On the 30th May 2017, cyclone Mora swept across Chin State, western Myanmar, triggering landslides and destroying buildings in rural villages.
At our main base in Lailenpi town, there was considerable damage to roads and homes and sadly our training centre was torn down by the high winds and torrential rain.
Yet despite the personal impact and sorrow felt by our staff and the local villagers, hope is rising.
Health and Hope staff and a committed team from the local community have come together to dismantle the old training facility and prepare the ground for a new, reinforced training hall and dormitory to be built.
Take a look at our short film to see what has been going on in Lailenpi since the cyclone hit:
As the film above shows, the site is now ready and waiting for rebuilding work to start. We are grateful for the support of eMI-World who are providing world-class architectural and structural engineering support to help design a reinforced building which will withstand future cyclones and earth tremors.
In the last newsletter we asked for your help to raise £60,000 towards the rebuilding budget. We are delighted to report that, thanks to your generosity, you have helped us to raise nearly £45,000 towards this target. This is enabling construction work to move ahead while additional fundraising is taking place. Thank you so much!
Rebuilding the training centre: The final stretch
On 30th May 2017, Cyclone Mora made landfall in Bangladesh before moving northwards through western Myanmar. Torrential rain and high winds destroyed homes and triggered landslides in rural villages with 37 families made homeless in the village of Lailenpi where Health and Hope Myanmar’s (HHM) work is based.
In addition, we were devastated to lose the majority of the HHM training centre; seven buildings were destroyed including the main training hall, kitchen and dining area and four dormitory buildings.
Over 18 months later, it's incredible to look back and see how much progress has been made on the building of the training centre post Cyclone Mora.
When the project started, the local tradesmen initially refused to dig foundations at 20' spans, asking us to hire 'professional builders' from outside the village. They had never dreamed of being able to construct a building of this scale, nor did they feel they had the skills to do it. But through the provision of field engineers and through careful supervision and encouragement, the training centre is now really starting to take shape. Best of all, the local townspeople can look back at what they have accomplished with their own hands, standing tall and proud of their accomplishments.
We’re delighted that the building is now almost complete and that we’ve just received a significant grant for the last stage of work to put the roof on the building. In fact, a few weeks ago we hosted our first week long training in the building, despite the fact that it has no roof, or even a coat of paint on the walls! In December, 28 Area Coordinators, who provide in-situ support for our network of Community Health Workers, gathered for the launch of our new healthcare project and took up residence in the training centre. This has been followed by training for educators in January, and fuurther training of health workers in February.
The video below gives an update on the project...
If you'd like to suppport the final efforts to complete the trianing centre, you can give to the project here.
28th February 2019
To Lailenpi and back again…
We're delighted to share our latest newsletter with you.
Click below to read in full.
7th February 2019
Latest update on maternal and neonatal health project
It was a delight to accompany one of our specialist midwifes from the UK, Frances Barnsely, on her seventh visit to Myanmar (Burma) in December 2018.
We have been running Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) training since 2013 from our base in Lailenpi, nestled in the jungles of western Chin State. As a result, many lives have been saved, with the local under-5 orphanage closing down in March 2018 thanks to the reduction in maternal deaths during childbirth.
With 166 women having received at least two trainings covering basic and advanced topics over the five prior years, there were now geographic challenges in reaching the more remote villages. To put this in context, some of the women had previously walked 5-6 days to participate in the week long training course, and on top of the return journey, it was proving too difficult to ask them to spend up to three weeks away from their families.
As such, at the beginning of 2018, we brought seven of the most experienced women together to take on new roles as local trainers. Each of the trainers were to visit 2-3 remote villages close to their homes to help expand the reach of the service. Key to the success of this new approach was how effective the local women would be at running their own training courses, in addition to whether they would be accepted in their local communities. With support from the local women's association, the trainers were able to deliver training to 91 new TBAs covering ten core topics. In addition, birthing bags and clean delivery kits were distributed through the network of trainers.
During our visit, Frances undertook a review of the trainers work through visiting villages on the back of a motorbike. After a gruelling ride over rough mountain tracks, she arranged a three day assessment for the women who had received the local training. In addition, Frances continued to up-skill and update the knowledge and professional practice of the trainers who attend a five day workshop at the Health and Hope clinic.
"I was so surprised how much the local women knew. I had never expected the trainers to be able to deliver so much of the course and so well. There were obviously differences between the villages, however overall, topics such as hand washing and knowledge of diet were excellent. There was still a need to support the women in greater understanding of the mechanisms of birth and they continue to need more practice in emergency drills, but this will come with time.
I think what struck me most was the impact of the training on the women's self-esteem. It was clear how the initiative had raised their status within the village which had a knock on effect on their confidence. Previously they were very insecure, lacking the self-belief that they had the ability to benefit from the training in Lailenpi. However, because they had the opportunity to practice with a local trainer and then meet us in person, they overwhelmingly expressed a deep desire to attend the full training course. The support of their local community is vital for this, and this was confirmed again and again by the village elders.
Overall, there was such excitement and joy in learning together, it was absolutely thrilling to be a part of it!”
31st January 2019
New Project: Education for All
"In my class, we don't have enough teachers, we don't have toilets, there's no water...I don't have a proper table to sit or a chair. We have to struggle a lot."Dipar, Chin State, Myanmar
Like Dipar, children in Chin State, Myanmar face a myriad of challenges in their attempts to secure a basic education at primary and secondary school.
