Making a difference in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis

I remember writing a letter to the editor to the Daily Bruin, my school newspaper once last year, right after Cyclone Nargis hit. Fueled by raw emotion, my belief in the social obligation to help others in need, I started jotting down a draft of all of my thoughts, that culminated into a submission that was, to my surprise, published. It was edited by quite a few hands, with Burma becoming Myanmar, among other things:

Myanmar needs the world’s attention
As a Burmese American and a member of the global society we all live in, it is imperative that all of us take any measures possible to make the world a better place by doing what we can.

The silence of the Daily Bruin, aside from recycled wire reports, on the recent cyclone in Myanmar that may have killed as many as 100,000 people and made more than 1 million people homeless, has dismayed me. To put it in perspective, the cyclone appears to have killed 100 times as many people as Hurricane Katrina did in 2005.

The epic scale of this tragedy in this country formerly known as Burma, coupled with the military junta’s reluctance and paranoia to allow foreign aid of any kind – despite the unimaginable outpouring of assistance by the United States, the United Nations and other countries – is unimaginable.

While the survivors languish from disease outbreaks because of poor sanitation, floating corpses, destroyed homes and lack of water and nourishment, the junta has decided to focus its energy and resources on less urgent matters, namely a constitutional referendum that will legitimize its place in the highest echelons of Myanmar government.

What makes me shudder most is that despite the stories that come out of Myanmar every hour and the nearly universal Internet access to among college students, many fellow UCLA students are unaware and oblivious to what is happening to the millions on the brink of starvation, malaria, cholera, diarrhea and ultimately, death.

What Myanmar needs most is aid in the form of money, and medical, food and water supplies. Only 10 percent of the cyclone survivors have received aid in any form, and the military junta, which cannot sustain its own people in the best of times, surely cannot tackle this catastrophe on its own.

For more than four decades, America and the rest of the world have watched in complete silence as the military decimated the nation through genocide, slavery, repression and violence. But now is not the time to tackle the political issues Myanmar faces. It is our responsibility to act and do all we can to help in the humanitarian crisis that the survivors – people like you and me – face.

I guess I did help out in helping to make a difference for cyclone victims. But, I have been hesitating for quite some time on whether I should publish the following photos on this blog. I try to avoid intertwining my blogging with my personal life, although sometimes it is nearly impossible. In November of last year, the Burmese Student Association at UCLA, of which I am a part, held a charity concert and show benefiting Cyclone Nargis victims. We helped raise over $20,000 for Sitagu Sayadaw’s relief aid fund and for World Vision, one of the first NGOs to start working in the aftermath, a grand accomplishment for a club that was founded in May of that same year. The performances included a 2-hour concert featuring Ma Di and Natalise, as well as multicultural dances from Burma and the surrounding region (India, China and Thailand). A rare medley of colorful, beautiful and meaningful performances.

One of my friends took mainly backstage (and later, front stage) photos of the event. These photos are courtesy of Josie Lin.

My laptop screen projected on a huge screen in the Ballroom


Chinese lion dancers practicing backstage

Preparing for the Si Mi Gwet (Candlelight) dance

Si Mi Gwet (Candlelight) dancer

Preparing for the Yoke-Thay dance (Marionette dance)

Preparing for the Yoke-Thay dance (Marionette dance)

Preparing for the Thai Yai King Kala dance

Preparing for the Thai Yai King Kala dance

Karen ethnic dancers

Rakhine ethnic dancers

Rakhine ethnic dancers

Rakhine ethnic dancers

Thai peacock dancers

Thai peacock dancers

Thai peacock dancers

Speech by Sayadaw Thisana

Speech by Sayadaw Thisana

Ma Dis concert performance

Ma Di's concert performance

Natalises concert performance

Natalise's concert performance

Khu-hnit Htway dancers

Khu-hnit Htway dancers

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