Elderly home clings to hope

By Nyunt Win

A group of senior citizens warm themselves around a stove at the Bethel Home for the Elderly in the town of Hakha, which sits at an altitude of 6100 feet above sea level and serves as the capital of hilly Chin State in western Myanmar.

The home, which is located in the compound of Bethel Church, was opened in 2001 and is the only facility in Chin State dedicated to the care and comfort of the elderly.

The nine residents have come from different distances to stay at the home but they are all facing the same challenge of adjusting to dependent living as they age.

“I am happy here. My home village no longer pops into my mind,” said Daw Chan Eng, who is in her 60s and who grew up in the village of Chun Cung about 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Hakha.

Daw Chan Eng used to be employed as a security guard at a cattle farm in Chun Cung but she was forced to stop working after she suffered severe burns from boiling water from a cooking pot, which crippled her limbs.

When the staff at the Bethel Home for the Elderly heard about her worsening condition, they invited her to become a resident.

“Here I lay in bed most of the time since I can’t walk well. And I rarely talk to others because I’m deaf,” Daw Chan Eng said with a breaking voice.

Another resident, 72-year-old U Zar Mung, is the retired headmaster of a primary school in Hakha. His marriage broken, this father of eight children had no one to look after him after he retired.

He said his eldest son had to resign from his job working for local authorities due to a problem with alcoholism, leaving the aging U Zar Mung to earn his living by working at road construction sites for daily wages.

“I feel sorry for my life but I don’t blame my children – they cannot care for me because they are jobless as well,” he said.

U Zar Mung said he was brought to the home with help from some of his neighbours. He now spends his days saying prayers and growing vegetables.
“To be healthy is more important for me now,” he said. “It’s very good that this home has been established. I’m determined to live here for the rest of my life.”

Salai Bawi Ferling, a member of the home’s supervisory committee, said the founding of the institution was the brainchild of Bethel Church’s late pastor, Reverend Sang Awi.

“The pastor organised the local people to establish an old people’s home when he saw needy elderly people working for daily wages on road construction sites,” Salai Bawi Ferling said. “When these people became sick, they had to rely on the local community – a situation that was burdensome for the host in the long run.”

The Bethel Home for the Elderly, which started with 10 residents, was originally located on property rented from a local family in Hakha. After about 18 months the family decided to sell the property, forcing the home to relocate to a small house on the grounds of Bethel Church.

“The home accepts any dependent elderly person over the age of 60 years regardless of race or religion,” Salai Bawi Ferling said, adding that they also required recom-mendations from local authorities and relatives, if any.

Since it opened seven years ago the home has cared for 13 people but four of them have died.

The Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement helps support the home with donations of Western and traditional medicines, and also gives K40,000 every year on World Elderly Day.
He added that funding for the home was extremely limited.

“Food for the residents costs about K50,000 a month, with rice being supplied by the local community and authorities,” he said.

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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New hotel caters to diverse budgets

By Thein Win Nyo

THE Hotel Yangon enjoyed an understated “soft” opening on July 1 at its premises at 8 Mile Junction in Mayangone township.

The hotel was previously known as City Hotel and was operated by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC).

U Myo Myint, the general manager of the hotel, said the facility was redesigned to cater to a large number of guests with diverse budgets and tastes.

“Our 12-storey hotel has a total of 112 deluxe rooms, executive suites and royal suites,” he said, adding that the hotel would enjoy a grand opening “soon” but is now officially open for business.

In addition to the 112 rooms in the main building, there are a further 16 serviced apartments for long-term residents. There is also an office block complete with 16 office units for foreign or domestic companies.

Daw Thiri Khaing, the director of sales, said: “The European market will be our main target but we welcome the Asian market too. We have contacted most of the travel agencies in Myanmar and are confident about what we are offering.”

She said Hotel Yangon will provide guests with the same level of facilities offered by other hotels in Yangon, including limousine services.

On the dining front there will be an international café near the lobby, while the top floor will be dedicated to a Chinese restaurant that will look out over Yangon. There will also be a bakery and coffee shop called Sweet World within the compound.

U Hpone Thant, the secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, said: “We welcome new hotels opening in town. Having lots of rooms available is good news for us during peak tourist season.

