Since the 17-year long ceasefire was broken in Kachin in 2011, fighting between the Myanmar Army and the armed group Kachin Independence Army has caused the displacement of 120,000 people. Operational in Kachin since 2012, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL provides income generating opportunities to people living in camps in Bhamo.
Daw Mahka Pwi San, 37 years old, comes from Khon Khar Par village, in Mansi Township. “There were several clashes around my village in 2012, so my family and I fled to the nearby forest. After one month, we had no supplies left so we ran away, and arrived in Robert Church camp near the city of Bhamo,” she remembers. The recent waves of fighting have not impacted her family directly. However, Daw Mahka Pwi San tells us that her husband is quite worried about the possibility of forced recruitment.
Daw Mahka Pwi San now lives in a shelter in the camp, with six relatives. “The shelter is really small, it’s not comfortable. We have to share one latrine among 6 households, it is quite difficult, we have to wait some time, especially in the morning”. Before being displaced, Daw Mahka Pwi San was a farmer. “Now I knit, cook and take care of my children during the day”.
Finding income generating activities in the camps
Daw Mahka Pwi San benefited from income generating activities in Bhamo camps, proposed by SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL. She brought forward a project she had in mind, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL teams reviewed its feasibility and, after approval, provided her with a small cash grant to fund the activity. “I was selected for my knitting abilities, and now I knit sweaters and other clothing and sell them at the market in the camp. I always sell all my stock, my business has become very successful! Now I am able to support my children’s education. I earn enough to buy the equipment I need to run my business and make a profit”.
Needs and hopes
When asked about her current needs, Daw Mahka Pwi San replies that “there are many people living in the camp, so we don’t have enough room for washing and other activities. The space between shelters is very narrow. We also need more opportunities for elderly and disabled people, and for increased resources for better education opportunities!”
She plans to continue working on her knitting business “I plan to expand it, grow old and remain here in Bhamo. I really hope my children will receive a good education, and they will be able to have a better life than I had”.