Posted by: Wasrag | June 26, 2012

Orphanages in Myanmar get clean water

Myanmar has emerged as one of the world’s most compelling news stories in recent months.  Everyone is now familiar with the amazing story of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her role in bringing Burma (Myanmar) into the 21st century.

Under a stern, repressive military government, Rotary ceased to exist in Myanmar in 1977.  And yet in true Rotary tradition, Rotarians continued to contribute quietly under the radar screen.  One such instance was the distribution of over 1000 Shelter Boxes after the devastating “Cyclone Nargis” that claimed an estimated 140,000 lives in 2008.

A Rotarian who took the plight of the Burmese to heart and decided to act, is J.T. Warring.  A member of the Rotary club of Los Angeles, JT had heard that many thousands of orphans were suffering from severe dysentery and even death because of unclean water.  In 2005 he and a group Rotarians travelled to Myanmar and met with doctors who were working with the orphans via the Myanmar Compassion Project.

A civil engineer was recruited to help design a low maintenance, cost effective means of providing safe water.  Starting with a proven tube well yielding treatable water, the Rotary project installs piping, a compressor, a generator and a 1500-gallon ground holding and de-sedimentation tank and a 22 ft, virtually indestructible derrick tower topped by two 500-gallon blue plastic tanks.

The compressor draws water up from the well and transfers it laterally to the ground tank, where sediment is removed.  The pump then lifts it atop the derrick, whence it is gravity-fed as needed to triple take-off destinations for:  food preparation and drinking, bathing and laundry; and irrigation of the sustenance crops grown at most of the orphanages.

Incidentally the word “indestructible” to describe the towers is no exaggeration.  They survived the 2008 Cyclone when little else did!

The project moved slowly but surely – installing the clean water systems, first in Christian orphanages and then, as the word of their effectiveness spread, to orphanages run by Buddhist monasteries.

To-date 26 orphanages have been the beneficiaries of these systems.  The children are healthier and have more time to learn and to play now they are freed from the daily labour of fetching water from polluted and dirty ponds or rivers.  As many as 75 orphanages are on the waiting list for the systems.

Shown in the centre of this picture is Rotarian Dr. Reiko Sakata, Chair of the Myanmar Orphanages Water Systems Committee, who donated the water system for New Hope Orphanage in memory of her parents. 

Also in the picture are (from left to right in the back row),  Tom Ashcroft (PDG – Kentucky) whose district raised funds for six systems while he was in office.  Then Dr. Bob Warner (PDG – Arkansas); Michael Wagner (whose Coto De Caza/Rancho Santa Margarita club financed a system),   JT Warring, Ron Denham, Dr. Sumi Kawaratani, Jim Dyer (whose Santa Monica club funded a system), Tin Tin Rashid, Mary Ellen Werner, Anna Shepherd, Walker Railey, Lori Wagner, Al Wagner (father of Michael), “Polky” Ashcroft and John Claerhout (seated).  

 The Beverley Hills club wasn’t on the tour, but they have funded a system for one of the other orphanages.

At the Aung Zayyar Min Monastery

 The Rotary club of Los Angeles “5ers” at the base of a newly installed water system at the Aung Zayyar Min monastery.  Shown with the Venerable Abbot Bhaddanta Zayar Nanda are Dr. Reiko Sakata, The Rev. Dr. Walker Railey, Dr. Sumi Kawaratani and JT Warring.


Using this water project as a “credibility platform”, RI President Kalyan Banerjee is proposing to re-establish Rotary in Myanmar. Burma(as it was then) was active in Rotary from 1929 to 1977 but was forced out by a prior communist junta.  At one time there were 11 Rotary clubs.

Now this nation of 55 million people is second only to Indonesia in land mass among the strategic Southeast Asian nations and has embarked on a reversal from military repression to a “guided democracy”.

Paralleling these developments, President Banerjee has appointed JT Warring as Special Representative of the President and Board of Directors of RI as a corporate envoy to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.  As part of this initiative, JT had the honour of a personal meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on May 28th.  “The Lady” strongly encouraged the expansion of the current water projects for her people.


This is a wonderful project for Rotarians.  The average cost of a system is only $8500.   If you are interested in getting involved contact Dr. Reiko Sakata, Chair of the Myanmar Orphanages Project at  She’ll be delighted to explain how your club(s) can finance safe water for a whole orphanage or village!

More information on the project is also available at


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