Alumni Profile: Sandi

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed an estimated 138,000 people in Myanmar. After witnessing the suffering and turmoil during the aftermath, Sandi made up her mind to work to improve the lives of people living in rural communities. A good friend of Sandi’s was swept away by a flood with her two year old baby in her arms. In her struggle to stay afloat, she was knocked unconscious while grabbing onto a piece of driftwood. When she awoke, her baby was gone. It was the many stories like these that gave Sandi the resolve to work to create a better environment and life for those living in rural areas. In the past few years, Sandi has had an increased interest in politics, feeling as though nowadays civilians might actually have some ability to influence the government. She attended the EarthRights School Burma to learn to integrate her environmental knowledge with key political awareness about issues such as human rights and rule of law. 

During her needs assessment for ERSB, Sandi discovered that the villagers were practicing a variety of different environmentally harmful practices. The one that was most devastating was deforestation, considering the community lost a lot of its forest as a result of cyclone Nargis. Firewood is becoming scarcer, putting a greater economic burden on the community that already faces the myriad challenges that come with being subsistence farmers. During her research Sandi met many families that have gone into debt as a result of having to pay for firewood, a commodity that they used to be able to collect for free. 

To help this community, she will hold a two day training for five villagers from four different villages in TwanTay township. The training will start by discussing the causes and problems of deforestation. They will then teach the trainees how to make fuel efficient stoves, which decrease the amount of firewood needed to cook by 50%. The stove training will be very hands-on, having the trainees make the stoves alongside the trainers. Following the training, Sandi will monitor the trainees to ensure they train the people in their village, with a special focus on women, who are predominately responsible for cooking and collecting firewood. The project will also provide a set of molds for each village so they can make an unlimited amount of stoves; all they need is mud and rice husks. After completing this project, Sandi wants to utilize the trust and understanding she has built in these communities and continue training the same four villages about other environmentally harmful practices, such as pollution and catching fish by running electric charges into the water.