Friend of DOERS, Carol McGee, distributed prenatal vitamins in Myanmar on behalf of DOERS. Read her story and see photos:
“Dropping-off Vitamins in Burma (Myanmar) by Carol McGee
A trip to Burma and Cambodia were never on my list of places to visit until my daughter Julie and her husband Craig moved to Yangon (Rangoon) in August of 2010 (2 days after they were married). An invitation to spend Christmas with them and Craig’s parents sent me on an adventure of a lifetime. When I told Rob Turner, one of our SH parishioners and founder of DOERS (Dominican Overseas Education & Relief Services) that I was going to Burma, he excitedly asked me if I could deliver pre-natal vitamins to a contact of his in Yangon. Sounded like a great deal of intrigue, and before I could think about it, I said “Yes. How do I do it?”
Burma is an underdeveloped country ruled by an authoritarian military regime, sanctioned by many countries including the United States for human rights violations and political oppression. While it is a resource-rich country, its people suffer from pervasive government controls, inefficient economic policies, corruption, and rural poverty. Despite Burma’s emergence as a natural gas exporter, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated under the regime’s mismanagement, leaving most of the public in poverty, while military leaders and their business friends exploit the country’s ample natural resources. Public funding for health and education is among the lowest in the world. One hundred bottles of vitamins would help 50 women carry and deliver 50 (+) healthy babies.
Needless to say, I had been very worried about my daughter living there and my traveling there alone. Now, I was a little worried about carrying “drugs” and getting through customs and security. My imagination had me being detained or arrested. That would really mess up my Christmas! But Rob coached me on what I was to say and gave me documentation stating that the vitamins were gifts from the people of the United States. Surprisingly, my daughter said she thought we could get them through. Probably the worst that could happen is that they would be confiscated. It was worth a try!
All went well until I tried to go through customs in Yangon where I was pulled out of line and asked what I was doing with 100 bottles of pre-natal’s since they obviously weren’t for personal use. I smiled (lots of smiling and bowing) and explained as Rob had coached me, “these are gifts from the people of the United States to help pregnant women.” “Sorry,” they said, “You no have permission; you need form!” I think it helped that I didn’t understand most of what they were telling me. I just kept saying over and over again “gift, gift, gift”. After discussions with several agents, and multiple examinations of the bottles, the customs clerk finally said, “we let you bring now, not again!” Ok – I’ll remember that! And I just kept bowing and smiling and thanking them.
The next day, I met with Fr. Robert Hauzamung and delivered the vitamins to him. Fr. Robert is the son of one of our parishioners, Lucas Langh & Angela Neam and the brother of Sister Elizabeth who visited Boise to see her parents in 2010 and helped with religious education in the parish during that summer. He was very grateful and very excited to hear news of his parents. He would make sure the vitamins found their way to some nuns who ran health clinics outside of Yangon.
I spent a week in Burma and another week in Cambodia. It was like a National Geographic expedition. My experiences there — the things I saw, the people I met—were life changing. ”
Topic: Uncategorized Tags: None