As part of Centre College’s annual Poverty and Homelessness Week in November, the Center for Global Citizenship and the Bonner Program sponsored an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) dinner to raise funds for those in the Myaing Gyi Ngu IDP Camp in Myanmar.
In order to help reach their goal, several other opportunities were available for those who wanted to donate to the IDP camp. Students were encouraged to donate a meal swipe for the cause, as well as donating to the GoFundMe page and the Box Sleep Out.
Through these efforts throughout the week, the campus community raised a total of $3,100 or $4,227,987 in Myanmar Kyat.
“To put that amount in context, a rural rice farmer in Myanmar earns roughly $30 a month and a full-time factory worker earns $67 a month,” Director of the Center for Global Citizenship Kyle Anderson said.
Anderson explained that this cause is important to the Centre community because the College is host to an international faculty and student body, some of whom have come from Myanmar.
“It is important that these and all members of our community see that we aren’t in the habit of merely taking intellectual and cultural resources from the people and places we study,” he said. “While it is true that we are an institution of higher learning and not an aid agency, I believe it is still crucial for our students to recognize the material realities behind the books we read and to extend a hand when and in whatever way is appropriate.”
After the fundraiser, Anderson traveled to Myanmar in November to distribute the funds to the camp.
“The significance of the donation didn’t hit me until we arrived downtown at the rice warehouse,” he said. “An older woman keeping the books sat at a tiny, wooden desk, dwarfed by piles of 100 lb. rice bags, stacked 20 high to the ceiling.
“Some of the IDP’s said they hadn’t received a shipment of rice from the government for weeks,” he continued. “We paid the woman and then watched the workers load up two flatbed trucks with hundreds of bags of rice. They assured me that that wasn’t all. They would have to come back tomorrow and reload the trucks again.
“It was humbling to see how hundreds of relatively small gestures from Kentucky could make such a massive impact to victims of political, armed conflict on the other side of the world,” he concluded.
Anderson shared that over the past few years, Centre has shown a growing interest in Myanmar.
“Kentucky communities and leaders have opened up their arms to refugees from Myanmar, and some of our College’s best and brightest student have deep ties to that nation,” he added. “While a great many positive changes have occurred in Myanmar after decades of military rule, there remain a number of very troubling trends, including violent interethnic and interreligious conflict.
“Our faculty, staff and students are eager to alleviate the suffering of the innocent in whatever way they can,” he concluded. “I’m proud to be part of a campus community that is willing to lend not only needed educational support to that nation but also to supply meals to its hungry.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 5, 2018