For a mother, whether she be an Eskimo living in an igloo in Siberia, a Yanomami woman living in a shared ‘shabono’ with the rest of her native tribe in the Amazon or a ‘stay at home mum’ living in a suburban house in Connecticut, for any mother in any country the education of her children and their wellbeing is a top priority. For U Thaung Lae, a 50 year old widower with two daughters and nephews to take care of in the village of Yaung Net, Myanmar, access to education and proper health care became a daily struggle.
In order to survive, agriculture became a way of life and the primary source of income for thousands of families living in villages all over the Chin state in western Myanmar. In order to cultivate the land and withstand times of hardship during extreme weather conditions, drought, under nourished soil and failed crop yields, families would have to borrow ‘cash advances’ from local money lenders who charge high interest rates leaving them in debt. In essence, for villagers like U Thaung Lae, it was like being stuck on spin cycle in a washing machine that made no allowance in coming up for air.
ADRA Myanmar, a local NGO working to alleviate poverty and increase sustainable livelihoods, established a project named PRICE (also known as Poverty Reduction Initiative through Community Empowerment) thanks to the sponsorship of ADRA Australia. This project is aimed at providing training in relevant income generation activities such as agriculture, as well as basic book keeping and savings and loan training. The idea is to train villagers, like U Thaung Lae with the skills they need to grow their own crops and manage them both physically and financially in an effort to cultivate independence, a sense of ownership, and the opportunity to save for the future.
A member of the SHG 3 (Self Help Group) aptly named ‘Golden White Star’; U Thaung Lae was able to borrow a loan from the project at a lower interest rate in order to invest in growing sesame seeds. In 2014, U Thaung Lae’s harvest produced 10 baskets of sesame seeds which were sold for 30,000 MMK a basket. In turn U Thaung Lae was able to afford her nephew’s tuition fees and have the peace of mind that the children in her care are being provided for. With a new found confidence and sense of independence, U Thaung Lae can save for the future boasting, “I would like to thank ADRA Myanmar and donor ADRA Australia for helping solve our difficulties”.