Daw Zawng Nyoi is a Community Mobilizer living in the internally displaced person (IDP) camp located in the compound of the Assemblies of God of Myanmar Church in Waingmaw (known as the Waingmaw AG camp). She was trained in her role by Christian Aid partner Community Health and Development (CHAD) and volunteers there in support of the In Their Lifetime (ITL) project activities within the camp. The camp is also her temporary home.
The project in Waingmaw AG camp started in August 2021 and has supported conflict-affected communities to build back better as they recover from the health, social and economic fallout of COVID-19. It focuses on empowering vulnerable communities using localised actions to build long-term resilience to crises, be they health emergencies, conflict flare-ups or climate-related disasters.
Daw Zawng used to live in Sop Rein Village where she cultivated crops and managed an animal husbandry programme for a living. Daw Zawng was living comfortably until 2011 when she had to leave her home and village due to the outbreak of war. Ever since, Daw Zawng has been an IDP and moving between camps to escape the fighting and increasing military presence.
In August 2021, the Waingmaw AG camp committee put out a call for volunteers to work with CHAD on camp activities. Daw Zawng offered to join the team even though she didn’t know anything about the ITL project, camp management or what was expected of the volunteers. She was quick to sign up because she wanted to support other IDPs like her. She was honest about her lack of understanding about what becoming a volunteer involved, but was very eager to learn and help so she was offered the role of Community Mobilizer.
As a Community Mobilizer, Daw Zawng has received multiple trainings from CHAD. These include nutrition for pregnant and nursing mothers, good hygiene and health, dialogue and negotiations, and much more. Initially she struggled to keep up and was hesitant to lead or work back in the camp. Over time, with more training and practice, she became more confident and now enjoys sharing the new knowledge with the community. She talks about the do’s and don’ts during pregnancy, nutritional advice such as the importance of iron and folic acid supplements, colostrum and complementary feeding, to first time mums.
Whilst pregnant herself, Daw Zawng continues to mobilize and train other women like her. She meets in groups of 5 or 6 expectant mothers, both inside and outside the camp. She provides food and shares her own knowledge and information from the training sessions she has attended. The women are always keen to meet and learn.
Nothing can stop the enthusiasm Daw Zawng has to train people around her. Some days she is tired but when she sees the smiles on the faces of others around her, she is so excited and proud of herself, that she shouts out loud, “Oh, I did it!”
Daw Zawng gets a lot of support from members of the camp committees. Whenever CHAD calls a meeting with them, they attend without complaint. She particularly liked the nutrition event they organised in collaboration with other camps. This gave them the chance to build friendships with other IDPs. She says, ‘I was delighted to see everyone happy. People in the camp have requested that we do more events like this in the future. After learning about the importance of dialogue in the training, I gained strength and realised how essential dialogue is in our daily life.’
With the introduction of the ITL project, all elders in the camp have noticed that their awareness and knowledge of important issues has increased. Almost everyone has been vaccinated against COVID-19. By attending nutrition classes they have learned how to cook and feed their children better. Seeing the mothers sharing their knowledge with each other in a supportive way is proof that joining the class has brought many benefits and improvements to the camp.
Daw Zawng is delighted that from her tiny space in the camp, she is a part of this positive change for the community.