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Another important point of our efforts are social activities.

Our special concern is to get help directly to the recipients ('grass root projects'), instead of using official organizations; we want to remain in control of our help and make sure it doesn't end up in non-transparent channels.

On the educational sector we have regularly provided school uniforms for all students of various schools all over the country. When necessary, we’ve also paid for repairs in the school building, like new cement floor and fixing broken windows.

We've been supporting the Care to the least orphanage in Yangon's Mingaladon township for some time. About one hundred children from different ethnic groups and religions live there in three houses under the care of U Saw Roger, a Baptist pastor. At Christmas we sometimes arrange a gift giving ceremonies for the children.

In 2007 we started the construction of a new house for teenage boys. The old bamboo house was - even for local standards - so rundown that the boys had to move to the main building where they had to squeeze in with the other children. The new building was finished long ago and the (fortunately limited) damages caused by cyclone Nargis have been repaired, too. The children seem to enjoy their new home.

Cyclone Nargis: The cyclone Nargis struck the delta of the Ayeyarwady River on May 3, 2008, and caused widespread damage. The former capital city Yangon was also hit. An estimated hundred thousand people lost their lives in that disaster. The - anyway rather limited - infrastructure was largely destroyed and the houses battered severely - many of them were simply blown away.

Two weeks after the cyclone we started our relief operations. As the tourist season was over, all our tour guides were available and rather willing to help the storm victims. During the first three operations as many as twenty helpers took part, including some medical doctors. They really did a fantastic job and we've been able to help many people. All this was possible because our clients donated money generously: finally, we got funds of a hundred thousand dollars!

We started on May 17, 2008, when we sent a lorry with relief supplies (food, blankets, plastic sheets, clothing, etc.) to Pyapone, a delta town about three hours from Yangon. After arrival we reloaded the goods to a ship and called at six villages where we distributed our goods. As we had hardly any experience with relief actions like that we encountered several problems during the first trip. In order to avoid such problems we sent a scout team ahead of the main team for the next operations. During the first trip it proved to be disadvantageous not to stay overnight at Pyapone. Therefore, for the next trips we arranged an overnight stay at Pyapone.

The next operations followed on May 22/23 and on June 2/3. They also were restricted to the distribution of relief supplies. During the second operation, however, we met refugees

from the fisherman's village Mingala Thaung Tan which had been devastated by the cyclone. Out of 120 houses only three had survived the storm. 117 people were killed in that village. The villagers asked us for fishing nets as they wanted to go back to their village. We promised to pay a visit to their village during our next trip.

When we saw the devastations at the village on June 2, it spontaneously crossed our mind to rebuild the village. Two weeks later the reconstruction started. It brought about quite a few logistic problems: even though the houses are relatively small one hundred twenty of them require quite an amount of bamboo and nipa palm leaves for roofs and walls. We called a few carpenters from Yangon and two members of our team stayed at the village for the entire period of construction. Of course, the villagers too participated in the reconstruction of their village and after one month the project was finished and Mingala Thaung Tan looked more beautiful than ever before. Of course, we encountered one or another problem (jealousy, theft of building materials) but finally this operation was a big success. As donations continue to pour in we are going to continue our activities: in the near future we plan to support the reconstruction of schools. However, without our tour guides' selfless commitment and the generous donations of our clients we wouldn't have been able to help at such a large scale.

Here are some pictures of the reconstruction of the village of Mingala Thaung Tan:

It took quite some time but on 26. December 2009 the school building in Thamein Taw (near Pyapone, Ayeyarwady-Delta) has been officially opened in the presence of Axel Bruns and some of the donors who made this reconstruction project possible. Actually, the building has been in use since Juni 2009 but the grand opening had to wait until December. The name of the school is ‘Ocean of Wisdom’ - sounds like they have great ambitions over there and we full-heartedly support them!

Once again, our thanks go to the donors whose money has enabled us to rebuild the school. And our new project is just around the corner: thanks to generous donations from friends we have the necessary funds to build a school in ‘our’ village Mingalaw Thaung Tan. Furthermore, we plan to replace some old beams in the houses where it is necessary.

I think we have proved that we are willing and able to help if need arises. Like, for the people of Mingala Thaungtan to rebuild their village. When I go there from time to time, I’m delighted to see that life in the village is back to normal: Quite a few children have been born even though it will take some time until the losses inflicted by the cyclone can be replaced - in numbers only, it is understood. People go about their business and earn their living in many ways. Thanks to our help, they have been able to get back on their feet. But that’s all they needed: To get back onto their feet - I think they can stand on their own now and we will now leave them alone!! We never intended to make a business out of this - I wish, others would have shared our views…

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© 2008 Axel Bruns