Teddy Dinh, Country Director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Burma, was busy constructing a jetty for a tsunami rehabilitation project near the villiage of Piensalu when the recent cyclone pounded the Southeast Asian nation.
He and a few colleagues narrowly escaped with their lives by taking shelter in a flooded rice storage facility from 5 pm until around midnight, when the storm finally began to subside. He was fortunate. The Baptist church where he had hoped to sleep was completely flattened by the cyclone. Worse, the bodies of 25 people, mostly women and children, were found inside. Now, he and his staff are working tirelessly to help the rest of the survivors in the surrounding villages.
“The staff really feels the need to help the people there, and every day they travel back to Piensalu, helping to clean, distribute food, and transport people back to Labutta, and Myaungmya,” he said.
For many people in the devastated delta area of Burma (Myanmar), the ADRA staff are familiar faces. They have been working in these communities for the last three years, helping them rebuild their lives after the devastation of the Southeast Asia tsunami. Several hundred people survived this latest disaster by hiding under the 32 bridges constructed by ADRA since the tsunami. The largest, 35 feet long, provided secure shelter for one hundred people.
The ADRA has been active in Burma since 1993 and in recent years has managed 24 projects ranging from flood relief projects to constructing improved water and sanitation facilities. With 170 local and international staff and immense goodwill among the local population, the ADRA is well-placed to be of immediate assistance following Cyclone Nargis.
Although many staff have been diverted from their regular roles to help in the relief operation, they are determined to do all they can to alleviate the suffering. Currently spend their days distributing food rations (rice, pulses, and salt), temporary shelter materials (tarpaulins, bamboo, and nylon rope), 5-gallon water containers, kitchen sets (bowls, spoons, and cups), tool kits, and hygiene kits to the approximately 20,000 people who escaped low-lying villages in the delta region during the May 2 and 3 storm.
Teddy is demonstrating in practice what Seventh-day Adventists believe as a church: the importance of faith-based social action. Mark Castellino, ADRA-UK’s Programmes Officer, has the same belief. He flew to Burma within days of the cyclone.
“I’ve been working with a team of people from Holland, Switzerland and New Zealand, as well as many Burmese staff, to plan and deliver relief to the victims of the cyclone,” he said. “I’m hoping that my contribution will make a difference to people who are suffering terribly.”
Kyaw Aung Oliver, ADRA Mayanmar’s Programmes Officer says, “It’s so sad to see communities destroyed that worked so hard to rebuild last time, but we will continue to work with them to recover from this disaster.”
His motivation is that of Adventist Christians the world over: a commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.