“But the most important thing is they need to be able to provide international-standard services. When there is more competition within the hotel industry, there will be more variety for customers.”

The hotel is now managed by Taw Win San Htar Company and Myanmar Emperor Company. Together they have signed a 30-year lease with the YCDC.

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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Edible oil milling can provide fish feed: official

By Sann Oo

The Minister of Livestock and Fisheries said last week that a government project to increase production of edible oil crops is also likely to help the development of the livestock and fisheries sectors.

“The government is increasing the growing areas for oil crops to help fulfil the country’s edible oil needs,” Brigadier General Maung Maung Thein told a meeting of livestock and fisheries entrepreneurs at the Myanmar Fisheries Federation in Insein township in Yangon.

He explained that the process of milling crops such as peanuts and sesame seeds to produce oil also creates a paste as a by-product that can be used as animal feed.

“Having enough feed is one of the most important things for animal breeding. We are pushing to increase the farming of fish but if we do not have enough feed it will not be possible,” he said, adding that importing feed from abroad would be a waste of money.

At the meeting, Brig Gen Maung Maung Thein also talked about his vision for adding another 20,000 acres of fish farms in Ayeyarwady Division in the near future.

“According to official figures, Myanmar’s paddy production is sufficient to feed the population so I want to apply to the government to expand the area dedicated to fish farming,” he said.

Myanmar produced 1447 million baskets of paddy last year. The target is 1500 million baskets, calculated for a population of 100 million with a consumption rate of 15 baskets a year for each person. Myanmar’s current population is estimated at 57 million.

Brig Gen Maung Maung Thein said increasing the amount of acreage dedicated to fish farming would be a crucial step in achieving the government’s target of exporting US$120 million of farmed fish this year.

He said the government is helping to support fish farmers by issuing bigger loans from the Myanmar Livestock and Fisheries Development Bank based on recommendations from the Fish Farmers Association.

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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Myanmar team wows tourism trainers

By Zo Puii

FOUR delegates from Myanmar attended a program in Vietnam from June 18 to 29 to prepare them to train people for the Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum (CATC) and Regional Qualifications and Skills Recognition Systems (RQFSRS).

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism sent four representatives to the “train the trainers” program: U Ohn Kyaw, the principal of the School of Tourism Training; U Win Kyi, the principal of the Hotel Training Centre; Daw Honey Thazin Aung, the director of human resources at Dusit Inya Lake Hotel; and Daw Lily Kyu, the assistant front office manager at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel.

During the 12-day program, Mr James Richard from the Australia-based William Angliss Institute trained 16 representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

“This was a training program for trainers, so we learned about competency and how to become skilful trainers,” said Daw Lily Kyu. “There was also an assessor present who evaluated each representative’s abilities.”

On the last day each representative was required to make a presentation. Topics among the Myanmar delegation included the role of food and beverage managers (U Ohn Kyaw), the importance of lost and found departments in hotels (U Win Kyi), human resources (Daw Honey Thazin Aung) and the front office desk (Daw Lily Kyu).

“Our presentations were highly appreciated by the other attendees,” said Daw Lily Kyu. “Some of them asked me to lend them books about my presentation but I told them that it was all in my head.”

“We were proud that some of the other representatives said they would use our presentations in their own countries,” she said.

The William Angliss Institute is overseeing implementation of the CATC project, which is aimed at developing common curriculum and competency standards for tourism education and training programs in ASEAN member countries, to ensure that tourism professionals throughout the region have equal skills, qualifications and employment opportunities.

Three workshops on the CATC project have been held in Yangon since last year, an experience that the representatives from Myanmar agreed helped them during the training program in Vietnam.

“I attended all the workshops in Yangon and learned a lot from them,” said Daw Lily Kyu. “According to the William Angliss Institute, Myanmar is better than other ASEAN countries at giving facts and figures about tourism.”

The Myanmar representatives returned from Vietnam on June 30 and are now working on a report of their experiences for submission to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.

“The ministry has not yet told us how we should apply what we learned,” said Daw Lily Kyu. “If the ministry gives us an assignment we will carry it out. Until then, I will share my knowledge with the staff of our hotel.”

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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Japan embassy offers student advisory program

By Zaw Win Than

THE Japanese embassy in Yangon will hold the next session of its student advisory program for studying in Japan on July 11 from 2pm to 4pm.

