The seeds of self-sufficiency
Than fled Burma as a refugee after a traumatic attack
on his village by the Burmese army. Despite being
left with nothing, Than is determined to stand on his
own two feet again and build a safe and secure future
for his family. Thanks to your support through the
Christmas Bowl, our innovative farming program
is helping him do just that.
Than is proud of the vegetables he grows in the community garden. Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace
Than fled his village in Papun District just over 20 years ago after the Burmese army raided the area, “They destroyed my home and the farms in my community. I did not dare to stay in Burma.”
Than has clear memories of the long and dangerous journey to Mae La refugee camp over 400km away, “There was no food and water. We [my family] walked day and night time with no meals for a very long way. It was very difficult to get to the border.”
Than had found safety, but camp life was very difficult. Like other Burmese refugees he was legally confined to the refugee camp and had no official way of making a living. He was forced to survive on food rations provided by Act for Peace’s local partner, The Border Consortium (TBC).
Life became increasingly hard when Than started his own family. He was burdened by the worry of being able to provide for his wife, young son Aung, now aged 4, and daughter Naw Pi, aged 10 months. To make sure his family had enough to live on Than would risk his safety and work as a migrant labourer, outside of the camp confines, “I would sometimes get stopped by Police at a checkpoint and be arrested for leaving the camps. They would demand a bribe and take all my money. I could not bring any home to my family.”
Than’s life changed when he was given the opportunity to join our innovative Community Agriculture and Nutrition (CAN) farming program. Thanks to you, Than and others like him are being given the chance to support their families’ nutritional needs and earn an income by working their own allotment. Participants of the CAN program are given everything they need to start growing fruits and vegetables including tools, seeds, training and a small plot of land.
“After joining the CAN garden I can work everyday and earn money for my family. Because I grow vegetables in CAN I can support my family. I can feed them and sell vegetables at market to earn extra money. I can buy food for my children and fill the kitchen with meat, herbs and eggs.” Than beams from ear to ear when talking about his garden. His district of Papun was a farming area and he is now able to use his skills to support his family. He grows a range of vegetables including lettuce, long beans, water gourd and eggplants. Than is proud of his garden, but most of all he is proud that he can support his family and give them a good life, “I have no worries for my life now. There is much less worry for my family for the future since the CAN program.”
Than hopes that one day it will be safe enough to return to Burma. In the meantime, he will continue to provide for his family and work hard on the plot of land given to him with your support.
“My son likes to play with aeroplanes and cars. When I earn money through CAN I spend money on my children and on my son so he can enjoy these things and be a child with no worries.”
You are making a difference
Than is able to provide for his family thanks to your support for our Burmese refugee program featured in the recent Christmas Bowl appeal. Your response to the Christmas Bowl was overwhelming. The appeal is ontrack to raise an amazing $2.5 million, thank you!
In the last 6 months months you have helped our local partner to provide 6,299 households just like Than’s with vegetable seeds, giving more refugees the opportunity to become self-sufficient. With your help TBC has also trained 278 farmers in the Farmer Field School program on the health benefits of gardens, soil health, seed saving and planting in small spaces of land, helping refugees get better results from their gardens.
More ways to take action
You can help prevent children like Maala being born with chronic illnesses by helping pregnant women stay healthy and nourished in the first place.
Take the Act for Peace Ration Challenge and eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week (June 2017). Raise money to support refugees who have lost everything, and challenge perspectives – including your own.
Right now, thousands of innocent people are fleeing Syria every day to protect their families from bloodshed, violence and death. We need your support to provide emergency relief packs to the families fleeing in Syria.