In Chin culture, when disaster strikes the community, the community gives back.
So, three days after the Pigeon Valley fire broke out, the Nelson committee that represents former refugees from Chin state in Myanmar met to decide what to do.
“We decided that it was the right thing to do to collate all the Chin people and each family get together to donate at least $20 each,” says committee president Peter Sang Mang Lianching.
There are around 120 families in Nelson and, together with some church donations, the amount reached $4900, which will go towards helping families who had to evacuate their homes.
“The government has spent a lot of money here, so we need to contribute,” Peter says. “If we can, then we should.”
There are about 530 members of the local community now after they first arrived in Nelson in 2003.
They are one of the main nationalities of Myanmar but are also one of the most persecuted minorities of the country.
There have been recorded, numerous crimes against humanity in Myanmar’s western Chin state, committed mainly by the members of the Burmese Army and police.
The Nelson Chin community have previously donated money to the Christchurch earthquake appeal.
“All the people in the community understand that the Government has helped us and we realise we need to sacrifice a little bit to give back,” Peter says. “In our mind, this is our country and our land.”
Peter has been in Nelson five years after fleeing Myanmar 15 years ago. He was waiting in Malaysia for refugee status for 10 years. Peter has four children – his eldest is now studying in the United States.
“In Chin, when something happens, we donate something,” Peter says.