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June 03, 2008

Myanmar: Relief at the Community Level

With big relief efforts stunted by the junta, whatever help reaching Myanmar cyclone victims is occurring at the community level. A dispatch from Brett Melzer, owner of tour company Balloons Over Bagan and Malikha Lodge in northern Myanmar, follows.

May 29, Yangon, Myanmar

Dear friends: Following our first update, on May 15, on the Balloons Over Bagan/Malikha Lodge cyclone relief fund, I would like to take this opportunity to update you.

Thanks to your generosity together with Friends of the Rainforest Myanmar (FORM), we have raised over $20,000 so far. From this amount, Balloons Over Bagan and Malikha Lodge has spent approximately $2,500 in local currency in purchasing supplies and arranging their safe passage down to the delta area. Our efforts and your donations have been divided as follows:

1. Two of our managers with specific skills have been provided on a full-time basis for the next three months to Save the Children UK. Our financial controller from Putao is assisting with stock and inventory at the company warehouse in Yangon for international aid arriving by air. Our operations manager and crew chief from Bagan has received specialist training to lead and crew a specially imported relief supply boat to more remote areas. This boat will operate from one of the famous Pandaw boats, which has been generously given over to the relief effort as a floating hospital cum forward logistics hub.

2. This morning two of our logistics staff departed Yangon by boat on a multi-day trip to Moulmeingyun. Our relatives on the ground will personally take delivery of more than $1,000 worth of water, rice, canned foods, medicines, soaps, and clothing for up to 200 people. Moulmeingyun itself was not too badly affected, but the surrounding villages were hit very hard, and together with some of the village heads we hope to arrange for them to collect our relief supplies on a weekly basis to take back to their villages.

3. A donation of $900 purchased bags of rice and tarpaulin used for shelter with the Bogalay Peoples Committee. Our two Yangon-based logistics staff will return from Bogalay with documentation and photos on their way back from Moulmeingyun.

Early next week we will be in a better position to evaluate our efforts once our boys return from the field. If successful, we can commence weekly deliveries using our own in-house staff and increase the amount of aid in these areas, as well as ascertain more accurately what is required over the next few months. To this effect we will put out a further update with photos by the end of next week.

Finally, it is very heartwarming to see that so many of you who have visited Myanmar over the past few years maintain such a strong connection to the country and its people, and as leading members of the tourism industry, we believe this highlights the positive role tourism can and should play in Myanmar.

Further reading:
* Population Services International's response to the cyclone crisis.


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