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Myanmar (Burma) Update

I am back from the assessment trip in Myanmar (Burma)—re. Cyclone Nargis, 2008—just in time to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

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As your representative in the field, I work hard to identify survivors who are still in need years after the disaster   It is my job to find people who would not be helped otherwise and not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations—that’s the MicroAid way.  We don’t want to use our funds to do something that would be done anyway.  Our beneficiaries have no other recourse.

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Since your donations are only spent on projects—overhead is covered by me, the board of directors, and select foundation grants—those resources are only used when I think they can help the right people under the right circumstance in the most efficient way.

So, that being said, here’s the Myanmar report:

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“Everyone leaves Burma exhausted.”  That’s what the country director of a giant international aid organization told me one day during a meeting.  And he was right; Myanmar is a complex work environment.  It was, by far, the most difficult place I’ve had to navigate.

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In fact, I thought I was going to be able to combine the assessment trip with a project, but that turned out to be futile.  A combination of politics, accessibility, and just plain bad luck convinced me to come back and to preserve MicroAid’s resources for another country—probably the Philippines in 2015.  I was able to identify some situations where we could have helped, but they were not exactly “on mission” (houses or tools for disaster survivors) and there were other aid organizations on the scene.

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Myanmar is a fascinating place, though—full of Buddhist spirit, pagodas, and genuinely nice and honest people.  Unfortunately, they are still oppressed (and repressed) by a military dictatorship.  Even though there have been some reforms of late, there is no change in the plight of the average Burmese.

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There is a lot of development happening, though, and a worldwide interest in the place—it’s a “sexy” travel destination.  Sadly, there are no quaint towns in Myanmar—most have undistinguished soviet-era-style construction and uncontrolled pollution on every level.

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In the countryside, there are still vast areas of natural beauty.  I hope they will be able to keep it pristine.  It will be a challenge.

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As for the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, and other people in need, there is a huge international humanitarian-aid presence in Myanmar—it is “the” place to be for nonprofit organizations, too—every giant ngo from Oxfam and Save the Children to Medecins Sans Frontiers and WorldVision are in the country with huge budgets and staff.  I was able to arrange for one of them to look into the situations that I found in the delta, but was unable to gain authorization to help.

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So that’s it for now.  I am settling back in after a long journey around the globe.

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I like that I am representing people in an effort to help others—the MicroAid concept—and that it is recognized and appreciated in the field.

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I hope you and your family are healthy and happy and secure.

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All the best for 2015… and beyond.

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Jon

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