Saw Po Dary lives in the remote jungle once occupied by the armed group KNU (Karen National Union). On-going conflicts in Kayin State meant as a child Saw Po Dary had been relocated from place to place, “Till I was grade 5, I had changed 6 different schools…” By the time he was fifteen he had begun working in a local health clinic, helping to care for victims of the conflict between the KNU and the government, many of whom had been seriously injured by the countless landmines laid by both sides. “Though I don’t have high level education and I didn’t receive any formal health training, I had the practical experience by age 15” Saw Po Dary says.
In 1997 the territory was taken over by the government and he moved to Tha Min Lit village, where since then he has been working as a Health Volunteer to serve his community. However, without a formal medical training, he was not confident in his ability to treat the sick.
Living conditions in the village were poor; malaria and diarrhoea was rife and with the village being so remote, there was nowhere nearby to turn to for basic health care.
However, in 2011, Saw Po Dary attended his first basic health care course, organised by Action Aid and Knowledge and Dedication for Nation Building (KDN). Eventually he received a certificate from Leprosy Hospital, located at the mouth of the Thanlwin River in South Eastern Myanmar. Here he learned about treating diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and dengue fever, the importance of a strong immune system, and about the right to health. With the knowledge he acquired he became an advocate for health, engaging with the government to enlist their support: "When I went back to my village, I contacted the Department of Health and they started to provide the vaccine for babies, the midwife also comes to the village every 3 month”, Saw Po Dary says with pride.
To this day he continues to receive training, saying this helps him to recall things from previous trainings: "I am looking forward to improving my professional knowledge.”
Now thirty two years of age, Saw Po Dary runs his own clinic in Tha Min Lit Village where he gives free treatment to those in need. He keeps a medical record of cases of malaria and of his successes saying that "in the raining season of 2012, there were more than 100 cases of malaria, but now it’s less than 30”. He also organises health education sessions to raise awareness about preventable but deadly diseases.