Like the rest of the world’s population, the people of Myanmar had to weather the viruses of Covid 19. As medical staff walked out of their jobs after the military seized power on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar healthcare system shattered. As COVID-19 infections peaked, hospitals could not accommodate the patients, and as a result, countless individuals died in their homes.
In those difficult times, Fr. Paul, OP, personally went to give medicines and food to the families who contracted the virus and were bedridden in their homes. In Loikaw, with the help of a retired nurse, Fr. Moses, OP set up a small clinic for the displaced people in the convent. He also bought medicines and delivered them to various displaced camps in the state.
In order to respond to the healthcare needs of our neighbors in Myanmar, the Dominican Friars and Sisters have formed a Medical Team which consists of Fr. Mariano Kai, OP, Sr. Benedetta, OP, Sr. Elizabeth Byama, OP, a doctor, and other volunteers. This team is in charge of buying medical supplies and delivering them to places in need. This medical team also provides medical supplies for students studying in community-based schools in various displaced camps.
With the help of a volunteer doctor, the members of this team are also touring the camps and tents of displaced people in the forest regularly to check the physical conditions of the people and give necessary medical assistance. The medical team is working to raise funds to set up a mini-clinic for the displaced people in the forest and provide health care for the people there.
MINISTRY IN EDUCATION
Schools were closed in 2020 due to the wide spread of Covid 19. After seizing the power, the military junta tried to open schools in 2021. This effort was not successful because most of the teachers refused to collaborate with the military, and students refused to enroll for classes.
This year too, though the military government opened the schools, many students refuse to attend and teachers refuse to collaborate. At this moment, homeschooling and online classes are available for those who can afford materials and internet service, and for those who are living in safe zones. However, for those who have been displaced, opportunities for education are limited. In most camps, the people set up self-supporting schools for the children with the help of volunteer teachers. However, the Dominican parishes do not have the resources to set up schools as well.
With the limited funds received from our Province and from the donors of the congregation of Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic, the Dominican organizations have collaborated to form an Educational Support Team. Fr. Marko Thoe Reh, OP, Sr. Francesca Polo, OP, and Bro. Simon Htoo, OP, are serving in the educational sector. They set up a temporary high school called St. Catherine of Siena’s School, in the forest for displaced students who are sheltering there. Seventeen teachers have stepped up to help the Dominicans run this school.
The friars and sisters are not only supervising the school – they are also teaching some subjects to the 187 students who attend there. Fifty of these young people attending the school are boarding in the tents set up near the school. Thanks to generous donations, the Dominicans are able to pay the teachers and two workers who serve at the school.
The Educational Support Team is also offering some assistance to 293 elementary and primary students studying in their parents’ self-supporting primary and elementary schools in the forest, and supporting their teachers.
EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL ASSISTANCE
As most of the displaced people are Catholics, pastoral care is urgently needed. The 2000 Catholics directly under Dominican care have also been displaced. In the past year, Fr. Moses Dereh, OP, Fr. John Sui, OP, and Fr. Philip Soreh, OP, offered pastoral care visiting camps, hearing confessions, and regularly celebrating Eucharistic mass.
The team members also strive to create moments of “escape” for the students and children in the camps, hoping to reduce their stress and prevent future mental and emotional issues resulting from this trauma.
To respond to the spiritual and psychological needs of the Catholics who have been displaced, a Psycho-spiritual Assistance Team has been formed. This team is composed of Fr. John Maung Sui, OP, Sr. Judith Mujar, OP, and Sr. Lucia Baw Myar, OP, assisted by catechists and other volunteers. Months ago, the members of this team were trained to offer Psychological First Aid by staff from the United Nations.
This team is responsible for providing for the spiritual needs of the people who are taking shelter in the forest. The team tours the camps, and celebrates the Eucharistic mass for them, accompanies them in their struggles, listens to their stories, and offers them words of encouragement. The team also organizes catechism classes for the children to help them grow their faith.
This team is also offering a kind of psychotherapy to those who have suffered trauma due to the war, loss of their homes or loved ones, and other crises. These people are assigned to groups where they can share their stories and worries with others who are suffering the same trauma. Our hope is that offering this Psychological First Aid will help to prevent future traumatic disorders.
According to Data for Myanmar, the military and its affiliated groups have burned down over 30,000 civilian houses, and many others have been damaged by shelling. As of September 20, 2022, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), also known as AAPP, confirmed that 2,299 civilians have been killed by military forces and a total of 15,580 people have been arrested; 12,435 are still under detention. Countless others have simply “gone missing.”
To assist the people who need financial help in rebuilding their lives, the Dominican’s “Rebuilding Team,” composed of Fr. Paul Aung Myint Win, OP, Fr. Moses Dereh, OP, and Sr. Rosa Mu Mu Lin, OP”
- Offer financial assistance to families who lost their homes, and incomes
- Giving assistance to those who have lost their limbs to landmines
- Granting scholarships to high school graduates seeking vocational training.
How Can You Help?
The Dominican Family in Myanmar is doing its best in providing humanitarian assistance to the neediest people with the limited funds received. Therefore, in order to be able to continue providing assistance in the name of the Order, Myanmar Dominicans urgently need the support of the International Dominican Family.