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."
This woman is threshing rice (the main crop in the Mara region) from last year's harvest which was particularly poor. The region is recovering from a crisis in 2007 - an event which takes place every 50 years when the prolific bamboo in the area produces flowers, then fruits and dies. The bamboo fruit provides a large food supply for rats, resulting in a boom in the rat population. These rats later turn to farmers crops for food when the bamboo dies. 5 years later, farmers are still waiting for the bamboo to re-grow and for the soil conditions to return to normal again. In the meantime, the topic of food shortages was on everyone's lips.