The Aid Myanmar Story
First, Aun Sang Suu Kyi is released from house arrest, followed by 600 more political prisoners set free in 2011.
Next, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came for a visit. And then, Stephen called out to Marian, “Hey, do you want to visit Burma?” Not exactly headline news, but so it came to be that in March 2012, Stephen and Marian Fortner landed at Yangon International Airport for their first visit to Myanmar.
That first trip, just weeks before the first democratic elections in Myanmar, you could feel the excitement and hesitancy in the air. Were things really going to change this time, or, would the system slam shut and take away anyone so bold as to reveal their true political colours?
It was in this atmosphere of anticipation that we two innocent travelers explored Yangon, wandering around in the intense heat, passing dilapidated colonial era buildings, with no government handler ‘guiding’ us. We happened upon the ferry terminal, down at the Strand where three young girls offered to take us across the river to Dalla on a tour. We slept on it, and the next day, returned to register with the Ferry Master, before heading across to the ‘other side’.
One hundred thousand people live in Dalla. Many commute to Yangon daily. They are the poorest of the poor; selling postcards, rickshaw drivers, labourers.
But, in the middle of this immense poverty we came across a beacon of light: the Hope Centre for Child Development, or as the girls (Kikki and Elizabeth) called it, the local orphanage. We met Pastor Joshua, his wife Ruth and their 17 wards.
Pastor Joshua had come down from the Northwest of Myanmar, and after Cyclone Nargis (2008), started taking in orphans. He simply relies on God that he will be able to feed, clothe, and house these children. As Stephen puts it, “Pastor Joshua has more faith in his little finger than I do in my whole body!”
In the Summer of 2012, we returned to our lives as small business owners in Canada. Stephen is in jewellery and I am into flowers. We’re working away, but then, a little voice is tugging at Stephen’s heart: “I want you to support Pastor Joshua!” And God bless Stephen, because he listened!
And, so it came to be that we’ve been supporting Pastor J and the Hope Centre every since.
Fast forward to January 2013. We’re back in Yangon visiting Pastor Joshua, but this time we have water purification kits, school supplies and clothes for the boys and girls, soap kits, toys and more funding!
After spending some time with Pastor Joshua we realize what the next steps are:
- Food, Water, Shelter
- Regular monthly support for Pastor Joshua and the children
- Fundraising to purchase land, build an orphanage, and a medical clinic
- Perhaps help with teacher training
Believe me, the list of needs for the poor of Myanmar is endless.
Thus, we come to our ongoing efforts: gaining charitable status in Canada, raising awareness here and around the world through social media, and fundraising to help the poor in Myanmar. And the journey continues.