I could have never even dreamed of a bridge like this!” exclaims SoeMyint (59) the Leader of Kaun Su (West)’s Bridge Building Committee, while standing at a brand-new concrete bridge spanning over a small river. Completion of the bridge was not a small feat for his village. For more than ten years the villagers in Kaun Su Village of Bogalay Township in Ayeyarwady Region had been talking about the need of a proper bridge. The bridge is a lifeline between the two villages on either side of the river, allowing school children from the neighboring village to cross over and attend elementary school in Kaun Su.
Before, the children going to school used to have to wade across the water with their school uniforms tightly packed in plastic bags to make sure they stayed clean and presentable, recalled SoeMyint.
Then the villagers felled a tree trunk across the river so that people could use it to cross over the water, but that too was still dangerous for school children. In 2009 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) supported the village to construct a wooden bridge as part of Cyclone Nargis rehabilitation program. However, the wooden bridge only lasted for one monsoon season before it got rickety and unsafe. The villagers decided unanimously at a village development meeting that a new, lasting and safe bridge needed to be built. The Village Development Committee submitted a proposal to the LWF proposing to build a new bridge. Based on the proposal, LWF provided 80% of the total cost of 3,109,079ks (USD 3650) and the community contributed remaining.
The Leader of Bridge Building Committee, SoeMyint says he is thankful to LWF for helping his village to get organized. The village now has five active groups: Youth; Livelihoods; Farmers’; VDC and Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) group. His village has received training workshops in number of different areas such as Book-keeping, Disaster Risk Management, Health and Hygiene, Farmer field School, Animal Husbandry, Traditional Medicine, and Food Making. When asked which of the LWF’s activities have been most valuable, SoeMyint replies without hesitating: “Learning new farming techniques and technical construction skills to build things like the new meeting hall and the bridge are the most valuable ones. Money is necessary but skills and knowledge will stay in the village even after the LWF leaves.”