Stories of Change

Ma Aye and her youngest daughter.

Through nutrition education, DRR and water, sanitation and hygiene programs in 20 villages in two Ayeyarwady region townships, CWS helped 2,431 families – nearly 12,000 people –take steps towards improved wellbeing last year.

Source: Annual Report 2017

A healthy foundation for finances and nutrition

The far-flung Ayeyarwady River – and its hundreds of powerful tributaries – dominates the landscape in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region. Here, the river is a source of livelihoods as well as unique challenges.

Ko Myo Kyi and Ma Khin New Aye live in Taung Tar Yar village in the region. Ko Kyi and Ma Aye have three children: 12-year-old Okka Maung, 10-year-old Moe Pyae Thazin and a toddler named Chit Phue Hnone.

In the dry season, the couple earns 300,000 Kyat ($250) growing chilies and corn on the half-acre of land they own. In the rainy season from June through November, their land is underwater and thus they can’t plant.

Ko Kyi is not a fisherman, and they have had no other ways to earn a living during the rainy season. Out of desperation, they have taken out high-interest loans from commercial lenders for years just to buy food and pay basic expenses.

Because of this difficult situation and the fact that they have a young child who needs a better diet, their community nominated this family to participate in a CWS nutrition education program funded by Japanese company Ajinimoto. Grateful for the help, Ma Aye readily joined in all the education sessions about nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, chicken-raising and home gardening – all of which combine, of course, to help families have healthier children starting from their earliest years.

Ma Aye received three hens and a rooster when she finished the nutrition course. Since then, she has used her new knowledge to start a home garden and raise the chickens, which are already laying eggs to help her improve her children’s diet. She has five baby chicks to expand the brood. Ma Aye’s garden has watercress, long beans, okra, spinach and pumpkin, some of which she cooks regularly to further improve her family’s diet. When we spoke to Ma Aye recently, she smiled and said, “Now I have more information and know how to prepare well-balanced meals with vegetables and eggs for protein to help my children grow healthy. And, though I honestly never thought about it before, I also wash my baby’s hands before meals and I make sure the older children do to.”

From the conversation, our team is confident that Ma Aye knows how to prepare nutritious food properly and to monitor her youngest child’s growth to make sure she grows strong. So far, the family has used their vegetables and eggs only for themselves; but if she’s like her friends and neighbors who have participated in this program, before long Ma Aye will be selling her extra eggs and chickens for much-needed cash, and adding chicken meat to the family’s diet. Slowly but surely, she and the CWS team are confident, she and Ko Kyi will be creating a better life for themselves and their children. They plan to work their way out of their old debts, too; and then – who knows what more good can come? For now, because of their partnership with CWS, they are hopeful and on their way.