One year later, World Vision focuses on future of Myanmar children



    MISSISSAUGA, ON, April 30 /CNW/ - When disaster strikes, children are at
the heart of World Vision's response. The development, relief and advocacy
organization cared for some 17,000 children in the aftermath of the cyclone
that devastated Myanmar a year ago and continues to work with them to build a
better future in this disaster-prone country.
    World Vision's child-friendly spaces - 108 of them established as a safe
place for children to play, learn and recover from trauma - have been a key
element of the organization's response in the hardest-hit areas in Myanmar.
Many have since been taken over by community volunteers who have been trained
to support these children, some who have lost their parents, when Cyclone
Nargis hit Myanmar on May 2, 2008, leaving some 138,000 people dead or
missing.
    World Vision also provided food and non-food items during the initial
emergency phase, along with shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, child
protection, health and livelihood programs that reached more than 347,000
people in the Yangon and Delta regions. In the current rebuilding phase, World
Vision is focusing on livelihood recovery, child protection, water, sanitation
and hygiene, and disaster risk reduction for 100,000 people.
    "Many communities have told us how much they value the special attention
being paid to their children. Not only did the child-friendly spaces give
children a place of their own in which to play, meet friends and recover a
sense of normalcy but they also allowed parents to get on with rebuilding
their lives knowing their children were being cared for," said Mia Marina,
World Vision Myanmar Emergency Response Support Manager.
    One parent told World Vision that the space in his remote village was the
best thing that happened to them as a family. All his eight children were
attending. He was especially happy his six-year-old son, who had physical
disabilities prior to the cyclone, was also able to attend along with 80
children.
    Pam Sitko, a Canadian and a Relief Communicator for World Vision in
Bangkok said: "The children are beautiful, and the children are eager -
children who just want to make a difference. They want to be something,
anything. It was amazing and inspiring to see how their parents, aunts,
uncles, appreciated our programs, and how these programs had really taken
off."
    Still, challenges remain for children who dream of becoming a doctor or a
businessman. Livelihood recovery for their parents remains as the greatest
need. Many families suffered losses of income generating assets, crops, and
livestock when the cyclone disrupted the agriculture cycle in the country's
main food producing region. Farmers are or will shortly plant their "wet"
season crops and are dependent on monsoon rains for a healthy harvest.
    Local staff and communities have been at the forefront of the response
and World Vision is helping people prepare for future disasters through
simulations, planning evacuation routes, building elevated areas to evacuate
to and constructing community centres that can be used as cyclone shelters.
    Generous Canadian donors, in addition to support from the Canadian
government, provided significant help towards these relief and recovery
efforts. World Vision received $5.1 million from Canadians, in addition to
grants worth $2.3 million from the Canadian government.
    World Vision has operated in Myanmar since 1961 and donors currently
sponsor 42,000 children, although none are sponsored by Canadians. Community
development programs funded by the child sponsorship program include food
assistance, agriculture, health, clean water, education, income generation and
nutrition programs.

    World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization
dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome
poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion,
race, ethnicity or gender.





For further information:

For further information: To interview World Vision staff, please
contact: Yoko Kobayashi, (905) 565-6200 ext. 2151, (416) 671-0086 (cell),
yoko_kobayashi@WorldVision.ca; Alex Sancton, (905) 565-6200 ext. 3979, (416)
419-1321 (cell), alex_sancton@WorldVision.ca


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