Local Burmese groups help cyclone victims

May 7, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
As international relief groups struggle to get relief into Myanmar, some Bay Area groups are going through back channels to help out friends and family over there. A number of Burmese groups came together on Wednesday night in Fremont.

They're images seen around the world of the cyclone that tore apart villages, homes, and lives.

It's a pain that resonates and is felt thousands of miles away in the Bay Area. Dozens gathered in Fremont to figure out an action plan to help friends and family in the country they still call 'Burma.' Those in Fremont found the hampered and slow moving relief efforts frustrating.

"If we don't do something as soon as possible, people in Burma will be dying," says a man to the Fremont group.

The Burmese population in the Bay Area is 30,000 strong and even though there were seven different community based groups represented on Wednesday, everyone agrees, the best thing to do to help those in Burma is to send cash.

"Money is the best. It is easy to carry, easy to transfer. It's the best thing to do," said Ko Ko Lay from the National Council for Union of Burma.

The money is already coming in and it's a matter of distributing it effectively and quickly. This group wants results and that means avoiding the Myanmar Government, which has refused international aid.

"As soon as you get the money, we can send it directly to the victims, not through the government," said a man to the group.

The group was in agreement. And so, as money comes in, it will be sent directly to a monastery, but the bulk will go to locals in bordering countries. The locals will then buy supplies and get them into Myanmar.

"The roof blew off their house," said Nick Harmony, a relief volunteer.

Harmony's fiancé is in Myanmar. She survived the cyclone, but her house didn't. He and a friend are volunteering to carry money into the country and they leave in three weeks.

"He's going to be loaded with money and he's very experienced and trained and works with projects there," said Harmony.

There was little fear at the meeting. It was overshadowed by concern for so many in a country that was once considered home.

Burmese American Democratic Alliance:
www.badasf.org

Burma Relief for Cyclone Nargis:
www.burmarelief.blogspot.com


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