Jun 02

Showing the Internet to a Burmese Refugee Who’d Never Seen it Before

Yesterday I went to Elaine Allan’s house to buy a couple of computer cords for the machines I’m giving to Burmese refugees. A lady named MuMu was over there. MuMu is a Burmese refugee who currently watches children for other Burmese people here in town. She speaks a little English, but is far from fluent. She has never used a computer in her life.

MuMu and other refugees like her are very interested in what has happened to Burma. MuMu didn’t know where her only sister was even before the cyclone due to the oppressive nature of the government. She’d heard about the storm from Elaine, but didn’t know the details.

I sat at a computer and showed her Google. I explained that this was a resource greater than all of the libraries she could imagine. There was a wealth of information at her fingertips, and she like anyone else could publish her story and connect with others.

She had seen a computer, but she had never in her life truly recognized the internet.

In seconds, I pulled up Google news and typed in “Burma cyclone”. I showed her pictures. Elaine and I explained headlines. She looked in amazement and a certain quiet sadness. I cannot imagine what was going on in her heart at that moment.

I messaged my friend in California and explained that this person was over 1000 miles away and could instantly communicate with me. I sent out a message of what we were doing to over 300 people on Twitter. All of this was new to MuMu. All of this could help her get better employment, educate herself and her children, or bring assistance to her family back home. None of it is at her disposal.

Social media is power. Believe it.