My journey began on Wednesday leaving Adelaide at 7pm and reaching Sydney 9:30Pm, On Thursday at 7:30am I took the flight from Sydney to Indonesia accompanied by Brother Bashar Al-Jamal; Human Appeal Australia’s Director. We arrived and arrived in Jakarta at 4pm.
Next day (Friday) in the morning we met with our partners in Indonesia to discuss the preparation of our aid and the safety of our trip.
We arrived at Yangon later that day. On Saturday we had a very early flight to Sittawi where the city is surrounded by Muslim Camps and villages. We arrived at 8:30am and headed to our hotel (the only hotel for foreigners) waiting for an ok to head to camps for distribution, we kept getting mix signals to confirm if we could head out for distribution, we spent all day in one of the rooms due to the hotel operated by the Burmese government and while we waited it was not advised we wait in lobby or outside area. We waited all day and we could not go out for distribution. Later that day we got approval.
Next Day (Sunday) we got all required paperwork sorted and got all approvals to head to camps. We drove around 40 mins to pass the security check and entered into where Muslim villages and camps are. Majority of these camps are surrounded by police and army compound. our first stop was visiting an old school where facilitates close to 1000 kids, current building is falling apart and not safe at all for kids to be in it especially upstairs where the balcony fence is broken and wooden floor is full of white ants. We laid the first foundation for a secondary school to be built at the back of current school and renovate the current. This school is serving around 6 villages; kids have to travel long distance to get to this school. Currently majority of the teachers get around $50 per month and this get collected from the community inside the camp to help educate their kids. We promised them to arrange decent monthly wages for their teachers for a whole year. We also promised full uniforms for students, School stationary and uniforms, study decks and blackboards.
We then distributed lots lollies and balloons to kids and most importantly playing with them and making them very happy. Then we moved to widow sister who has 3 children and going through hard time trying to survive. We recorded her story and situation so we can provide aid Insha’Allah.
We then moved to another location for the opening of a new school. We were greeted warmly with majority of the students and the teachers, Alhamdulillah brother Bashar did the opening speech, we listened to head of school, teachers, community members and students talk about how over whelmed they were to have this school. We then distributed bags and stationary to students and once again promised 20 volunteer teachers that we will pay them decent monthly wage for a whole year, and then distributed gifts to students.
The school was amazing, the building, student decks, blackboards etc. were all done inside the villages and camps so not only the school provided the much needed education to these kids but it created income generation project for our brothers and sisters there. The school is used as a primary school but they have high school students attending afternoon sessions and old illiterate adults after them at night time, we were amazed how they wanted to utilize the school for most of the day. We also discussed turning the school into a learning institute like a Tafe to learn skills and build income generation projects after adult illiterate session.
Once again we spent an amazing time playing with students and making them all smile.
Then we moved to another camp where distributed hot meals which included meat and they were very happy as one man told us “Alhamdulillah but we are sick of just eating bread and vegetables” we surly gave them the joy of eating meat. We also had lunch with them and prayed in their masjid. We promised them iftar every night during Ramadan Insha’Allah. It was sad leaving them and once again, we distributed lollies to kids on our way out.
Then we moved to different location where we distributed Food packs which contained 25kg Rice, 2 litre Oil, 2 Kg sugar, 3 kg Dall, 5 packs of noodle etc. we managed to distribute close to 1000 families where they currently don’t have any support from WFP or any other agencies, what we gave them was a huge relief to them especially just before Ramadan. Once again we met the locals and it was heart breaking listening to their stories and what they have been through. We visited a sister whose husband was killed and living in a very tough situation with her orphan children. Before we left we distributed lollies and balloons to kids.
Our last stop was seeing villages where we have water wells built, some areas was very hard to access and we had to go on motorbikes, in one area brother Bashar fell of the bike but alhamdulillah he was ok. We witnessed the great effect of our water wells to the people, even kids had their fun share of playing and enjoying themselves with water, once again before we left we distributed lollies and balloons to children. We had children chasing us when we were heading by bike to our cars, they were very happy to see us and sad to see us leave.
Our original plan was to leave that night hence we left the camps around 5 and got back to our hotel to prepare for flight but as it happen many time during our trip, our flight was changed to 6:30 next morning, later that night we got notified that its actually 8:30 and not 6:30 which meant all our other international flight we could not make. Once again all our flights were changed again and we managed to get back to Yangon.
State Director – SA
Human Appeal Australia