My sister Daphne Wolf studied Burmese music in Yangon. Her music school is organizing relief aid. Daphne wrote this guest blog post:
Small and local aid agencies are best equipped to help the victims of cyclone Nargis because they are already operating on the ground. Donations to these agencies are more effective since big aid organizations are still struggling to access the affected areas.
Local relief groups such as the Music School Gitameit, are providing the most urgently needed first-aid supplies.
For two years I lived in Yangon, studying Burmese traditional music and teaching classical flute at the Gitameit Music Center, a private school founded by the American pianist Kit Young in 2003. I returned to Berlin in December 2007 to finish my masters in Musicology and Southeast Asian Studies.
My friends, former colleagues, and students all tell me that Yangon, the old capital, is widely devastated and that the fertile delta of the Irrawaddy River is still flooded:
Villages and towns have been erased. Dead bodies are now floating in the area where most of the country's rice was grown. A famine is expected in the next few weeks. Epidemic diseases are likely to spread. Millions of people are without shelter and the rainy season is about to begin. Unofficial but credible estimates from the capital Yangon say that the cyclone has caused more death and homelessness in Myanmar than the 2004 Tsunami did in Indonesia.
My friends at the Gitameit music school are currently providing first-aid supplies to severely effected neighborhoods of Yangon. They deliver water and water filters, food and gasoline for generators. By providing disinfectants and medicine for the wounded, they are also trying to prevent the outbreak of disease. They are working hand in hand with local monasteries, doctors, and nurses.
Gitameit operates with an established network of relief agencies in Myanmar that channels money from abroad directly to them. The latest information on their relief efforts is posted on the homepage: www.Gitameit.org
At the top of the page are links for donations to these organizations, which provide help more quickly than many large international aid organizations that can hardly get their staff into Myanmar, face many governmental restrictions, and are also closely monitored by the military regime. The first link directs to the Foundation for the People of Burma (FPB), which has been a partner of Gitameit for a long time.
The above video shows the Gitameit choir performing J.S.Bach's "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, actus tragicus." Bringing Western classical music to Burma and Burmese music to North America and Europe is part of Gitameit's mission. Gitameit Music Center aims to build a supportive community of musicians and audiences locally, and to encourage sustained, meaningful contact with international institutions, teachers and performers. Gitameit Music Center is a non-profit community center and music school in Yangon devoted to music teaching & nurturing, performing, offering exchange possibilities for Burmese students to study abroad, and inviting international artists & teachers for performances and workshops from Asian and western countries.
Daphne Wolf is a graduate student of Musicology and Southeast Asian Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin. She studied Burmese traditional music at the University of Culture and Gitameit Music Center in Yangon from October 2005 until December 2007.