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Myanmar update and the encouraging story of Naw Paw Paw

An uplifting story about overcoming disability amid natural disasters, conflict and economic crisis in Myanmar.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 01 Sep 2023

Naw Paw Paw sits smiling in a children's playground. Like most other 11-year-old girls, she is eager to learn and go to school with friends, but living with cerebral palsy since she was a baby has made life very difficult for her. Now, Tearfund’s local partner in Myanmar has helped change her life.

Like most other 11-year-old girls, Naw Paw Paw is eager to learn and go to school with friends, but living with cerebral palsy since she was a baby has made life very difficult for her. Now, Tearfund’s local partner has helped change her life. Credit: Tearfund partner organisation

Ongoing conflicts, natural disasters, economic crisis and the aftermath of the pandemic have left nearly a third of the population in Myanmar urgently in need of humanitarian assistance. That’s nearly 18 million people going without some form of basic necessities – things like shelter, food, medicine and access to clean water.

 

Armed clashes in parts of the country have seen tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes in the last few months alone, bringing the number of internally displaced people in Myanmar to an estimated 1.9 million.

In May of this year, Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Mocha ripped through parts of Rakhine state in Myanmar, destroying homes and farmland, killing livestock and leaving thousands of people without basic necessities.

What is Tearfund doing in Myanmar?

Tearfund has been working through local partner organisations in Myanmar to help respond to the various needs in many different ways.

As part of the emergency response after Cyclone Mocha, one of our local partners has so far supported 500 affected households and helped to rebuild houses that were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Homes being rebuilt after Cyclone Mocha caused widespread destruction in Myanmar in May 23.

Homes being rebuilt after Cyclone Mocha caused widespread destruction in Myanmar. Credit: Tearfund partner organisation

We also have ongoing partnerships with organisations and local churches in Myanmar that work to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people – including people living with disabilities.

 

A better life for Naw Paw Paw* 

Naw Paw Paw lives in a rural village in Myanmar with her grandfather who looks after her while her mother works abroad to support the family.

Like most other 11-year-old girls, Naw Paw Paw is eager to learn and go to school with friends, but living with cerebral palsy since she was a baby has made life very difficult.

Naw Paw Paw’s family didn’t know how to help with her condition, and so Naw Paw Paw would often have to move herself around on her knees as she struggled to walk. Because of this and not having protective shoes or clothing, she suffered with painful wounds and skin problems. She couldn’t go to school and not being able to join in affected her deeply.

Then, in July of last year, staff from Tearfund’s local partner helped to change her life.

Local partners and church volunteers

After doing an initial assessment of Naw Paw Paw’s condition, our local partner put together a physical rehabilitation programme for her – particularly with physiotherapy – and provided church volunteers with the teaching and technical support needed to assist Naw Paw Paw to carry on with the programme.

Once a week, volunteers help her do a range of exercises – things like balancing control to strengthen her legs and hand function therapy using toys which help her with gripping and eye-hand coordination. The volunteers  also teach her basic reading, writing, maths and art, as well as singing songs with actions to go along with them. These activities have all had a positive impact on both Naw Paw Paw’s physical and mental well-being.

After three months of support, Naw Paw Paw was already able to walk by herself without any assistance in balancing. She’d also made good progress in drawing, colouring and writing. Our local partner provided her with a plastic table for her learning, a therapy mat, and nutrition support for her exercises. They also adapted the family home to make it easier for Naw Paw Paw to move around inside and made sure she received medical treatment for her damaged knees.

‘Seeing Naw Paw Paw's progress has been a great pleasure for me!’
Naw Paw Paw's grandfather, Myanmar

Changing perceptions of disability

But it’s not only Naw Paw Paw who has benefited from the church’s involvement in helping her get stronger. As the members of the congregation have worked with Naw Paw Paw and seen her remarkable progress, they have changed their perception of disability. They now encourage her to participate in church worship programs and Sunday school activities where before she had been excluded.

Naw Paw Paw's physical and mental improvements have brought joy not only to herself but also her grandfather and the volunteers who support her. She can now walk, draw, read, write and take part in various social and religious activities in her community that she wasn’t able to before.

‘Before the church volunteers arrived to help,’ says Naw Paw Paw’s grandfather, ‘I didn’t know how to care for and treat my grandchild properly [because of the disability]. However, with the support of church volunteers and guidance from staff, I have learned effective methods to support my grandchild's development. Seeing her progress has been a great pleasure for me!’

One of the church volunteers who helped Naw Paw Paw says, ‘We were delighted to see her significant progress, both physically and emotionally, and in her happiness. Witnessing her development has been a source of great pride for us. Her remarkable transformation has motivated us to extend our help to other children in our community who need help.’

*Name has been changed for protection.

Pray for Myanmar

    • Thank God for the first round of humanitarian assistance that has so far been able to support over 500 households affected by Cyclone Mocha in the Rakhine State.
    • Pray for Myanmar as a country. The ongoing conflict, coupled with recent natural disasters and economic crisis are continuing to exacerbate humanitarian needs across Myanmar.
    • Cry out to God for peace to descend upon Myanmar and specifically for the fighting across the country to cease.
    • Pray that God will grant safety to Tearfund and partner staff as they provide life-saving assistance to those trapped along the border and Rakhine areas amidst this highly volatile situation.
    • Pray for funding to reach areas where the need is greatest.

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna


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