“I know exactly what Myanmar's health system is lacking the most – it lacks resources” said a doctor and a freelance artist who single-handedly started a fundraising project for the frontliners. Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun was well aware of the already precarious circumstances of her fellow healthcare professionals, who have been tackling the pandemic under limited medical equipment and facilities regardless of a high risk of infection.
Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun questioned herself, “I tried to donate with the little money which I'm capable of but that could only help a handful of people for only a few days. I could volunteer and try to reduce the workload, but I will not be addressing the urgent need for medical equipment. So, what can I do best for the frontliners? How can I get more equipment in need?”
The fundraising project for the frontliners marked its beginning on the 28th of March, a day after the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) released an official statement on the country’s first two cases of coronavirus. It was when Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun announced on her social media account that she would be providing a free digitally drawn portrait in return for any amount of every single donation to her project “Fundraisings for our Frontliners” and these contributions will be used for providing essential medical supplies such as N-95 masks, surgical masks and gowns, gloves, PPEs, and thermoscanners to hospitals and institutions in need.
Her initiative was responded with immense support from donors as well as from the art community. With their hearts resonating with the action of Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun, more than 50 artists joined hands under the hashtags #supportourfrontliners and #helpoursuperheroes to assist the fundraising project.
As more artists became involved, now, an expanded collective of expertise promised the donors to choose from a wide range of art styles and artworks, including self-portraits, fan-arts, illustrations, and even poems. As far as the fundraising is concerned, on the 31st of March, three days from the beginning of the project, 4,700,000 Kyat (approximately 3,316.24 USD) was received, with the total amount reaching up to 14,290,000 Kyats (approximately 10,082.77 USD) by the 6th of April, the end of the project.
Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun | Photo from Ni Ni Win Tun Facebook page
Although the project “Fundraisings for our Frontliners” was primarily aimed to assist the all-consuming need for essential medical supplies for the hospitals in Yangon, it was able to operate beyond its aspiration. While it covered many of the Yangon-based hospitals such as Yangon General Hospital, New Yangon General Hospital, East Yangon General Hospital, West Yangon General Hospital, Yangon Worker's Hospital, and Hlaing Thar Yar Hospital, it also offered a helping hand to the hospitals in remote areas, namely, Taung Shay Hospital, Naung Cho Township, Taung Dwin Gyi and Mai Sat People’s Hospital in Shan State.
According to Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun, the most heart-warming part of the project was how altruistic the donors were. “The artwork is a memento for them. Nothing more, nothing less. Just pure sincerity”, the doctor said. Approximately 420 donations were received within the ten days of the project swamping the artists under a ton of requests. “Our sleep schedules got totally messed up thanks to this project,” she jokingly confessed on behalf of all the artists and volunteers involved.
This project stemmed from one person, bringing together a team of 10 volunteers and 50 artists, captivating 400 donors (individuals and organizations) with its impact reaching from the urban center, Yangon, to the most remote areas of the country. This is, indeed, in the words of Dr. Ni Ni Win Tun, “something we couldn't achieve without the efforts made by everyone”.