HPA AN FLOOD RELIEF MISSION IN MYANMAR
A personal sharing by Christopher Yit, Christina Yit, Jerome Teo
In the months of June and August 2018, we were confronted daily with news of earthquakes and floods from Mongolia to Loas, Lombok to Kerala. Hence, we were unsurprised to receive a call for assistance by Bishop Justin Saw Min Thide through Sister Superior Jessica Salvana and the Salesian community in Yangon, Myanmar.
The Caritas Humanitarian Aid and Relief Initiative Singapore (CHARIS) and ACTS made financial pledges to support some of the countries, and we had further discussions on whether we should send representatives to assist in the distribution of relief packages to the victims as well.
While still deciding on whether to proceed, the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, rang out to us.
“We are called to find Christ in the poor, to lend our voices to their causes, to be their friends, to listen to them, to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them”.
The decision became very clear then, that we should not only send financial aid but to be there physically to show our solidarity and support, to touch the suffering flesh of Christ embodied in these disaster victims.
Three members of our Catholic community – Jerome Teo, Christopher Yit and Christina Yit –responded to the call and reached out to the flood victims in the area of Hpa An, Myanmar, which was hit by severe flooding due to prolonged heavy rains which caused the Than Lwin river to overflow.
The victims were mainly padi farmers who have lost their livelihood as their rice fields were all destroyed by the flood, and their homes and villages consumed under water.
Jerome, Christopher and Christina assisted the Salesian sisters to purchase, prepare, pack and deliver food supplies to two villages near to Hpa An. Access to the villages was by vehicles on mud tracks and by boats.
On 1 September 2018, the team reached out to 116 families in the village of Nga Net Pyar. The villagers, predominantly Buddhists, had to carry their supplies on their heads and shoulders, wading carefully through the flood waters.
On 2 September 2018, the team further reached out to 120 families or 700 villagers (predominantly Catholics) in Hton Bo Quay village.
Before the food supplies were distributed to the families, the message of “Hope, Love and Charity” was delivered to the villagers, translated by Sister Agatha and Father Anselm Nay Zaw Oo. The team could clearly see the faces of gratitude and the love God had brought to them and their families.
As we left Hpa An for Singapore, we continued to pray for good weather and a bountiful harvest in the near future for the affected villagers. A powerful reminder from Pope Francis was constantly in our hearts...
“The world tells us to seek success, power and money; God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”
In reflection, we were comforted and inspired by the villagers, who despite the lack of basic necessities like food, clean water and proper sanitation, remained resilient, patient and loving towards one another. They live a life of gratitude and hope, knowing that they will not be forgotten.