The aim of the ongoing program is to provide information to students interested in studying Japan. Sessions are scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month.

At each session, an advisor explains how to contact universities in Japan and how to apply for scholarships offered by the Japanese government and private foundations and institutions. Students are also provided with contact information for Japanese language schools.

The advisor for the July 11 sessions will be U Than Swe, a PhD candidate in economics at Kyoto University and a former rector of Meikhtila Institute of Economics.

The following session on August 8 will be led by Dr Khin Win Than, who studied in Japan from 1989 to 1994 and attained a PhD in medical science (pathology) from Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

Students interest in attending an advisory session can register at the Japanese embassy’s Information and Culture Section.
The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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Workshop develops youth HIV education materials

By Phyu Lin Wai

A WORKSHOP was held in Yangon last month that gathered young people to discuss ways to create effective HIV/AIDS educational materials aimed at youths.

The workshop, which was held from June 26 to 30 at Panda Hotel in Lanmadaw township, was jointly organised by the Department of Health, United Nations Population Fund and the UN Children’s Fund.

It was attended by 34 young volunteers representing a range of non-government organisations.

Two cartoonists and two graphic designers also participated to help the volunteers translate their ideas into educational designs and pictures.

The workshop was kicked off by representatives from the Department of Health and various non-government organisations, who provided lectures on youth and HIV/AIDS, and the role of educational materials in preventing the disease.
The participants then brainstormed about ideas for the creation of HIV/AIDS educational materials for youths.

Dr Khin Than Oo, the director of the Central Health Education Bureau under the Department of Health, said the workshop marked the first time an attempt was made to get ideas from young people about producing HIV/AIDS educational materials aimed at their peers.

“In the past, senior officials and project leaders decided what messages should be included in educational materials aimed at the general public and targeted groups,” she said.

She said most education materials highlighted the nature of disease, the ways it is transmitted and preventive measures but were weak in making people aware of risky behaviour or trying to convince them to change such behaviour.

“As a result, many young people know about HIV/AIDS in general but they can’t analyse whether their behaviour is risky or not,” she said.

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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Official warns of global warming

By Khin Hninn Phyu and Zo Puii

THE deputy minister of hotels and tourism said last month that global warming constituted one of the biggest environmental threats to the tourism industry and the world in general.

Brigadier General Aye Myint Kyu said global warming affects not just one or two continents but the entire world, including Myanmar.

“The disastrous results of global warming are the result of the overexploitation, and reckless and unwise use, of natural resources by humans,” he said.

He was speaking at a seminar on the conservation of marine and coastal environments held at the International Business Centre in Yangon on June 28.

The seminar, organised by Special Taskforce (2) of the National Committee for Environmental Affairs under sponsorship of the Htoo Group of Companies, was aimed at helping to develop ideas for the conservation of the environment.

The one-day event, which included the presentation of eight papers by representatives of various ministries and universities, attracted about 300 participants from the tourism industry, conservation groups and academic institutions.

Among the papers presented were “Status of the Marine Environment of Myeik Archipelago and Its Conservation Needs,” “Status of the Mangrove Ecosystem in the Chaungtha Region,” “Coastal and Marine Conservation Problems around the World and in Myanmar” and “Natural Environment: To Save and Serve Tourism”.

In his speech, Brig Gen Aye Myint Kyu also stressed the importance of the relationship between the growing tourism industry and the need for environmental preservation.

“At every travel destination around the world, there should be projects underway to conserve the human and natural environment for the sake of the sustainable development of the industry,” he said.

“The invention of destructive technologies and weapons, as well as the never-ending greed of businesspeople and officials, are all contributing to the demise of nature,” he said.

He said Special Taskforce (2) was formed as cooperative effort between government officials and the private sector, a collaboration that was necessary to tackle the problem of sustainable development.

Brig Gen Aye Myint Kyu pointed out that although Myanmar has not yet formed an environmental ministry, agencies such as the National Committee for Environmental Affairs have been created to tackle conservation issues.

The committee, which is chaired by the minister of forestry and vice-chaired by the minister of mining, comprises seven special taskforces charged with carrying out specific duties.

The Myanmar Times: 9 July 2007, Volume 19, No. 374

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