Saturday, 7 June 2008

Meet the ‘Handy Youths’ of the Irrawaddy Delta

Members of the Handy Myanmar Youths
help build “budget huts”
for homeless survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

The Irrawaddy News

A group of young people led by a well-known Burmese Internet blogger, Nyi Lynn Seck, is at the forefront of reconstruction efforts in the cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta, helping to build simple shelters for the homeless.

Nyi Lynn Seck calls his group the Handy Myanmar Youths—and they’re certainly proving to be handymen in the flattened villages of the delta.

They supply the villages with the materials to build so-called “budget huts,” bamboo structures with tarpaulin walls and roofs. The 200 square-foot “huts” cost 150,000 kyat (US $125) to build.

Handy Myanmar Youths have so far helped construct more than 100 such shelters in five delta villages. If local villagers build the huts, the group helps out with food and temporary shelter.

Nyi Lynn Seck and his group took 12 hours to travel to the area from Rangoon, negotiating bad roads and talking their way through several checkpoints.
“We build as many huts as we can afford,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The group met farmers in refugee camps who were anxious to return to their villages and resume work on their spoilt land. “They want to start their normal lives,” he said.

Using bamboo and tarpaulin,
members of the Handy Myanmar Youths
help build “budget huts”
for homeless survivors of Cyclone Nargis.

The farmers wanted to return alone at first, followed later by their families. “They have long-term plans, even in the midst of disaster,” he said.

The group found remote villages where people were sheltering in the remains of their ruined homes rather than relocating to local government refugee centers in the towns. “I saw groups of survivors who hadn’t received any relief aid at all. We helped them as much as we could,” he said.

One village the group visited had lost 400 of its people in the cyclone. Many devastated villages were still inaccessible, Nyi Lynn Seck said.

Nyi Lynn Seck said his group existed on donations from within Burma and from abroad.

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