voyage to Bogolay lasted two hours.
Thit Phyu Chaung Village, Bogolay Township
Population: 970, (families – 167)
Students: (Government Primary School- Grades 1- 5): 70
There are no communication mediums between Thit Phyu Chuang Village and the rest of civilization. Thankfully, the prior arrival of two volunteers ensured the proper organization of activities. No time was squandered with formalities.
The local school had been completely destroyed by the savage Cyclone. It was replaced by a sweltering temporary shelter. The need for a new building, at an estimated cost of 166 Lakhs, was apparent.
Three children of the village were orphaned by Nargis’ tirade. Ms. May Yamon Soe (age 15, grade 10) and Ms. Thue Tar Khin (age 11, grade 7) live with their grandmothers. Mr. A Shin Thiha (age 12) is living in the monastery as a novice. All three require educational support.
The team provided medical services and supplies: oil, onions and candles. There were no latrines in the village so arrangements were made to provide funds for the purchase of plastic latrines for every family in the village. Arrangements were also made to provide support for the construction of a bridge from Thit Phyu Chaung Village to Ma Ye Ywar Village, at the request of the head of the village committee.
Fr. Rocco Pairat visited the temporary school and a piece of land that had been donated to the community to build a clinic. One of the villagers has been attending a three- month nurse assistant training course in Yangon with the support of CSI volunteers. Upon completion of the training, she plans to return to the village and provide for the basic health care needs of villagers. Fr. Rocco felt that it would be agreeable to explore the possibility and logistics of future funding for the village.
Return to Yangon
Following another arduous 2-hour cruise and a 3-hour taxi-ride, the team arrived in Yangon just in time to rid themselves of the rural dust that had accumulated during their ride and then board their flight back to Bangkok.
Despite the challenges, the team had realized many of its goals. Theresia Sinaga’s correspondence indicates her satisfaction with the mission in spite of the hardships.
She reports, “I was happy to meet people from other countries and to share in their experiences. I feel that I have been blessed to have made so many new friends that I made in the service of the Lord. As a missionary, I would like to invite and encourage others to give of their time in missionary service as well. As Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brothers (and sisters,) you do unto me.’ We should think about and pray concerning this message.”
Theresia Sinaga – CTF-SOS DRS Indonesian Coordinator
Susan M. Stefanski, Assistant Editor, CTF- SOS DRS Online Newsletter
The Catholic Catechism teaches. . .
“All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace and hold onto it as they have come to know it.” This duty derives from “the very dignity of the human person.” It does not contradict a “sincere respect” for different religions which frequently “reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men,” nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith. (Catechism of the Catholic Church – 2104)