Visiting Report Yangon, Myanmar – Susanne Schroff – November 2019
Last November, together with representatives of the Foundation Board and friends, I was allowed to embark on a trip to our projects in Yangon, Myanmar.
I have been visiting the country regularly since 2012. The changes Myanmar is undergoing, seems to be at a rapidly increasing pace! The country had been under military rule since 1962 and was politically and economically largely isolated until a civilian president was appointed head of state in 2011 and (almost) free and fair parliamentary elections followed in 2015. Since then, the world has had many expectations of the government and the economy, but also of the measures to combat blatant poverty. In fact, compared to before, there are now many hotels and some shopping centres from which only tourists and a minority can benefit.
Over the years that I have visited Myanmar, I have unfortunately not noticed a positive development in poverty. Since the country is constantly in the headlines due to the still current Rohingya crisis (although it is located at the western border and a visit there is forbidden), many tourists stay away. An important source of income for the country is decimated.
Outside the inner city of Yangon, which is very clean and green, people live in grey, desolate slums. There are the Lotus Clinic and the Children’s Home Orphanage. Both were built by the SANNI Foundation and are still maintained by us today. The facilities are managed by the Dutch doctor Dr. Frank Smithuis, who formerly worked for Médecins Sans Frontières, and his Burmese wife Dr. Ni Ni Tun. Both have founded the organization Medical Action Myanmar (MAM), which manages a network of clinics in the poorest regions of Myanmar.
With great professionalism and tireless dedication, the team fights for the lives of malnourished children, HIV patients and tuberculosis patients. We are particularly concerned about saving the lives of the youngest, who are often lonely, defenceless, without a family and seriously ill, malnourished and infected with HIV in this world.
Our day clinic, which we built and maintain together with the Rolf Schnyder Foundation, is in great condition. Hundreds of people waited patiently in the entrance area to take their turn. They have various diseases like malaria, dengue fever, some of them tuberculosis or they are HIV infected. Some of them come from far away. Word has got around that they are cared for free of charge and with a lot of compassion. Every year, around 55,000 patients are treated free of charge.
Another very important program for us is the sponsorship program. For 360 CHF per year or a one-time donation to our children’s fund we support children from the poorest backgrounds. The little ones receive vital medicines, vitamin-rich food, love and care.
It is always a highlight to visit the children in the play area built especially for them!
What a joy to see these undernourished and shy children years ago! They all wore the SANNI T-shirts made just for them, which now make them feel part of a community. The little ones look healthier from year to year and have found their smile again. Knowing that someone believes in them, supports their family and sends them to school gives them the confidence they need.
The orphanage, which was built for children who have no one at all, is very well cared for. Our goal is not to run a home with many children, but to provide a homely atmosphere. The children sang songs to us and gave each of us a gift, which touched us very much!
The next day we visited an amusement park with the children. Many of the children could never leave the slums and were amazed to see roller coasters, water slides and boxing cars!The employees of MAM devotedly prepared games like egg running etc. for the children, which gave us at least as much fun as they did!
At the end of the afternoon small children came up to me and hugged me so tightly as they wanted to thank me for the incredible day for them and for us. The greatest motivation for our work is to see the young people, children and adults, to experience their positive development, to feel their enthusiasm and to know that our financial means are used with confidence and earmarked for a specific purpose, where they are urgently needed. It always motivates us to go on, to help more people to a better life.
Susanne Schroff, January 2019