Million-Dollar Response to Cyclone Nargis

“I’m very happy because I and my children can now live in a safer house,” said Daw Thein Htay from Kwin Ma Gyi village in Burma (known officially as Myanmar).

Htay, a widowed mother of two, lost her home during Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Today she lives in a new house, thanks to a project funded by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC).

Htay makes her living as a day laborer, planting and harvesting nearby fields. When there is no work, she sells fruits, vegetables, snacks, and firewood in town.

With no stable source of income, she has always lived hand to mouth and struggled to meet all her children’s needs. After the cyclone destroyed her home, she felt she would never be able to afford a new one.

“I and my family lived under a tarp,” she said. “It felt like we were being boiled alive in the summer as the heat is intense and the tarp also absorbs the heat.

“I also felt unsafe when the monsoon season came,” recalled Htay. “Although I wanted to build a house, it is a difficult thing for a widow like me. It would have taken years.”

Nargis caused about $10 billion in damage and left 140,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. CRWRC supporters responded, donating $720,000 to aid cyclone survivors.

With additional funding received through the Canadian Reformed World Relief Fund and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the oversight of CRWRC’s International Relief Managers Hans Helleman and Marvin and Lorraine Vandervalk, CRWRC has now completed a two-year disaster response program totaling $1,177,000.

The response included providing emergency food, blankets, kitchen kits, tarps, solar lamps, and medical kits. CRWRC also worked with World Concern Myanmar to distribute 609 fishing boats and 2,796 nets to more than 2,000 local fishermen, and restored people’s access to water through the construction of eight wells and the rebuilding of shallow ponds.

Five rice banks were also constructed to help store rice seed and keep it from being destroyed by future monsoons.

When the program ended in April 2010, CRWRC had helped to build 480 cyclone-resistant homes—coconut wood frame structures on precast concrete footings with bamboo mat walls and floors and corrugated galvanized iron-sheet roofing.

“I no longer worry about shelter,” said Htay. “Thank you for providing us a strong and safe shelter. Now it is our home. Home sweet home!”

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

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