5th Update October 22nd 2008

Yangon, October 22, 2008

Dear Friends,

It has been almost six months since Cyclone Nargis blew through Burma’s remote delta shores, the storm wreaking a path of destruction that resulted in the worst natural disaster in the country’s recorded history. We have been living with delta village women for most of October, helping them restart their pre-cyclone small businesses and create new ones. I write this while waiting for a boat to take us back to the main delta town, Labutta.

As of June 24 of this year, the United Nations reports indicate that the official death toll from the Cyclone stood at 84,537, with over 50,000 people still missing and almost 20,000 injured. The unofficial death toll is probably closer to150,000. Of the area’s 7.35 million population, 2.4 million people were severely affected by the cyclone. More women and children died than men, resulting in a disproportionate gender population. Over 800,000 people were displaced, with 200,000 of those living in camps. Most of the fishing and rice-farming livelihoods were destroyed.

Nargis’s survivors are bravely grieving their losses. They now face the grim reality that their once reliable fresh water sources are salt contaminated. The summer monsoon rains that fill their ponds and cisterns have stopped early, and their wells are salty. As in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: water, water everywhere, and yet there is not a drop to drink. Neither is there a whisper of wind, and the ink is frying on the paper. How will all these people find enough water to drink until the monsoon rains of next June? It was difficult for the women working with us to focus on learning new job skills while they worried about their children drinking salty well water at home. We gave the mothers a safe drinking water and water conservation workshop, and left a good supply of chloride tablets and rain catchment tarps, but their worries will continue.

Summary and follow up of our immediate relief initiated in May and June

$12,500 – Rebuild /repair 6 village primary schoolsI visited 5 of the schools. Two had further funding from other donors enabling them to lay cement floors. With our help, the schools were able to build sub-ceilings for heat reduction, as well as salt-resistant fruit tree planting in four of the schools. All five schools were filled with healthy children happy to be learning in safe schools.

$10,000 – Repair 5 monastery primary schoolsI visited all 5 monastery primary schools. Four were fully functional once all repairs were completed. One, however, was still under repair. Unfortunately, this school could not reconvene after Nargis because there were no teachers.

$5,000 – Mother-Child health (tetanus vaccinations, prenatal care) to 20 villages
Completed.

$4,000 – Rebuild 3 Baptist Churches
All three completed

$2,300 – Fund 3 mobile medical clinics for three weeks
Completed. Over 5,000 patient visits during this time.

$5,000 – Fresh water pond recovery for 40 one-acre ponds All but 5 ponds were immediately recovered and filled with rain water. Unfortunately, many of the ponds are now contaminated with salt water.

$3,500 – Rice Farm recovery to 2 small villages
Completed, with rice crops currently growing.

$800 – School health clinics
Completed, with 1500 child health screening examinations.

$600 – 15 School Action Learning BoxesI visited 5 of the schools using the boxes, and found them in use by both teachers and students, who were excited about receiving replacements and new teaching devices.

$350 – Teacher salary support
To be continued through December.

$260 – Widow support for 6 months
To be continued through December.

$150 – Support for 3 blind children to attend Baptist Blind School in Yangon
To be continued for three years.

Summary of our longer term recovery support initiated in July and August

$12,000 – Start-up for nonprofit social business GoodSleep. GoodSleep is completing its third month of operation. Of our seven production employees, three are healthy women living with HIV/AIDS. Of the 935 bed nets made to date, we have sold 630 and maintained an inventory of 275. Half of these bed nets were bought by NGOs to distribute to cyclone victims. We are ready to scale up production and sales now that our operation is fully functional by buying long-lasting impregnated-insecticide net in bulk from China, and by purchasing a small truck to enable us to sell directly to customers. I will be sending a separate report about BusinessKind’s progress in attaining 501c3 status and GoodSleep’s plans for 2009.

$1000 – Cyclone affected Women’s Livelihood recovery and creationI was asked by the French NGO Acted to create and implement a $50,000 grant for women’s livelihood regeneration in a severely cyclone affected area. I contributed $1000 of our funds to salary a local Myanmar field manager of the program. Acted is familiar with GoodSleep’s rapid success in employing women to produce and sell useful products. Having open access to ACTED’s infrastructure (helicopter, speed boat, computers, field house, mechanics, agronomists, logisticians, and accountants) allows us to use the money 100% on direct women services. I feel that our contribution of $1000 is magnified 50 times! Please e-mail me if you are interested in reading the program proposal and reports.

Special thank you to Tom Philips, Patrick Babinski, and Dan Deaver for helping me file 501c3 status for BusinessKind, and to Su Moon, Stan Sze, Don Taicher for good business advise. I will be in San Francisco for November and December then back to Burma in January.
Please e-mail me, helengunthorpe@gmail.com, or call 415-713-4728, with any comments, new contacts, ideas, or advise. Have a special Thanksgiving, celebrating all your generous caring and giving.

All my best, Helen

Selling GoodSleep bed nets directly to customers

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Selling GoodSleep bed nets GoodSleep office garden

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Post -Cyclone Nargis Women’s Livelihood Regeneration Program

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Village women’s meeting Cyclone widows