How You Can Lend a Hand in the Wake of Cyclone Nargis

With an estimated death toll of over 100,000 women, men and children, Cyclone Nargis is one of – if not the – worst natural disaster in modern history.

Travelers Nora Dunn and Kelly Bedford were traveling through Southeast Asia just before the cyclone swept Burma and the surrounding area. They’ve now canceled their trip to focus 100% of their efforts on helping the people effected by the tragedy. And they’re making it possible for you to help too.


Cyclone Nargis Flooding, Before and After © Wikipedia

The United States media has given this story appallingly little air time. It’s easy to sit idly in our homes and apartments thousands of miles away, watching satellite scans on CNN. But putting a face to the tragedy is another matter entirely.

Note: the following link will disturb most readers. I stared at this photo this morning while sitting comfortably in my office at work. And it brought me to tears. The caption reads: “Flooding, removal of vegetation, destruction of building in the background with corpses of both animals and humans visible in the foreground.” It’s impossible not to feel both helpless and angry.

A since thank you to Nora & Kelly for everything they’re doing to help. I hope that my reposting of their correspondence below will help increase awareness of this horrific event. Please donate any aid – financial or otherwise – that you can and help spread the word about this tragedy to your friends and family.

Hello all!

As some of you already know, we are currently in northern Thailand, and Cyclone Nargis which swept through Burma missed us. We are safe and sound, but there are tens of thousands dead, triple that missing, and millions homeless. Less than 500kms away from us, people are lost, hungry, thirsty, homeless, and dying.

Being as close as we are to this devastation, we are unable to continue with our trip through SE Asia as planned. We have effectively canceled our trip, in order to do whatever we can to help.

The idea hatched as a plan to rent a truck, fill it with locally purchased supplies, and personally drive it to the Thai/Burma border to be picked up by people providing aid in the country.

Less than 24 hours later, we had made contact with the Chiang Mai Rotary Club and through them the Royal Thai Air Force and as early as next week we may have a C-130 cargo aircraft at our disposal! We meet with them tomorrow to determine what is possible. They hope to at least procure a truck if they cannot get a plane, and if all falls through we have also established contact with two agencies that are on the ground in Burma right now and are providing aid and relief where we can direct our energy and money.

While other international aid is being stalled at the border, Burma is accepting help from Thailand, India, and China. So it stands to reason that our contribution has a great chance of getting where it needs to go.

Yes – there is news of the military junta seizing the goods donated, but I don’t believe that it is a good enough reason to throw our hands up in the air and do nothing. People continue to suffer each hour. We have to trust that even the Burmese military has enough compassion and decency to deliver the aid to where it is needed. We don’t care whose name is on the box; we just want the box to get there
and be distributed properly.

The International Aid agencies that are getting in are doing terrific work. But all reports indicate that much more help is needed. If we can deliver just one truck load, one plane load, or one bloody box of goods, we have a chance to help hundreds if not thousands of people live another day. Is that not worth canceling a trip through Asa and dedicating a month of our lives?

We hope you agree.

The media certainly does: we did a live interview for BBC’s Five Live on Sunday morning. The CBC and Toronto Star have also taken notice of our efforts, and we expect other media outlets will too. We are just two Canadians who believe that we are in a unique position to help, raise awareness, and make a difference at a truly grassroots level.

We are currently working diligently with our Rotary club at home in Toronto to set up channels for people to make donations. However in the meantime, we are being barraged with requests from fellow travelers who are inspired by our commitment and want to give us money (and get their family & friends in their own countries involved).

To that end, I have set up a link on my blog for people to make contributions directly to our Paypal account. I must note that this is a personal account; we are not a charity or non-profit organization. We cannot issue receipts, and our accountability to you is purely one of good faith.

If you would like to make a donation, we solemnly promise to you that 100% of the money will go towards following:

1) Locally purchased supplies in Chiang Mai, to be delivered directly to those on the ground in Burma.

2) Donations to the Rotary-sponsored Shelter Box program, which is successfully delivering boxes of goods from Dubai, Australia, and the UK. Each box provides 10 people with the supplies for shelter and food to sustain themselves for up to six months. Shelter Box Info: www.shelterbox.org or www.shelterbox.ca

3) Other aid organizations we have made contact with which we will confirm are making a tangible difference and are currently on the ground providing much needed supplies and aid.

If you would like to make a donation now, you can do so by visiting my blog (www.freedom30.blogspot.com) and donating through there.

Thank you so much for your attention and support in this very trying time. Feel free to forward this to friends and family members who you believe would be interested in helping us to make a real difference at a truly grassroots level.

Blue Skies …
Nora Dunn & Kelly Bedford

About The Author

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Mike Richard has traveled the world extensively since 2008. He's camped in the Jordanian desert with Bedouins, tracked African wild dogs in South Africa, and survived a near-miss shark attack in Mexico. He loves the great outdoors, good bourbon, and he (usually) calls Massachusetts home. He also enjoys speaking in the third person.

6 Responses

  1. Lizzie

    Great post! I’m impressed by the effort that Nora and Kelly are making to help out. It’s a rare opportunity.

    To those who are considering donations, be very careful — Make sure you know where your money is going. Economic sanctions against Burma have required many charities to get a special permit to help out. The FTC and BBB are also warning about scams. We all want to help out, but make sure your money isn’t fleecing the pockets of someone who doesn’t deserve it.

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth R.

    I noticed that Nora’s blog entry today mentions the problem they’re facing regarding these sanctions. It’s a shame, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to overcome the problems.

    I would suggest any Canadians looking to help out should check the government’s website at http://geo.international.gc.ca/cip-pic/library/howcanadians-en.aspx.
    USAID has a similar site for Americans at http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/help/index.html

    Reply
  3. Nora

    Hi all,
    Thank you for the comments and ideas. Given the sanctions, we are looking at every avenue possible to make sure every dollar goes directly to a cause that directly benefits the victims of the cyclone and doesn’t break laws….an increasingly tangled web of red tape as you can imagine.
    We will look at the resources listed above, as well as continue to foster the contacts we have relationships with.
    What a project!

    Reply
  4. Tony P

    Great post, Mike!

    I love Canadians. I have a huge number of Canadians on my message boards that are so helpful to other travelers that it doesn’t surprise me how passionate you both are(Nora and Kelly) that you would cancel your trips to do what you can to help.

    Wow! Simply amazing.

    Keep up the great work and energy!

    Reply

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