• Maher Tharakan

The Greatest Wealth is Health


wiwtmyanmar.com

The Greatest Wealth is Health – Virgil, A Roman Poet


Today, we find ourselves right in the middle of arguably one of the biggest crises of the 21st century. We have been forced to radically change the way we live our day-to-day lives. This is especially true for the neighbouring nation of Myanmar. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our ability to keep ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy to the point that it seems we may never go back to the way things were before. How can we continue to maintain our wellbeing during these times of worry?


In a time where we are confined to our homes and uncertain about what lies in store for us, it is important to find gratitude in the things we have. Moreover, we need to remind ourselves that however bad we think we have it, others may have it worse. About 600 kilometers away from Bangkok lies the country of Myanmar. And they have it worse.


To say Myanmar is “going through a lot” would be a severe understatement. It would be insensitive to say that “oh, the rest of the world is struggling through the same thing”, and insensitive to argue that this is an internal matter that the people should sort out themselves. Not only are they fighting a global pandemic, they are also in the midst of political turmoil. Turmoil that has been escalating. Turmoil that has led to the deaths of at least 700 civilians. Turmoil that is by no means necessary.


It is not possible for me to list all of the distressing consequences of this horrific Covid-coup combination event for the youth of Myanmar. But there is something I can talk about, and that is the ramifications on their physical and mental wellbeing. Some of these ramifications are things most of the world has also been forced to experience: social isolation, confinement, and increased anxiety about our future, which almost unquestionably lead to lower self-esteem, a lack of motivation, and an increased risk for mental illnesses such as depression. These are things that have plagued our lives and are, without a shadow of a doubt, unbearable. But can you imagine not being able to go outside to play with your siblings or friends for fear of being shot in the street?


Sadly, conversing with Burmese domestic workers and Burmese staff from my school has confirmed my fears about the validity of the horror stories that float around the media. Learning more about the situation from people who had direct links to these stories greatly distressed me and compelled me to act. I wanted to try and help in whatever way I possibly could.


For the longest time, I have been drawn to the sciences. It, along with my passion for athletics, is what has fostered a love for human physiology and sports medicine. I find contentment in being able to balance academic and physical activities, and where possible try to help others do the same. Reflecting on my passions made me realize that I could channel my twin passions into something that could help the people of Myanmar.


Admittedly, I didn’t know a large amount in regard to the exact circumstances of the people in Myanmar. However, I did know that they have mobile phones with reasonable access to the internet– the domestic staff in my building were still able to converse with their loved ones back home using Line and Facebook. I knew one thing for sure: It just wasn’t possible for me to travel to the country, and this rendered the prospect of physical interaction impossible. Therefore, in the spirit of Zoom and online school, I knew I had to go virtual.


Over the summer, I taught myself how to create a website. I recruited the help of my younger brother –a budding “YouTube star”– for all things cinematography. I contacted my paternal grandmother for her guidance on authoritative nutritional advice as an expert in the area. I spoke to the Burmese domestic staff who worked in my apartment building for their input on what they would like to see. And it all fused into the finished product: Wellness In Worrying Times.


Among the free resources are follow-along workout videos I created, two-month training programs for all levels of fitness, simple healthy meal ideas using local ingredients, guided meditation videos, and dance activities for families to enjoy together at home. I worked intensively with Nan Win Aung, a Burmese housekeeper, to ensure that my content was accessible to the target audience by providing the option to view the site in both Burmese and English. Recalling conversations such as that with Nan Win Aung where he told me that he enjoys the workout videos on my website, is what motivates me to help others learn to improve their wellbeing.


I have created this resource for you all in the hopes that you can use it as a tool to keep yourselves physically and mentally strong and healthy. I hope that it helps you, even if it is just a little bit.


-Maher





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