A Truck Full of Help, Hope, and Love
19 March 2018
Kachin State, Burma
Rangers in the truck bringing supplies.
The beat-up, old army truck was originally made in China to be a weapon of war. Nowadays, it has a hole in the back and many missing or broken floorboards, and it carries troops and supplies to the front lines of Kachin State, Burma, by the Kachin Independence Army. In early February, however, it carried the weapons of a more asymmetrical warfare: love. For two weeks, this vehicle of war was loaded full of help, hope, and love.
Twelve Kachin Rangers and two Karen medics loaded the big, old truck full of medicine and Good Life Club supplies and headed north of the KIA capital of Laiza. During the drive, music blasted out of a small speaker and the Rangers sang and danced as they rolled into each new village or past a checkpoint. People looked both bewildered and interested.
The Rangers, armed with a guitar, anatomy apron (for teaching health and hygiene) and Good Life Club (GLC) bracelets, poured out love to internally displaced people (IDPs) in six IDP camps along the Burma/China border. During the mission the Kachin team conducted seven GLC distributions, provided food for 368 families and treated over 570 patients.
After meeting with camp leaders, the medics were the first to go to work. The two Karen medics jumped at the chance to serve their Kachin brothers and sisters on this mission. At each site they unloaded a small pharmacy’s worth of medicine from the back of the truck and treated patients, sometimes working with local health workers. The Rangers would often see close to 100 patients before lunch in the villages.
Things would start to get loud and crazy as the Rangers kicked off a GLC program. Two or three hundred kids would swarm the Rangers for a program full of music, laughter, dramas, health and hygiene lessons, snacks and lots of silliness. The love the Rangers poured out during GLC programs is meant to help the kids forget, if just for a few hours, that there is a war going on – not to mention giving moms and teachers a break for the morning!
The conflict in Kachin State is ongoing since a seventeen-year ceasefire crumbled in 2011 due to a prolonged Burma Army campaign against the Kachin. The KIA holds the front lines and the pro-democratic Kachin Independence Organization political party battles with diplomacy in the struggle for freedom for the Kachin people.
For villagers oppressed by the Burma Army, and with little help from the outside, it can seem hopeless. Hundreds of families have been forced to flee, many more than once.
Because the Rangers continue to return to the often-forgotten IDP camps, they follow up on the people’s hopelessness. They can find people they met in previous years and check in with them. Just to be remembered brings hope. A small gift and a prayer can spark hope. A smile and a hug help to fan the flame.
After concluding the clinics and GLC programs, gifts to the community of sports equipment, building funds, or food distributions were presented, and the Rangers loaded back onto the beat-up, old truck to return the same way they came – laughing, singing, waving, and dancing.