Rugged geography, a scattered population, natural disasters, teaching in non-ethnic languages, challenges in retaining teachers and the highest rate of household poverty in Myanmar has led to a drop-out rate of 18% of children by the end of primary school.
Pass rates for high school students at grade 10 are also dismal. Officially, only 8% of children in the rural areas of Chin State pass their high school qualifications at age 16. In March 2017, the figures were even worse for children studying at the government school in Lailenpi, with less than 2% passing their exams. For those who do pass, financial constraints and lack of access to college education prevent most from continuing their studies.
Health and Hope Myanmar (HHM) launched a successful ‘Freedom to Education Project’ (FEP) in 2009, so far offering 85 students, who have passed their grade 10 exams and who carry a vision for the long term benefit of their people, the opportunity to pursue higher education. Students from the FEP have gone on to study medicine, engineering and business degrees and the first four graduates returned to Chin State to support the work of HHM in 2017. With many more following in their footsteps over the coming years.
To widen the impact of the FEP and address the shortfalls in education provision in Chin State, we are launching a new project, Education for All, a long sought-after education initiative amongst the rural poor in Chin State.
In the first year, the project aims to radically change the life opportunities of 100 impoverished high school students who are unable to break free from the cycle of poverty. Some have tried unsuccessfully for up to seven years to pass their exams. We want to change this and give them hope for the future.
Students will be supported through the provision of: high quality tuition from the returning FEP graduates, the translation of the curriculum into their local language, improved nutrition and access to a library of educational resources. The project will also provide a model for returning FEP graduates to use their skills to transform education in their home villages. Through this work, we hope to offer more local children the chance to reach their academic potential, building hope for a future generation of young leaders in Chin State.
Would you like to join with us? If you are able to help financially, a simple way to support this work is to become a founding partner by selecting 'Education' from our donate page and signing up for a direct debit online. As the project moves forward we'll send you updates on the work and stories from the children receiving support.
16th August 2018
A great success: Training Traditional Birth Attendants in Myanmar
“We have only ever done rote learning in the past, but this training you have given us is so great because we can see, hear and touch. We can ask any questions we want to. The practical sessions are so helpful because you can really imagine it and practice it with your hands!” Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) feedback from our recent workshop in western Myanmar.
Thanks to the generous financial support of our partners, we were able to run our first "Train the Trainer" workshop for Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) in Lailenpi Town, Chin State at the beginning of April.
Our TBA training programme started in 2013 and has, to date, equipped over 166 local women with the skills to support mothers and babies through pregnancy, birth and early infancy. Our workshops focus on reducing the rate of neonatal and maternal deaths and the incidence of infant and maternal illness. The training has been so successful in one village, that the under-5 orphanage has now closed with no maternal deaths in the last five years!
To reinforce the expansion and sustainability of this training, we have recently piloted a ‘Train the Trainer’ initiative, equipping our most experienced indigenous health workers with the skills to proactively pass on their midwifery knowledge to new trainees themselves, rather than relying on outside expertise.
Our first ‘Train the Trainer’ workshop was run by three UK midwives during Easter, two of whom have made six prior trips to the region, having also supported the development of a bespoke training course for local women.
Following the six-day workshop, the new TBA trainers headed out to practice their skills in rural villages by training small groups of women across the region following a three-day curriculum. It was anticipated that they would each train up to four new TBAs. However, in the first village, sixteen women joined the training and in the second nineteen took part, so eager were they to participate and improve their knowledge.
"In Zo Ma village, sixteen women attended the training even though they only invited five! During the time in the village, there was one woman who could not do any work and was lying in a flat position throughout her pregnancy. When the TBA Trainer arrived she was able to help reposition the baby and the woman has been able to stand and start work again. At the end of the training she came to give us a chicken to say thank you!
Another woman was told by a villager that she had cancer in her bladder because they did not know she was pregnant. The TBA Trainers examined her and found out she was four months pregnant! She was so delighted she praised God and was so thankful to the TBAs.
The women were so excited that other villages were calling to them saying, please come to our village, we will send a motorbike to pick you up.
In each village they went to, there was always more women than invited. They asked for help with vitamins and better nutrition. They also said the time was too short being just three days and the villagers were not satisfied and wanted more!" Extract from our Programme Officer's report, April 26th 2018
The trainers and trainees had another surprise too. While conducting the training they were able to use their skills during a real birth, with mother and baby well looked after by all. The perfect training opportunity!
Our UK midwives will return to Chin State at the end of 2018 to review progress and receive feedback. They will also assess the extent of the knowledge passed on to the new TBAs through practical and theoretical appraisal and deliver additional training during their time there.
We're delighted with the impact of this project and it's all down to the financial backing of our supporters. If you've been part of this project, thank you so much for partnering with us to bring health and hope to mothers and babies in western Myanmar!
We have, however, spent all of the funds raised over the last year and are now looking to secure further funding to enable the project to continue after the monsoon.
Health and Hope is a partnership between Health and Hope UK and Health and Hope Myanmar. Health and Hope UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England under Company No. 08290412 and Charity No. 1151105. Health and Hope Myanmar is registered in Myanmar under NGO Registration No. 0264.