The Crisis in Myanmar

I landed in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar, a very ignorant young woman. I knew nothing about the country, so you can imagine my surprise to learn that the men wore skirts, the women have yellow powdered circles on their cheeks, and that the country has NO ATM’s at all — and that I only had $350 in my pocket to last me for three weeks. Somehow, I survived on $10 a day and, three weeks later, I left Yangon a changed person, with a bigger heart and a desire to see this country’s people rise from their currently powerless situation.
I visited Myanmar one year ago, just before the military coup… and now this: a cyclone? This beautiful country with generous (and helpless) people is suffering from one of the worst natural disasters this decade and all their government wants to do is close their borders and refuse aid? I just don’t get it.
The more I travel, the more I have see how beautiful this world is, but now that I am in Colombia and thinking of Myanmar I try to make sense of how desperate a nation can be for change and how stalwart that progress can be without proper leadership. In the first case (Colombia), I see a people rising from the ashes of a scary terrorist regime and finally reaping great rewards (i.e. booming tourism and growing economic stability) thanks to their whole-hearted support of wise President Alvaro Uribe.
Yet in the latter case (Myanmar), what we are witnessing right now is a country dealing with two very different but equally debilitating disasters. First, a political crisis that is rotting from the inside out. Second, a deadly cyclone that has likely killed more than 50,000 people. This is a country that needs massive worldwide support and attention. Regardless of whether the Myanmar government chooses to allow aid for this disaster, there is something we can do:
–Educate yourself on what is happening in this country. Political news sources like The Economist (who unfortunately does not have a Myanmar country profile ?!?!) and information sources like Wikipedia would be a good place to start.
–If you’re feeling generous, donate to a non-profit organization that can go directly toward helping this country gain a sense of national pride and identity. It is something Myanmar needs badly. The Network For Good blog has a great list of organizations that can help you do just that.

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