Stories of Change

Secretary General Saw Kyaw in his office at the YMCA.

How do you share 30,000 chickens with families? By working together.

Vending machines are uncommon in Myanmar. And vending machines filled with practical items for vulnerable families are unique, even in the United States. But last Christmas, the Church of Latter-day Saints stocked vending machines in a few U.S. cities with gifts for families around the world instead of snacks. Among the gifts were two hens and a rooster per family.

Fast forward 9 months later and across the oceans to Myanmar. By the end of 2020, as a result of those vending machines, more than 10,000 rural families west of Yangon will raise chickens for eggs and meat. What an unexpected windfall for families facing food insecurity!

It takes disciplined and trusted partners to execute complex projects. The YMCA of Maubin is one such partner for CWS. In 2005, the YMCA opened its office in Maubin Township, sixty miles southwest of Yangon. Secretary General Saw Kyaw leads YMCA staff and volunteers in community development efforts. A biblical quote serves as inspiration for the office: “That they all may be one.” (John 17:21). Under the direction of the Secretary General, the YMCA offers vocational training like motorcycle repair, hair styling, sewing and basic computer training.

In 2015, YMCA partnered with CWS to assist people flooded out of their homes in Maubin Township. Then in early 2020, YMCA facilitated 45 days of sewing classes for 20 women from the villages that CWS works closely with. When the opportunity to share chickens with families arose, the YMCA jumped at the chance. They found families in 27 villages interested in raising a local species of chickens. Secretary General Saw Kyaw explains: “We provided 10,317 chicken to 3,439 families in 27 villages. Each family now has three Chittagong chickens which they like because they are easy to raise.”

Families hailed from among the poor and vulnerable who could not afford to pay the usual $5.42 per chicken. Parents lined up for chickens in anticipation of making egg dishes rich in protein for their children. Hens start laying one egg per day beginning at age 5 months old. Older children describe the chickens as “cute” and help their parents collect eggs.

Not only is chicken raising valuable for families, but it also helps CWS and YMCA staff hone work skills. For example, the YMCA identified vulnerable families and managed logistics delivery. After arrival from hatcheries, Village Leaders coordinated orderly pick-up and enforced social distancing. CWS Field Coordinators managed communications with hatcheries, drivers and Village Leaders. The Field Coordinators collected signatures and snapped pictures of delighted families beside delivery trucks.

Secretary General Saw Kyaw praises the collective effort. “Our team learned new procedures and documentation processes while working with CWS. We appreciate the support and collaboration which helps our confidence after each project. We always welcome CWS as our good partner,” he remarked. CWS intends to fulfill the intentions of donors by sharing over 30,000 chickens in Myanmar. Collaboration with partners, YMCA included, paves the road to better food security.