Mothers’ Union Myanmar – care for the elderly

18 Sep

Saturday 13 September

I am lucky to find myself back in Myanmar for a short time, and today to my complete surprise, we found time in our schedule to go and visit one of MU’s most successful projects here in Myanmar – a care home for the elderly. The home is located about an hour outside of Yangon, in very rural countryside. As an indication of how fragile things remain in Myanmar, I was required to seek permission and register with the government, as a foreigner, before visiting the area.

Mothers’ Union Myanmar set up this home back in 2005, with members pledging 10 bricks each to the building of the site. Since then, the home has grown and developed to its current size. It is a modest facility;  it only has capacity for 20 women and the women share dormitories together with very basic facilities. What I saw today really moved me because as with so many things here in Myanmar, challenging situations are met gracefully, with a quiet but steely-eyed resolve to serve the community.

The home accepts women of all faiths and none – currently they have 8 Christian residents and 8 Buddhist residents. This is again indicative of the way that MU in Myanmar operates – while very much being an organisation of the Church, they are aware that they operate in a context where the majority religion is Buddhism and the MU recognise that the needs of families are similar regardless of faith and ideology. The way that MU is able to positively interact with, and engage, the Buddhist community here in Myanmar can teach us so much about what we are called to do, and who we are called to serve, in our Christian faith.

The ladies sleep in two shared dormitories (separated by ability/mobility), and they are looked after by 3 full time carers who cook all their meals and provide round the clock care. The carers have recently finished nurse training, while a local Doctor visits once a month to ensure these women receive due medical attention.

Impressively, the home is entirely self-sufficient; MU Myanmar receives no external funding to support the running costs (which are around 800 US dollars per month when the home operates at full capacity) which means that all 8,000+ members throughout the Province are relied on to support the home. This is no easy task, and encouraging contributions and donations can seem like an uphill battle at times, as many of us I’m sure, will understand! While these costs may not seem like a huge amount in a Western context ($3,400 fundraised in 2013 amid great need for funds elsewhere in the Province) it is so affirming to see such a commitment to provide quality care for the elderly, amidst many other great challenges that the MU here are trying to respond to. So often, care for the vulnerable and elderly can be seen as a low priority, and Myanmar is no exception to this. The women cared for in this home have so many stories, with such a rich history of living through more than 8 (or even 9) decades of tumultuous change in Myanmar, but for different reasons they find themselves alone in later life, dependent on the love and provision from the MU through this care home.

As someone whose elderly grandmother has struggled with different (and largely impersonal and clinical) care options in the UK while being treated for dementia, and amidst an ongoing discussion in the UK more generally about care provision for the elderly, I couldn’t help but pause and reflect… What could we learn from MU in Myanmar about the way we care for the elderly and vulnerable in our communities?

We hear often of the amazing work being done by our grassroots members all around the world, but only recently have we been able to more widely publicise the work being done in Myanmar  (and even now, I am careful to wait until I am out of the country before I post this blog). Please continue to keep the members of MU in Myanmar in your prayers and give thanks to God for their unwavering commitment to build on the work started by Mary Sumner all those years ago.Home for Aged 3 Home for Aged 2 Home for Aged 1

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One Response to “Mothers’ Union Myanmar – care for the elderly”

  1. rachelastonmu September 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    This is so encouraging – it reminds me of just how much compassion our members have.

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