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My Neighbors From Myanmar Taught Me to Receive

STORY BY HEATHER M. SURLS

PHOTOS BY HAWA IMAGES, USED BY PERMISSION OF WORLD RELIEF CHICAGOLAND

Years ago, a neighbor gave me a glossy 4×6-inch picture of Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi backed by the red and yellow of the National League for Democracy’s flag. I no longer remember the giver’s identity—at that time my Burmese neighbors numbered in the hundreds—but since the country’s late-January military coup that imprisoned Suu Kyi and others, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been on my mind.

When I reflect now, those three years among the Burmese were like bootcamp for me, a foundational, immersive course in relating to people different from me. At that time, I didn’t realize this would be a preparatory phase for longer-term work among refugees. I moved in with the idea that I would help them—I did not know how much my neighbors would shape me.

Listen as Myanmar Speaks

INTERVIEW BY KAMI L. RICE
AUDIO AND VIDEO PRODUCTION BY MAHBOOB FAIZI


Our source, we’ll call her Sandra, is a friendly, hospitable, thoughtful Myanmarese professional living abroad. Sandra enjoys staying well-informed regarding world news and events and stays closely connected with her home country of Myanmar. Rather than recreate major media outlets’ coverage of the coup by Myanmar’s military, we are giving this story the Anthrow Circus treatment: sharing the voice of a regular citizen who can give us context for the large-scale geopolitical reports.

I Am a Neighbor

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOEL CARILLET

With this article from Joel Carillet, we wrap up a four-article series from contributors who have entered in various ways into the lives of the Rohingya people who have sought refuge in Bangladesh. In the height of their crisis last fall, Joel spent time photographing and listening to people living in several refugee camps in Bangladesh, specifically Jamtoli, Kutupalong, Shamlapur, Chakmarkul, and Balukhali. He shares with us one of the questions that has persisted for him since then.