|A delighted schoolboy examines his gift|
After a disaster as huge as that caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, one of the most commonly heard questions is: ‘What can I do to help?’ Simeon and Reuben Toganivalu, the 10- and eight-year-old grandsons of Commissioner David Bringans – who, as Territorial Commander for Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar, has been closely involved in the relief effort – came up with their own idea.
The boys and other children from Belfast Primary School in Christchurch, New Zealand, were touched and saddened to hear what happened to the people in Myanmar. Together with their teachers and parents they wanted to do something to help so they organised a coin trail across the school and managed to raise US$700.
It was decided that the money raised by children should go to help children. The cyclone had destroyed schools as well as houses. It had also taken away many parents’ ability to buy school items for their children so that even when schools begin operating again many children have no pens or textbooks. For children who have experienced a disaster like this it is vital that there will be some sense of normality as soon as possible. Going back to school will help provide some of that normality.
The school in New Zealand sent the funds they had raised to Commissioner Bringans and when he arrived in Myanmar he brought the money with him. Together with local team members who know the region he bought school bags and filled them with stationery items, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and towels as well as umbrellas to protect the children from the heavy rain during the rainy season. Each bag was filled with the same items.
The local authorities in two locations provided The Salvation Army with lists of the most needy children – those who were most affected because of Nargis – and a distribution team set out.
To reach one location the territorial commander and his local colleagues had to wade through mud because the village was not accessible by car. The items were loaded on a little vehicle which got stuck several times. With laughter, determination and combined strength it was pushed out of the mud each time by Salvation Army cadets and local people.
When they reached the distribution point the children were already waiting patiently. They couldn’t believe that this distribution would be especially for them. One by one their names were read and they stepped forward to the tall foreign-looking but smiling man who handed them their bags. In total, 130 children received a prized goody-bag.
In a disaster situation like this, $700 may not seem like a lot of money and school items may not sound exciting. But the joy these small gifts brought to the faces of 130 children who had seen devastation and tragedy made them seem priceless.
Below: Pushing a small vehicle through the mud to reach a needy community