Stories of Change

Ma Swe with her family.

Through nutrition education, disaster risk reduction 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 well being last year.

Source: CWS Annual Report 2017

New information, healthier children in Myanmar

“My name is Khaing Win Swe, and I am happy to have a chance to tell you my story.”

So begins the story of a 30-year-old woman who CWS is proud to work with in Myanmar. Ma Swe and her husband, Ko Aung Win, have two sons, 10-year-old student Kaung Khant Aung and 14-month-old Aung Phone Khant.

“During the dry season from October to April our family grows chili on land we are fortunate to own, and my husband works as a boat engine repair mechanic during the rainy season, which lasts for the rest of the year. My full-time job is to take care of my two sons and look after the house, which is a lot of work, really. I think I am a good mother, and I thought I was feeding my sons well. So, when I learned from the village midwife that my younger son was malnourished, I could not believe it,” says Ma Swe. She continues, “I wanted to understand how this was possible, and to help Aung Phone Khant grow up healthy.”

Ma Swe says that when she heard there was a chance to know more about young child health and nutrition, “I joined the nutrition and sanitation education sessions CWS was offering to mothers and other child caregivers in our village. For the first session, I had a really hard time understanding what the CWS education team members were talking about. But gradually I understood more about basic nutrition, different aspects of hygiene and the essentials of good sanitation. We heard talks, saw demonstrations, could ask questions and get answers and we also had time together to practice what we were learning about safe food preparation.”

Now, says Ma Swe, “I have changed the ways I prepare food for my sons and how I feed my younger son. One main difference is that now I always wash my hands before cooking and before I help Aung Phone Khant eat. I have changed our diet, too; I cook vegetables and meats for my family at least once each day. Since I have added new foods to complement my breastfeeding for my younger son, his weight has gradually increased and he is a healthier child.”

In ending her story, Ma Swe said, “At first my husband thought it was a waste of time for me to join in education sessions, but after a few months, he noticed the growth of our younger son. He has realized the benefit of education and new information, too, and so volunteered to be water, sanitation and hygiene committee member. He then learned about having and using safe water, with details about household water treatment and safe storage, how to properly maintain wells with hand-pumps and about group management so the committee could work well. Both of us see the power of new knowledge and having correct information that has helped us change our attitudes and behavior, which has had positive impacts not only on our family well being but also our community’s development.”