How child sponsorship is helping save lives in Myanmar | ActionAid UK

Imagine how difficult life might be without roads, safe bridges, electricity and sanitation.​ In Myanmar, local midwife Naw Nat Paw used to struggle to reach her patients because the main bridge in their area had become too dangerous to cross. But thanks to support from ActionAid child sponsorship, the community has been able to work together to build a strong new bridge that has transformed their lives.

Midwife walks across the newly built bridge on her way to visit a patient in rural Myanmar
Naw Nat Paw walks across the newly built bridge on her way to visit a patient in rural Myanmar

Life in an isolated village

Naw Nat Paw and her family live in an isolated village in Pathein West, southern Myanmar. The only route in and out crosses a fast flowing river via an extremely old bridge.

During the rainy season crossing the bridge was treacherous

Over the years this bridge had deteriorated dramatically. Naw Nat Paw explains:

"Our old bridge was difficult and dangerous to cross. Made of wood, parts of it were decaying and the handrail missing. During the rainy season crossing the bridge was treacherous. You had to watch where you walked because there were big gaps where the footboards were missing. If the wood was wet, it became so slippery."

"We are reliant upon the bridge"

Naw Nat Paw continues, "Every day my children had to cross the bridge to get to school - I worried about them, people have slipped into the river in the past, the current is very fast and I was scared that if my children didn't concentrate they would fall in too.

As the community begin building the new bridge you can still see the old bridge to the right

"I am the local midwife and the bridge is crucial in ensuring I can get to my patients, but it was so difficult to cross I was concerned I wouldn't reach them in time. In an emergency, we couldn't risk crossing the bridge we would have to hire a boat. It made life very stressful."

ActionAid and the community work together

ActionAid doesn't impose solutions. We listen, and then we help people actively solve and overcome the problems they face. So when the community identified a new bridge as their main priority, we supported them in making this a reallity. The village quickly formed a committee, including women, to organise the building of the bridge and its maintenance.

As the community begin building the new bridge you can still see the old bridge to the right

The community raised half of the funding and ActionAid provided the remaining 4,900,000MMK (£2,500), through child sponsorship. Construction was soon underway, villagers - both men and women - provided the labour whilst ActionAid and local government officials gave technical support.

Saving lives

Naw Nat Pat tells us what a huge difference the new bridge has made: "Crossing the river is so much easier, we have a handrail and all the wood is intact. I no longer worry about my children going to school because I know the new bridge means they can cross the river safely." Her daughter, twelve-year-old Naw Hsar Moo, says: "My friends and me are really happy we don't have to use it anymore, now we have a new bridge that we love."

The community build the pathway to and from the new bridge

"Personally, the new bridge has made my job as a midwife enjoyable again," Naw Nat Paw explains. "Because I spend less time trying to cross the river, I have more time for my patients. I am not only able to see more women; I feel I am providing them with a better service. And, in an emergency I know we will always be able to use the bridge - which is the quickest and easiest way to get to the medical centre - this is such a weight off my mind."

It's all thanks to child sponsorship

The lives of this community have been changed for good and it's all thanks to child sponsorship.

The new bridge is making life easier for the whole community

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Saw Nay Htoo / ActionAid Myanmar