Ko Saw Chan Thar is an example of what can be achieved through commitment and resilience. Photo: Thang Khan SIAN KHAI/ICRC

Myanmar: Defying the odds with skill and tenacity

Ko Saw Chan Thar has always enjoyed creating beauty with his hands. He can draw, sculpt, make tattoos and give stylish haircuts.
Article 14 November 2023 Myanmar

Though born with a physical deformity and facing many challenges, he has not let anything hold him back from working hard, learning new skills and honing them to make his life beautiful too. "There are many things that I feel unsatisfied about in my life because of my physical difficulties. But I have not let my disability define me," says the 31-year-old, who is from Hpar Pu village in Hpa-An Township, Kayin State, Myanmar.

Ko Saw Chan Thar shares that he received his first prosthesis in 2009 at the Hpa-An Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Centre run by Myanmar Red Cross Society with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He is now one of 55 people across Myanmar participating in a programme to support people with disabilities start their own businesses. Through the programme Ko Saw Chan Thar was given materials, tools and equipment to set up his own barber shop.

An ICRC team discusses the microeconomic initiatives with Ko Saw Chan Thar to help him generate a sustainable monthly income and support his family.
Photo: Thang Khan SIAN KHAI/ICRC

My life has changed significantly since I received support from the ICRC. I used to rely on my parents and siblings, but now, I am a businessman with goals and plans. This is a starting point to rebuild my life. I am eagerly awaiting the summer season as it will bring in more clients.

Ko Saw Chan Thar

His positive attitude is helping Ko Saw Chan Thar persevere even through the challenges he has been facing in his business. A few months after he opened his barber shop, his village was hit by heavy rains and severe flooding, and he had to temporarily shut down business. "The water rose to almost my waist level. We tried to salvage what we could and moved our furniture to higher ground," he says.

When things began to get back on track, sporadic power cuts affected business. "Sometimes, I had to stop halfway during a haircut because of the power outage. It made some customers hesitant about returning to my shop for service," he says.

To help him overcome this challenge, the ICRC supported Ko Saw Chan Thar with a battery-operated inverter. "Now I am rebuilding my network and gaining the trust of customers by assuring them that I have a solution for the power cuts and can deliver good services," he says.

With his skills and unwavering spirit, Ko Saw Chan Thar is an example in his community of what can be achieved through commitment and resilience.

In Myanmar, we promote the social inclusion of people with disabilities through programmes ranging from sports rehabilitation to vocational training to providing support for starting small businesses. This multidisciplinary approach aims to provide sustainable help and ignite a new hope for those who avail services at the ICRC assisted physical rehabilitation centres in the country.

Supported by the ICRC, the orthopaedic centre at Hpa-An was set up in 2003 and is run by the Myanmar Red Cross Society. It offers physical rehabilitation services to people with disabilities across the south-east region of the country, including Kayin, Mon and Kayah states, and eastern Bago and Tanintharyi regions. The services are available for anyone in need, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or status.