As part of ActionAid’s commitment to helping communities recover from cyclones, Kyu Kyu Khine was awarded a grant of $100 to help her get back on her feet. Here she describes the terrible cyclone Bijli and what happened afterwards.
“I remember the night of the cyclone clearly,” recalls Kyu Kyu Khine. “We ran to the monastery as it was the strongest building in the village. Half of the building was destroyed by the strong wind and flood water, but amazingly everyone inside managed to survive. We emerged the next morning and saw the total devastation of our village.
There were dead bodies everywhere. In total, 329 people from our village of 665 died. I found out my parents had died, and wondered how I would survive without them and with no home or food.
"I have two sons, the elder of which (aged 5), has been left disabled by polio. I didn’t know what to do for my future.
“The grant enabled me to buy a second-hand fishing net, as my previous one was destroyed in the cyclone” explains Kyu Kyu Khine.
The net I had been using before the cyclone was only useful in summertime, but my new net can be used all year round, even in the rainy season. Now I am able to catch fish and prawns regularly, and we have more money as a family
“I received training in disaster risk reduction as part of my induction to being a village volunteer. When Cyclone Bijli hit our village in April 2009, I was able to tell the other villagers what to do and how to protect themselves and their assets. I told people to bury their documents to keep them safe, as this is what I learnt in the training. If I had not attended the training I would have had no idea what to do.
“A lot of people are still traumatised by the experience,” she explains. “If people are alone they become sad and have flashbacks, so I go and talk to them about their feelings. When we are talking we laugh and forget about the cyclone for a while. I am really happy to be a volunteer because I can help my community prepare for disaster and I have also made new friends. It is really useful for me to have trainings and be able to share my knowledge with the villagers. Almost every house now has a radio and people are careful about listening to the weather warnings. Whenever a cyclone warning comes, we evacuate even if we don’t think the cyclone will hit our village. We have learnt that it is better to take action even if nothing happens."