Community participation can be defined as the participation of people within a community, especially the younger segment of people like me in projects for solving our own issues. People should never be forced to partake in the community projects that affect their lives but should be offered the chance where it is promising. This is stated to be the basic human rights and an elementary opinion of democracy. It is a strong certainty that the communities which are being affected by disasters should be provided with the utmost prospect in the programs of disaster relief. Participation for people like me does not purely means being occupied in the production of facilities, it signifies causal ideas, decision making and taking proper responsibility. All too frequently, refugees and other displaced people are mostly treated by the relief agencies as the dependent entities that need to be nourished, sheltered and watered. In times of emergency we often forget the fact that those people are the ones with substantial knowledge, compassion, skills and conceit which is often being overlooked.
Being in a country like Myanmar, which often faces the wrath of nature witnesses immense flood that claims the lives of hundreds of people. Resource workers and community servers are always on their toes n places like Myanmar, to help the people who require the same. I have been part of two to three such community services in Myanmar, where I worked along with other groups to offer any sort of assistance to the people who are suffering. In the year 2015, Myanmar was badly hit by heavy downpour causing floods and landslides in several parts of the country. Such was the strength of the rain that it displaced around 2, 60,000 people, destroying roughly 1.2 million acres of rice fields, disrupting the operations of mobile network of companies like Telenor, Ooredoo and Myanmar Posts (Izumi and Shaw 2014).
I got involved with Ooredoo Myanmar and visited the affected areas of Magwe and Bago regions with the organization’s selected group. I was working in a recharge shop at that point of time and witnessed Ooredoo Group’s initiative of helping Myanmar victims through the launch of SMS crisis code, “Help Myanmar”, inviting the customers to donate a share from their credit balance to the victims of flood (Samphantharak 2014). I still remember the way I used to request and urge the customers in our area to donate even a small portion towards the fund allocated for the victims. I was part of the group that visited Bago and Magwe twice for allocating water, medicine and food along with the emergency relief through the distribution network of the company. I myself donated a small amount in the fund allocated by Ooredoo, offering support of over MMK 20 million (£10,000) in two of the most affected areas. I have been a part of few more, helping as much as I can to the people of Myanmar. I have even worked in Yangon with the Red Cross volunteers in offering comfort, personal care supplies and health services along with emotional support, which is very essential as at such times people do not have the strongest of mind states in dealing with such situations. I have laid my hand in managing the logistics of thousands of supplies, repairing vehicles and other equipments with the assistance from others.
The advantage of the community participation which I have felt is it motivates people in working together. In the flood of 2014, 85 people (volunteers and local people) worked tirelessly day in and day out to help set up the region of Mon after it received heavy rainfall. I was part of that team, working with the professionals for three days to help the victims regain their normal life. I like the idea when people of different religion and culture come together to save the human community, sidelining all the debates and controversies about creed and ethnicity. Genuine community participation is what I am more interested in. Helping others would better my own life and the community as a whole and would give me that satisfaction that I have served the human community to the best of my ability. However, one disadvantage that I felt while working is that there is general feeling that the government should offer the facilities. Moreover, a highly idiosyncratic society where there is no actual sense of community. Not always have I found volunteers or agency workers treating the victims with admiration, listening to them patiently and learning from them the issues they are facing that might go towards structuring a thriving program.
Izumi, T. and Shaw, R., 2014. Community-Based Response and Recovery: Role of Civil Societies. In Civil Society Organization and Disaster Risk Reduction (pp. 237-254). Springer Japan.
Razafindrabe, B.H., Kada, R., Arima, M. and Inoue, S., 2014. Analyzing flood risk and related impacts to urban communities in central Vietnam. Mitigation and adaptation strategies for global change, 19(2), pp.177-198.
Sahan, K., Pell, C., Smithuis, F., Phyo, A.K., Maung, S.M., Indrasuta, C., Dondorp, A.M., White, N.J., Day, N.P., Seidlein, L. and Cheah, P.Y., 2017. Community engagement and the social context of targeted malaria treatment: a qualitative study in Kayin (Karen) State, Myanmar. Malaria journal, 16(1), p.75.
Samphantharak, K., 2014. Natural disasters and the economy: some recent experiences from Southeast Asia. Asian?Pacific Economic Literature, 28(2), pp.33-51.