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Catholic youths volunteer for Myanmar's Covid response

A recently launched parish relief program provides support to pandemic-hit families in the conflict-torn nation

Catholic youths volunteer for Myanmar's Covid response

Volunteers from Mandalay Catholic Youth Commission spray disinfectant around houses. (Photo: MCYC)

Published: July 30, 2021 06:13 AM GMT

Updated: July 30, 2021 06:23 AM GMT

Wearing a surgical mask, face shield and gloves and carrying a package of medicine, Augustine Naing cycles to a Catholic community on Yangon’s outskirts.

After receiving calls from Covid-affected families who need medicine or food, Naing and another young volunteer rush to them to provide support.

It takes 30 minutes to reach some of the families in St. Gemma Galgani Parish in Shwe Pyi Thar township, home to 320 Catholic families.

Undeterred by the highly transmissible contagion, Naing is determined to give a hand to the people following the rising death toll in the community amid the third wave of the outbreak.

“I have a desire to do something about the Covid response, especially giving our time and energy to families most in need,” Naing told UCA News.

The young man said all members of some families have contracted Covid-19, so they have difficulty getting out of the house to buy medicine and food.

Thanks to the parish, we receive medicine and guidance on how to care for the patient

“We let them stay in the houses to prevent the spread of the deadly virus and we help by buying food and medicines,” Naing said.

The young volunteers also spray sanitizer, refill oxygen cylinders and provide other medical support with the guidance of a nun who runs a clinic in the church.

Shelly Margaret from St. Gemma Galgani Parish said her 60-year-old aunt contracted Covid, so they let her self-isolate in a room to prevent spreading the contagion to other family members.

“Thanks to the parish, we receive medicine and guidance on how to care for the patient,” Margaret told UCA News.

The Catholic youth volunteer service is part of the parish relief program recently launched to provide support for Covid-affected families.

Youth groups promote the campaign on social media and call on needy families to raise flags — white for food and yellow for medicine.

Several families in Yangon have hung out flags or white or yellow clothes to signal their need for food or medicine following soaring cases due to mismanagement by the military junta.

Rosaline joined up with other young Buddhists in Hlaing Thar Yar, an industrial area, to serve needy families.

“If families need food or medicine, we go out to the markets and pharmacies to purchase the supplies,” says Rosaline.

The spread of Covid-19 has hit industrial towns where the majority are poor families who depend on daily wage workers.

“As much as we can, we try to provide supplies to the needy families while local charitable groups provide food and service for emergency cases,” she said.

Young people from Mandalay have launched their pandemic response initiatives by establishing a volunteer group who buy food and medicine for needy families, find oxygen, spray disinfectants and network with medical teams.

Tin Aung Myint, a leader of the group, said they are ready to give free service as they open the doors to everyone regardless of race and religion. Buddhist communities and monasteries also contacted them to help spray disinfectants.

Young people in Myanmar, especially Generation Z, have been at the forefront of protests following the military coup on Feb. 1

He said 13 volunteers have joined the group and are assigned tasks depending on the necessity.

“We realize we need to give a hand as many sick people are treated at home who are in desperate need of oxygen amid overwhelmed hospitals and lack of healthcare workers,” Tin Aung told UCA News.

Christian youths also played a vital role in the Covid response by volunteering at quarantine centers when Myanmar faced the first and second waves of the pandemic last year.

Young people in Myanmar, especially Generation Z, have been at the forefront of protests following the military coup on Feb. 1. More than 900 people including many youths have been killed during the bloody crackdown by the military. The ensuing turmoil and protests have thrown the country’s pandemic response into chaos.

The junta-controlled Health Ministry has put the daily caseload at an average of 6,000 and 200 deaths, but medics and charitable groups say the real figures are higher.

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