Daw Toe Ma Sein, 56, is a weaver in the small village of Kyauk Tan Chay, a few miles north of the town of Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state.
In 2016 she was among 670 people who received cash grants to support their livelihoods, part of a Red Cross programme helping communities impacted by flooding, cyclical violence and population movement in Rakhine.
One year on, her investment is bearing fruit.
“Before I received the grant my income was very low and I couldn’t afford enough to eat. I ate twice a day but I couldn’t afford to buy any meat.
My husband died 20 years ago leaving me with six children to look after. Five of them have moved away now, but none of them earn enough to support me.
When I heard the Red Cross were planning these grants I asked my friend how I could apply. I wanted to get some support to improve my weaving business.
I received around US$200 and used the money to buy more weaving equipment, thread and other things.
Before I could only make small pieces of fabric, they sold for a couple of dollars per piece and I barely made any profit.
Now, with the new equipment and materials I bought with the Red Cross money, I can make a full longyi.
The longyis sell for around US$10 per piece, so I can make a lot more money.
The Red Cross support changed my life. Before I really struggled, but now I can save a little money each month which I put aside in case I need it.
A few months ago I got sick and had to go to the hospital. I was able to use the money I had saved to pay the hospital bills which were about US$300. If I hadn’t had that money I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to hospital and I don’t know what would have happened to me.
Now I am trying to save money again, but I can afford enough to eat, and I can have tea and eat meat when I want. Life is good.”