30-Hour Famine

SURVIVING THE STREETS

For nine-year-old Thandar, life has always been a struggle. She lives in a rented 10-square-foot room in Mawlamyine, Myanmar with her older sister and their parents. Every day the family fretted over how they would pay the rent or where their next meal would come from.

Can you imagine a life like that? But that was all they knew.

Adding to the family’s woes was Thandar’s mother, who suffers from a chronic illness. Thandar’s father works as a trishaw driver, and on his meagre income, he could get his wife the medicine she needed while ensuring the family still had a place to live. Food for everyone was not a priority, but the neighbours sometimes helped. In this way, the family was able to get by.

But when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the family’s fragile situation would start to fall apart.

As the global pandemic hit Myanmar, conditions for Thandar and her family went from bad to worse. Thandar’s father was out of a job. On good days they ate porridge. On bad days, they ate nothing. The health of Thandar’s mother worsened and her father had to mortgage his trishaw to raise money and keep the medicine flowing. “There was no more money for rent,” recalls Thandar sadly.

“I felt so sad. We had nothing to eat and my mother was sick. I did not know what to do.” Faced with a worsening situation, Thandar took a risky gamble. “I sneaked out with my sister and without my parents’ knowledge, we begged for money under the hot sun. I was shy asking for money but we needed it.” It was a heartbreaking situation for any child to face, but Thandar’s desperate action would set off an unexpected chain of events.

When Thandar and her sister were spotted on the streets, their plight was reported to World Vision. Acting quickly, World Vision staff, volunteers and representatives from the authorities visited Thandar’s house and provided them with desperately-needed food. “We got rice, beans, eggs, dry fish, potatoes, onions, garlic and oil,” said Thandar happily.
Thandar (in red), her parents and elder sister with the trishaw in front of the small room where they live.
Thandar (right) and her family with food aid they received from World Vision.
For nine-year-old Thandar, life has always been a struggle. She lives in a rented 10-square-foot room in Mawlamyine, Myanmar with her older sister and their parents. Every day the family fretted over how they would pay the rent or where their next meal would come from.

Can you imagine a life like that? But that was all they knew.

Adding to the family’s woes was Thandar’s mother, who suffers from a chronic illness. Thandar’s father works as a trishaw driver, and on his meagre income, he could get his wife the medicine she needed while ensuring the family still had a place to live. Food for everyone was not a priority, but the neighbours sometimes helped. In this way, the family was able to get by.

But when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the family’s fragile situation would start to fall apart.

Thandar (in red), her parents and elder sister with the trishaw in front of the small room where they live.

As the global pandemic hit Myanmar, conditions for Thandar and her family went from bad to worse. Thandar’s father was out of a job. On good days they ate porridge. On bad days, they ate nothing. The health of Thandar’s mother worsened and her father had to mortgage his trishaw to raise money and keep the medicine flowing. “There was no more money for rent,” recalls Thandar sadly.

“I felt so sad. We had nothing to eat and my mother was sick. I did not know what to do.” Faced with a worsening situation, Thandar took a risky gamble. “I sneaked out with my sister and without my parents’ knowledge, we begged for money under the hot sun. I was shy asking for money but we needed it.” It was a heartbreaking situation for any child to face, but Thandar’s desperate action would set off an unexpected chain of events.

When Thandar and her sister were spotted on the streets, their plight was reported to World Vision. Acting quickly, World Vision staff, volunteers and representatives from the authorities visited Thandar’s house and provided them with desperately-needed food. “We got rice, beans, eggs, dry fish, potatoes, onions, garlic and oil,” said Thandar happily.

Thandar (right) and her family with food aid they received from World Vision.

Seeing that the family still needed income, a World Vision manager helped Thandar’s father get the trishaw back by paying the mortgage on it out of her own pocket. With renewed hope, Thandar’s father was soon back to work, making 2,500 Myanmar Kyats (RM7.63) a day. A community-based organisation helped pay the family’s rent of 15,000 Kyats (RM45.80) a month and offered them a repayment plan.

With her father back on his feet, the focus was now on Thandar, who was out of school because of the pandemic. World Vision’s Child Protection and Advocacy Group helped home-school her.

Looking back at the support her family received, Thandar is immensely grateful. “I had not realised that we still had people who could help us,” she said. When asked what she wanted to do once COVID-19 is over, Thandar shared, “I want to play with my friends. I want my mom to recover quickly. I will help my parents as much as I can. I will try hard to be a smart person at school,” she said with determination.

World Vision has responded to the pandemic in Thandar’s community by reaching out to children and families with immediate food assistance, preventive materials such as masks, soaps, hand sanitizers and disinfectants, as well as audio education messages about how to be well cared for and protected. We also work closely with local governments to prevent the spread of the disease.

In all of our efforts, our first priority is the dignity of every child. By helping families like Thandar’s to overcome their challenges, we can stop children from taking desperate risks such as begging just to ensure the survival of the people they love. Instead, we want to help them thrive, no matter the circumstances!

Through the 30-Hour Famine, you can give health and livelihood support to families like Thandar’s, walking alongside them as they Fight for the Better during these dark times.

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