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Putting Community First in Myanmar
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Jason Smith, Red Cross Communications Manager in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
April 30, 2009

On May 2, 2019, the night Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyawaddy Delta, Chit Oo, a Red Cross volunteer, made the decision to leave his home and look for distressed neighbors, rather than seek higher ground and safety for himself. He quickly found a woman and three children floating in a flooded rice paddy; he jumped into the water and dragged them all to an elevated spot of land. They were all four breathing, but the mother was unconscious. The 32 year old woman was Myint Myint Khine; her children were 9 years old, 5 years old, and the youngest only 18 months.

Chit Oo, a Red Cross volunteer, saved a mother and her three children when Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008.
Chit Oo, a Red Cross volunteer, saved a mother and her three children when Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008.
Photo Credit: International Federation

Using the Red Cross first aid training he had received in Bogale a few years before, training that he had passed on to others in his village, Chit Oo used CPR to revive Myint Myint Khine. He then carried all four family members to one of the more solid structures in the village, where they and other families stayed until dawn.

“Chit Oo saved my life, and the lives of my children,” Myint Myint Khine recalls.  Looking at her children, she says, “I want them to be Red Cross volunteers. It will make me proud when they get their training one day.”

Chit Oo was able to save Myint Myint Khine and her three children; tragically, his best friend, Naing Linn Htun, also a Red Cross volunteer, lost his life attempting to help others during Cyclone Nargis.

While there were great acts of heroism and sacrifice during and after the cyclone, a year later, much work is left to be done for volunteers and organizations all over Myanmar. Many thousands of people lost their homes, their loved ones, and in some cases, their abilities to work – either through injuries or the decimation of industries in which they made their livelihoods.

Working with the population of Myanmar, the Red Cross’ umbrella of programs has implemented livelihoods projects that enable rural communities to generate revenue through the strengthening of river banks, environmental clean-up, the rebuilding of small bridges in impacted villages, and other similar projects that solve both immediate and longer term problems. The ultimate goal of these projects is that they may establish a foundation for reconstruction upon which the residents of the Ayeyawaddy Delta may build themselves.

But even when the reconstruction ends, Chit Oo believes the Red Cross will always be an important presence in the Ayeyawaddy Delta, particularly on a personal level. “I will continue volunteering with the Red Cross always,” he says. “It is my way to keep the memories of Naing Linn Htun alive.”

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243 , Washington, D.C. 20013 or to your local American Red Cross chapter. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

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