In 2011 when the conflict started in my home village Kasoo up in Myanmar’s Northern Kachin State, we would hide in the church until things quietened down and we could return home again. When the conflict increased, I told my wife and 6 children to travel to the main road where they could be picked up by trishaw and taken to the river to travel by bamboo raft to safety as the bridge was already destroyed.
Myself and some of the other men remained behind to look after our homes and farms – our livelihoods. Some people sold their land to foreigners and moved to safety, but for me, the land belonged to my family so I did not want to abandon it. I had 3 orange farms where I sold each crop for 33 million kyats (over $21,000 USD) to the local area. I did not have to work for others, I could depend on our family’s land and the oranges produced from each crop for income. However due to the conflict, I also had to sell my farmland to foreigners.
When the shell bombings started, we had no idea that the fighting would be so intense and happen so fast that we were forced to run from our homes and leave everything behind. We escaped to the forest travelling for 3 days to reach Waingmaw. Our village was destroyed during the attacks. Most of the homes in the village were made of bamboo so they burnt to the ground. We lost everything…
When I made it to the IDP camp, I re-joined my wife and 6 children. Most of our village members also joined this IDP camp. Over the years we wanted to return to our home village but we couldn’t because the roads were closed and our land was already sold.
I try to work whenever I can to provide for my family. Work is only available for 1 or 2 days at a time picking oranges on another man’s farm. There is no permanent work in this area so many families struggle to have enough income.
My 3 younger children attend school and still live with us in the IDP camp. My 2 eldest daughters are working in Myitkyina as a cook and nanny to send money back for our family to survive. My eldest son was sent to jail in Myitkyina for 6 years after the owner he was staying with was caught selling drugs by the police. We have to pay 2 Lakhs ($130 USD) every year to the jail in order to keep him in Myitkyina or they will send him to another jail far away and we are afraid we will not see him again.
We struggle for money all the time, especially to pay the tuition fees for our 3 younger children. My wife suffers from chronic illness with a high blood pressure and joint pain which she developed since we moved to this IDP camp. Sometimes we don’t have the money to pay for her medicine, so she suffers. We are also trying to buy back our families land so that we can return home, but the price is very high.
It all seemed impossible until we heard about ADRA Myanmar providing cash grants to IDPs like us. We received the household grant which is 50,000 kyats ($33 USD) and the Individual Grant at 1 Lakh ($65 USD) for 10 months. We use the money for tuition, medicine and buying rice. I also attended the WASH training and we learnt how to wash our hands and look after our health.
I feel like my family and my community have really benefitted from the SCAIDP project. If ADRA did not provide the WASH training and cash grants, our life would continue to be very difficult. Now, we have a chance to be better…thank you!
Edited by: Emma McCrow
Photo Credit: Emma McCrow
*Original Story told from the perspective of Naw Lwan*