I have a relatively big problem that I have been thinking about for some days now.
I will try to explain, but be aware: It will involve math.
This week I went to Burma and talked to as many people I could. I asked them as many questions as I could think of. I have a journal half full of their answers now.
At one place—a camp for displaced people—the camp commander said:
“Our people here are poor and we don’t have enough to eat. But we will make it. There are some other people, however, that I want to tell you about.”
There are 11 villages around the area. These villages have not been attacked by the Burma Army, but they are suffering from the junta’s politics nevertheless. Last year I went to visit a few of those villages and was impressed by the humble lives they lived, by their hard work and lack of all material wealth, such as toilets and schools.
The camp commander told me that last year the rice crops had failed the villagers. The rain came early, destroying the flowers of the rice, causing the plants to fail to produce fruit. They are 100% dependent on their rice. Whatever they are able to harvest is all the food they will have to eat for the coming year.
“They are already running out of food,” said the camp commander, “and they won’t be able to get any more rice until October at the earliest.”
“So what will they eat?”
“I don’t know, Thara Muu (teacher). Nobody is helping them. In our camp we want to help, but we don’t even have enough to feed ourselves.”
“Well, they will have to eat something, so what will they eat?”
“I don’t know, Thara Muu.”
The people in the villages have no money, no social welfare, no savings, no relations with people in high places. They just have rice barns that are almost empty and eight more months before they can fill them again. Not only that, but they have so little rice that they won’t have enough to sow new rice next season, thus running short again the following year too.
“How much rice do they need to live?”
“Each person needs about three tins of rice every month to live, Thara Muu. That cost about 280 baht.”
Ah, I was relieved. 280 baht. That is about 10 dollars. We could help feed people for ten dollars a month. That is so cheap.
“How many people need help?”
The camp commander and the rest of the people in the house spent some minutes adding up all the numbers.
“There are 1050 people, Thara Muu.”
Now it got a little trickier. 10×1050= 10,500 dollars.
That is how much it would take to feed all the villagers for a month.
And they will need help until October. Eight more months.
10,500 dollars x 8 months = 84,000 dollars.
That is more than I own. I got discouraged. Where could I find 84,000 dollars to feed these kids, moms, dads and grandparents that I had visited just months ago? I have not been able to come up with an answer to that, so that is why I am writing this now. Maybe you know how. If you do, let me know, because the kids are getting very hungry.