Well, we’ve had some crushing blows in the face of all the work we have done over this week on our Burma Cyclone Project to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis, but also amazing victories in the face of it.
After networking like mad in a country where we don’t speak the language and are tiptoeing around making any cultural faux pas with powerful business people, we have done amazingly well.
This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Burma Cyclone Project Updates: Here’s What’s Happening
We have confirmed that the Red Cross here in Chiang Mai will not accept donations in-kind as we had hoped and originally heard. And if we make a cash donation to them, they are unwilling to work with us to track how the donation is spent.
We had really hoped to stimulate the Chiang Mai economy by purchasing the goods here, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be logistically possible.
We understand; for aid agencies to accept donations in kind is unrealistic. People at large can’t anticipate the needs of victims in the event of a crisis. If they are not physically close to the crisis, the cost of transporting the goods can cost an aid agency way more in the end than if they could source the goods themselves.
So the Red Cross suggested that if we want to make a donation in kind, that we should work through the Thai military.
….and minutes later, we confirmed that the Thai military will deliver the goods directly into the hands of the Burmese military. This is not only unacceptable to us personally, but would land us in jail for violating the Canadian Sanction laws we were already warned by our embassy of trodding dangerously close to.
So it is sad. Through the above avenues, and a flurry of emails and contacts with various other aid agencies, it has become apparent that we cannot possibly purchase goods ourselves with the generous donations we have received and transport them to Burma.
In almost any other country in the world, this strategy would have been possible, at least to some extent. However we have found ourselves navigating one of the toughest situations we could ever find ourselves in: trying to give aid to a country with closed borders, a totalitarian government, and a military that keeps an ever watchful eye on absolutely everything.
Just in case you aren’t totally aware of what life is like (on a good day) in Burma, read the George Orwell book “1984”. Orwell actually spent many years in Burma, and I recently read another book written by a woman who proposed that “1984” was actually about his Burma experiences. She traveled there and retraced Orwell’s footsteps. Through her own experiences and the stories of people who knew Orwell, the author painted a picture in today’s Burma very similar to what Orwell describes in “1984”.
But I digress. Here is the final scoop of what we are pursuing.
We have been working diligently with the folks at ShelterBox both in Canada and the UK. We confirmed that the last shipment of 1,000 boxes reached Myanmar and are being distributed. They have reports, pictures, and video to illustrate this. We are hoping to get some more of these pictures to share with you.
You, the reader and donor, may ask why not just make the donation directly to ShelterBox. If you wish to do so, you may certainly go right ahead. It is an amazing program in which each box provides everything a family of 10 needs to survive for up to six months.
And since survival is all the Burmese people are looking at right now, and because ShelterBox is getting aid and Response Team members in without being stopped by the military, we believe this is a great cause to get behind.
But here are a few reasons why you may wish to donate to us instead and allow us to redirect the money:
- They will waive their usual 10% administration fee. All ShelterBox employees are volunteers, but as with any organization, there is a cost to keep it up and running. Because of the nature of the work we have done, they will absorb this cost and ensure that 100% of the money sent goes directly to the cause.
- We have also confirmed that the donation we make to ShelterBox Canada will be flagged specifically for Burma, expedited, and added to the next shipment. They will be accountable to us, and we will in turn communicate everything to our donors.
- To that end, there is no guarantee if you make a direct donation to ShelterBox that it will be allocated to Burma, since ShelterBox is also working in a number of other countries, including China.
- We also heard through the grapevine that CIDA (a Canadian governmental organization) will be matching donations to Canadian humanitarian organizations for Burma relief. We are looking at the possibilities, but we hope to double our donation using this grant!
In order to be completely above board, we must add:
We have as close to a guarantee as possible from the head of ShelterBox in the UK that our money will go directly to aid in Burma. But with the tenuous political situation in Burma, we all know that anything could change at the drop of a hat if they refuse to continue the relationship as it currently stands.
Having said that we have the highest confidence that ShelterBox will indeed get another shipment in, and that our boxes will be on that airplane. But as with so many things in life, nothing is for sure.
In the News….again!
CBC seems to love us (and we love them for it)!
Watch CBC Newsworld at 7:30am on Saturday morning for another live phone interview with the latest updates.
And Kas Roussy and her cameraman have spent the last two days with us and are heading back to Bangkok shortly to send our story in to The National. We expect it will air on Sunday night at 9pm EST on Newsworld, and then 10pm EST on the National. You can watch a replay here.