Outreach to waste collectors in the cemetery land

June was a big month for me. It was the second month after joining the CLARISSA Myanmar team. It was also my first opportunity to work with children for the first time after working from home all summer. The standout moment for me was the outreach to the waste collectors in the Phue Kyant cemetery land.

Before joining CLARISSA, I had some experience of outreach to communities in different projects. But this was not specifically working with children – this was my first experience for working with children.

At this time, the Government Department of Rehabilitation introduced the COVID-19 emergency relief for children. We engaged with this relief effort and alongside our data collection process, we distributed food to households of working children. According to the procedure, our efforts focused on reaching out to children first.

Life in the cemetery land

As we went around the Hlaing Tha Yar Township, there was an interesting occurrence in the Phue Kyant cemetery land. Phue Kyant cemetery land is part of the area of Htain Pin cemetery which is well known in Yangon. Phue Kyant is also close to the Htain Pin dumpsite. Phue Kyant cemetery land is the field covered by grass, but there are no graves found there.

It was raining when we were near the cemetery, so after walking over the mud, we reached an old building. When we arrived, it was impossible to ignore the damp, bad smell; insects on the leftover of steamed rice and big rats running around the building. We saw grandparents (an older Burmese Chinese couple taking care of the land) making fried pork belly and some children coming back for the lunch. I wondered how healthy they all were, but I observed that they seemed happy.

We explained to them why we were here. They gave us a brief background of the family and explained why their grandchild was working as a waste collector. The grandchild and his friends earned money by collecting waste nearby the Htain Pin dumpsite.

We provided the emergency relief as planned. We also talked through how to protect themselves during the pandemic, providing face masks to them and hand-sanitiser. Before leaving there, we let them know that we would come back to distribute more food.

Meeting waste collectors

Through the network of waste collector in the cemetery land, we made connections with other waste collectors nearby Htain Pin dumpsite. We have since visited there to plan for our life story collection.

Despite the fact that my first visit to the dumpsite, and unsurprisingly it was not pleasant, it has become a friendly place to me. I have gained confidence working with children and as documenter, I have no hesitation in taking forward and documenting the experiences in the life story collection process.

October 22, 2020
San Yin Yin Tun