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The Stories : Myanmar

Light of Hope for the Banyan Tree

Light of Hope for the Banyan Tree

My name is U Myint Wai (pictured right) and there are five members in my family. Before and after Nargis cyclone strikes our region, I worked as daily labour and sometime fishing in night to feed my family. My wife worked as a teacher in village monastic school. My eldest also worked as a paid farmer for land owners. My two daughters also had to work as daily labours to support our family basic needs.

My elder daughter went until grade ten but as we cannot afford for her school fees, she had to leave the school. Even though all of our family members work, we could not save any money for emergency uses, only the debt increased.

While working in others’ fields, I realised that as a skilled farmer only farming can get my family out from this desperate situation. Thus, with the hope to free from debt and have better situation, I asked my landowner to let me be his tenant. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance. As one of our Burmese saying, “There’s no chance of little banyan tree to grow under a full-grown banyan tree”, who will give us a chance to grow. Thus, the ray of hope to free from debt was fad away.

In August, 2011, by chance I attended the discussion about Rice Producers Group (RPG) held by World Concern Myanmar (Tearfund’s partner). The purpose of that discussion which is “to produce more rice and to have food security” attracted me. Hence, I joined the group. As a worker of a landowner, I have very limited time to participate in the group. Then, I decided to quit from group though I was interested in the group as I cannot fully follow the rules and regulations of the group. But with the encouragement and help of my fellow members, until now I can be a member of the group. The unforgettable words from one of my fellows said, “Do you want to be other’s worker and work for them the rest of your life? The objectives and procedures of this group can change our lives and our village!” His words help me to make a right decision.

In 2011-2012 season, I got a chance to work on 2.82 acres as a landless tenant and lend 70,000 kyats (€53.32) for farming materials and 90,000 kyats (€67.27) for initial farming cost with 1 percent interest rate. During that year, my children and I worked both in our field and as daily labours, and my wife taught as the old days. After repaying all the debts, I had eight baskets of seeds for next plantation and rice enough for one month for our family at the end of harvesting. I was very happy that I can have farming materials at the end of the season as they are essential tools to shape our dream.

This year, I work on 13.3 acres and my children and I, we work together in our fields. This year, I get a chance to lend 250,000 kyats (€186.86) for farming materials and 190,000 kyats (€142.01) for initial framing cost with 2 percent interest rate from RPG. Now, I have a buffalo, a till and a harrow that I never dream to own. Moreover, I get a chance to learn not only the new techniques related to framing but also capacity building training which help me to work more systematic in farming and get more knowledge in society. Another thing that I am so grateful is we can send our elder daughter, Kay Mi Kyaw, to school again.

In the past, our nights were full of stress and worries and we rarely had quality time for us. But now we can spend more time together – having dinner together, discussing our needs and future plans. Previously, we had to try very hard in order to give 2,000/3,000 (€1.49/€2.24) kyats donations for village social affairs but I can donate 150,000 kyats (€112.11) in last Ka Tain. As I am a Buddhist, I am so glad that I can make these good deeds.

My dream is to become a land owner and stand on our own. I decided to take part in keeping our Rice Produces Group last long and hand over to our new generations because this group is my guiding star. I would like to send my gratitude to World Concern Myanmar and all the donors who help me see the ray of hope for this life and life after this. I wish you can help more people like me and be a guiding star for many more banyan trees like me.

This particular Tearfund’s project finished couple of months ago but we keep people of Ayeyarwady Delta Region in our prayers.

More on Tearfund’s work in Myanmar

Tea with Aung San Suu Kyi (well, not actually)

Tea with Aung San Suu Kyi (well, not actually)

Recently I was in Myanmar. It’s a small country in South East Asia with a repressive military regime. The leader of the opposition movement Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for the best part of two decades and was only recently released. In spite of all this the local church is thriving among the tribal groups who live in the jungle regions and they are bringing transformation in the poorest areas of the country. The secret to their success is the integrity of their leaders and the intensity of their prayers.

I met a remarkable woman on my trip. It wasn’t actually Aung San Suu Kyi but Grace, a senior church leader of the Myanmar Baptist Convention, who shares a similar vision and passion for her country. Over a dinner of delicious Thai food Grace told me how the church is addressing poverty. ‘In conventional development outsiders come and “do things” for us. But this just makes our people dependent’. Tearfund’s long-term approach is to empower local communities by developing their skills and helping them discovery their own skills and resources. In one village they came together to begin building a well for clean water, Tearfund provided some technical expertise and they worked hard to get it built. ‘We feel a real sense of ownership’, says Grace ‘That minimizes dependency and makes change sustainable.’


Later that week, on a stifling hot Sunday morning I attended a local church. The sermon was in Burmese and my attention was beginning to drift. And then the congregation began to pray, and I was blown away…. Maybe I’ve led a sheltered prayer life but this was praying like I’d never seen before. I don’t know exactly what the congregation were praying for, but together, they were quite simply pouring out their hearts. Some knelt and prayed quietly to God. Other cried out loud, tears pouring down their faces. This was raw, honest, passionate prayer. They were praying as if their lives depended on it.

That is the vital spark to their prayer, their lives do depend on it. In Myanmar they are faced with government opposition and extreme poverty but through prayer and by working together they are seeing change in their society. May we be inspired by them.

What’s incredible is that this scene is played out again and again around the world. As night falls in Myanmar, and the prayers of the villagers come to an end, the sun is rising elsewhere, and the prayers of others are just beginning. Together, around the world, individuals, groups, churches are gathering and passionately praying for God’s will to be done, for lives to be transformed.

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