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FBR Team Conducts Relief Mission in Arakan State7 May 2013 Arakan State, Burma **The following is a raw report from one of our ethnic headquarters staff, who lead a team of rangers to Arakan State for a relief mission in January 2013.
A Letter From An FBR Leader’s Relief Mission in Arakan State
Months before beginning this mission, we were earnestly praying about a potential trip to Arakan State. While praying, a couple rangers came and expressed their desire to serve our brothers in Arakan State. As we continued praying, a letter from a friend in Arakan State said it would be good to have medical and GLC programs to encourage and help Arakan Rangers. Compelled by concern expressed among team members for the situation in Arakan State, we knew it was a good thing to go on this mission.
Even though we knew it was a good thing to go, we hesitated, ultimately asking ourselves: "Do we want to go or not?"
The answer was: "Yes, we want to go. Do we dare go or not? The answer is 'Yes, we dare'."
So, the question “What can we do?” was not up to us. We knew to lift it up to God and GO.
Our prayer was:
"Lord, you know us very well. We are very small and can do nothing without you. We need you as the newest people to do a mission like this. We lift everything up to you. Forgive us and prepare the way for us. Open our eyes to see what we should see. Open our hearts to feel what we should feel. Give us strength and boldness to do what we should do. Do not let us miss what we should do and guide us for your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen."
Summary of Our Mission:
Our team left in mid-January to reach Arakan State. Ten days later we able to reach Sittwe, and connected with some friends in the area. We remained in Sittwe even after learning that there were enough medics for patients in Sittwe; we wanted to do Good Life Club programs at as many IDP camps as possible. We did a GLC program in Bon Gyi Kyoung Win IDP camp and another in Min Gan IDP camp – both in Sittwe. Families in the camp live in structures limited to a 9' X 9' bedroom and a 6' X 9' kitchen. We are not sure of the population in Bon Gyi Kyoung Win camp, but there are 307 people in Min Gan camp.
Education in the Camps
Many children here are unable to go to school either because their family cannot afford it, or because students quit attending school after their home was burned during clashes between Arakan and Rohingya residents. UNICEF opened a basic school for children in the camps but middle and high school students continue to attend their regular school in Sittwe. Some children are unable to attend school even choose to stay in monasteries. The Burmese education is bad – as usual. Students have to purchase all their own school supplies, and even basic school students have to have private tutors.
Healthcare in the Camps
Healthcare in the camps is provided by a variety of groups, including the Burmese government, the Red Cross and community volunteer groups. In addition to this, there is an accessible hospital in the city of Sittwe.
However, these benefits are mostly excluded from the Rohingya IDPs. Medical care for the Rohingya is lacking, and the Sittwe hospital is not as accessible for this ethnic group. Malaria and malnutrition have spread among the camps.
The Rohingya requested permission to move in and out of the IDP camps, because it has been difficult to come and go. In response, the Burmese, especially the police, set up more security around the camps, as well as in town at bus stations, airports, main roads, harbors and main markets.
Good Life Club Program
We wanted to do a full FBR relief mission but the local people said Arakan refugees do not need additional medical care in the camp and, also, the Burmese authority would not allow it. We did GLC programs in 2 Arakan refugee camps. Additionally, we gave them exercise books, pens, pencils, footballs, badminton, drinks for lunch, financial teacher support and gifts for the school. During the program, we spoke a bit, prayed, and sang together and played sports.
We told them:
"Nobody wants to or chooses to come here. We lost our homes and many things. We do not want to stay here. We want to go back and stay in our own place. No body can make things right but God. As we believe in Christ, as Christians we believe there is the one who can fulfill our need and help us, and that is God – who we believe in and helps us and loves us all always. He can help us all."
Our prayer for them:
"Dear Lord, thank you very much for your guidance and for giving us the opportunity to be with these people here. None of them chose to come and stay here. They lost many things in their life. Nobody can help them like you can. We lift their needs unto you. Please help them and guide them to know you. Thank you very much for government leaders, religious leaders and local people who are helping them here, too. Please help them to see more love, more mercy for the people and give them willingness to build up the country better and better. Guide each one of us from now on. In Jesus’s name we pray."
In the beginning of the trip, we were thinking of visiting the Rohingya, or going out of Sittwe and visiting IDPs in more remote areas but, our friends do not have ID for going out of the city and we wanted to spend some time with them to get to know them better. So we stayed in Sittwe. There were many obstacles that kept us from being able to visit the Rohingya on this trip, though we wanted to see them and help them.
In the first GLC program, the Sittwe prime minister and regional commander joined our program. They just asked a few question and gave 30,000 kyat for our program. In the late afternoon after finished program, one three-star Burma Army commander visited our guesthouse, but nothing special for us. We did another program the next morning in Min Gan IDP camp. There was a man standing in the back during the first part of our program who later disappeared while the kids were playing sports. A three-star Burma Army commander and one police officer started to question a monk traveling with us. For more than an hour they examined everything we brought in, including candy, and then left. We shortened our program and left the place. Soon after we arrived back to the guesthouse, a person came in who kept looking at us while talking to the boy working at the counter. They looked at the guest record book and we saw the boy's face fill with worry. We came back to our room and talked a bout whether we should stay longer, or move. We decided to move back.
While we were in Yangon, we met some political people and religious people. They encouraged us to stand firm and want to know how to work together. They do not like the current ceasefire. They also do not really understand about our FBR mission yet, and afraid to do as we do. We try to explain to them about GLC and our main mission, and how they work together. Now they say they will do GLC program in their area.
Thank you, and May God bless you,
Free Burma Rangers
The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) mission is to provide hope, help and love to internally displaced people inside Burma, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Using a network of indigenous field teams, FBR reports on human rights abuses, casualties and the humanitarian needs of people who are under the oppression of the Burma Army. FBR provides medical, spiritual and educational resources for IDP communities as they struggle to survive Burmese military attacks.
For more information, please visit www.freeburmarangers.org
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