Taw Chaung Lay

February 13, 2013
Two girls in Taw Chaung Lay, Myanmar.

Who needs Pact and Chevron?

Not the 600-person village of Taw Chaung Lay (pronounced Toe Chowng Lee).

And that's just fine with Pact and Chevron, partners in the landmark Strengthening Community Response health project launched in hundreds of villages throughout Myanmar's deeply impoverished Dry Zone in 2003.

Among other activities, Pact helped Taw Chaung Lay form a Village Health and Development Fund. In January 2006, 86 villagers pooled 53,000 kyats (US$50) to start the fund, matched by Chevron's 83,000 kyats (sounds like "chats"), or about US$80.

The idea was that those who contributed to the startup who later fell ill and needed expensive hospitalization in a nearby township could take a loan from the fund to help pay for their care. Or, in more extreme cases, the fund could make outright grants to them, no repayment necessary.

It was an idea that worked.

And worked and worked and worked.

The fund began so strongly that Pact exited the village only a year later, its expertise in community health solutions embraced so tightly that the INGO was no longer needed.

Today, six years later, Taw Chaung Lay's startup 136,000-kyat fund has grown to 5.5 million and now continuously serves about 300 villagers, not only with loans for health issues but also for starting small businesses and improving agricultural practices.

In many ways, the Village Health and Development Fund in Taw Chaung Lay has become the foundation of all the village's economic activity as well as its hopes for a brighter future.

And yet it is only beginning to realize the dreams its members had seven years ago.