Salesian Missionaries: Always Ready When Disaster Strikes

Publication Date: 
February 08, 2016

This past August, an unusually active summer monsoon season unleashed nature’s full fury on the people of Myanmar. Relentless and torrential rains triggered devastating floods and destructive mudslides that killed more than 100 people and drastically changed the lives of one million more. While the events drew little international attention, Salesian missionaries living in Myanmar demonstrated, once again, that they are always ready to assist the victims of disaster.

“The scale of the devastation is massive,” explains Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo in Rangon. Water and earth flattened buildings and bridges, buried streets and shops, clogged wells and other sources of water, and ruined millions of acres of rice paddies upon which many Burmese families rely for their income and source of food. “In a region that is chronically poor, the poor have lost everything and have become refugees.”

More than 215,000 people were forced to abandon their homes.

As the crisis emerged, Salesian missionaries immediately launched emergency relief operations -- distributing food, clean water, dry bedding and medical supplies to those affected. They even helped evacuate some women and children by boat and relocated them to safety in local churches.

“Our missionaries living and working in Myanmar were well poised to assess the situation on the ground, and immediately determine what actions and relief were required,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Now that the immediate crises have passed, they will also help lead the long recovery process -- assisting victims to rebuild their homes and salvage their livelihoods.”

More than 125 Salesian students have joined forces with the missionaries and other volunteers to clear streets of mud and debris, assist victims in cleaning their homes, pumping mud from wells, repairing sanitary facilities, and spending time trying to raise the spirits of discouraged residents, especially the children. In some areas, Salesian-led teams bring volunteer medical professionals to tend to the sick and injured, and offer preventive medicine to guard against the spread of water- and mosquito-borne illnesses that so often thrive in these situations.

So far, these groups have aided victims in more than 60 villages. Yet the road to full recovery remains long.

“We are committed,” says Cardinal Bo, who notes that Salesian missionaries have teamed with local authorities and other non-governmental aid organizations to chart a course forward. “We will call on everyone we can to ensure that we restore the lives and hopes of the people of Myanmar.”

Our mission helps provide immediate humanitarian aid and ongoing assistance to victims of disaster around the world. We help rebuild lives and provide hope, especially to the precious children. What’s your mission?

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