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Youth turn challenges into opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Young people taking part in ChildFund Myanmar’s youth empowerment project are playing a critical role in helping to keep their communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we share stories of how three young people are applying the leadership skills they have learnt in ChildFund’s project to make a difference in their villages.

Every second night 19-year-old Htay Lwin stands watch at the edge of his village in Tanintharyi, south of Myanmar, keeping an eye out for people looking to pass through the gates.

Htay Lwin is on watch from 9pm to 4am, the curfew hours enforced by the Government of Myanmar to restrict people from unnecessary travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. If Htay Lwin sees someone at the gates during these hours, he stops them and takes their temperature to check for a fever and make sure they do not have the virus.

He is happy to be able to help keep his village safe.

“I didn’t know that helping my community could please me so much,” he says.

Htay Lwin says the hours he keeps watch at the gates is a rare period in his day where he can relax and feel respite from everything that is going on because of the pandemic.

Htay Lwin is one of dozens of young people taking part in ChildFund Myanmar’s youth empowerment project who have put up their hand over the past several months to help stop COVID-19 from infecting and spreading in their communities. “Before joining ChildFund’s youth empowerment project, I was very shy,” Htay Lwin says. “Now, I have the confidence to participate anywhere my community needs me.”

Htay Lwin is helping to screen people for COVID-19 at the gates of his village. He is one of dozens of young people taking part in ChildFund Myanmar’s youth empowerment project who are helping to stop COVID-19 from infecting and spreading in their communities.

Giving back to those who need it most

Nineteen-year-old Yuzana is another young person taking action in her community. Through ChildFund’s project she learnt leadership skills and became a youth ambassador in her community.

When the first COVID-19 case in Myanmar was detected in late March, Yuzana was afraid of the impact of the virus would have on her life and her family. Her mother did not allow her to go outside of their home.

However, when the teen learnt through ChildFund about ways to protect herself and her family from the virus, she was determined to help keep other members of her community safe.

She frequently washes her hands and when she is out wears a mask and keeps a safe distance from other people. Yuzana is now helping ChildFund’s partner organisation in her community to distribute staple foods – such as rice, oil, beans and onions – to low-income families  who have lost, or who are at risk of losing their jobs, because of the pandemic.

“Even though my mum still did not want me to go outside, I wanted to help others,” Yuzana says.

The teen is also making cotton masks for children and families who cannot afford to buy them. This act of service, she says, brings her joy, and the children and families who receive her masks are grateful. “They wish me health and happiness throughout my life,” Yuzana says. “It is a pleasure to be able to help.”

Yuzana helps ChildFund’s partner organisation in her community to distribute food to low-income families. She has also made face masks for children and their families.

Mee, who is also a youth ambassador in her community, has been busy helping teach people about COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. The 19-year-old (pictured at the top of this story in the banner) has been actively reaching out to other young people through Facebook Messenger to help organise activities in her village in Tanintharyi.

“We’ve been helping to participate in the village charity association’s activities, like distributing fact sheets of COVID and raising awareness of COVID through loud speakers,” she says.

‘We help our community without any expectations’

Nineteen-year-old Aung Myo is volunteering with the quarantine centre in his village to ensure people returning from neighbouring countries such as Thailand, and other regions in Myanmar, have enough food, clean water, clothing and other essential items while they are in quarantine.

Family members of those in quarantine have been leaving items for their loved ones at the gates of the quarantine centre. Aung Myo has been making sure these items are collected and passed on to the right people inside the centre.

“As we are young people we are not allowed inside the quarantine centre for safety reasons, so we have been helping by keeping watch at the gates,” Aung Myo says.

“We help our community without any expectations. But the people who we have helped remember us and have praised our parents for our help. I think this is the best thing I have received during this time.”

 

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Aung Myo is helping to ensure people in quarantine in his village have essential items such as food and clean water while in lockdown.

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