Mission East visited Burma for the first time in February 2013. This remarkable journey allowed us to enter into a beautiful community - the Mara community - an ethnic minority group who lives high in the mountains of Burma, near the border with India. The Mara people have been cut off from much of the world throughout the military junta period. Lacking telecommunications, road infrastructure, market access, healthcare services, and higher education, one Mara elder referred to his people as a 'deserted, neglected, marginalized community'. Today, this part of southern Chin State is beginning to open up. Government reforms since 2011, a peace agreement to end active conflict in the state, and less restrictions to foreigners (like Mission East's delegation) are taken as signs by the community that change is coming. In the following photos, join us as we learn about the Mara people, their land, their struggles and their hopes. In the words of one elder we met, "In those times, we had no one to tell. We used to suffer alone. There was no one to listen. We laughed alone and cried alone. Now you have come to laugh with us and to cry with us."
The UN estimates that 81% of households do not have adequate food consumption in Chin State where the Mara communities are located. With limited access to markets and few other opportunities to make additional income, most families are almost exclusively reliant on their farms for survival.
“Our root problem here is food shortages. This means that mothers must go to the forest to find food.” – Women’s Self-Help Group Member