The situation in Burma is as complex as it is long. Over 60 years of civil war have left Burma one of the poorest countries in the world. During this time, successive military dictatorships killed thousands of their own people and displaced millions in resistance areas. The resulting power vacuum has created a situation ripe for drug cultivation, child soldiers, acts of possible genocide, and starvation.
The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement working to bring help, hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan. Working in conjunction with local ethnic pro-democracy groups, FBR trains, supplies, and later coordinates with what become highly mobile multipurpose relief teams. After training these teams to provide critical emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation in their home regions.
In addition to relief and reporting, other results of the teams’ actions are the development of leadership capacity, civil society and the strengthening of inter-ethnic unity. The teams are to avoid contact with the Burma Army or other attacking forces and operate under the protection of the ethnic resistance armies. However, they cannot run away if the people they are helping cannot escape the attacks. Men and women of many ethnic groups and religions are part of FBR.
I met Paul Bradley, the Director of FBR, at a local event here in Thailand and quickly became fascinated with the nature of his humanitarian work with the Rangers. One point he emphasized was the rangers couldn't set up camp in most conflict areas because they needed to be mobile to avoid detection from the Burma Army. That meant they couldn't use tents on their expeditions.
Paul seemed interested in our hammocks and how they were made, so we began talking about outfitting custom hammocks for the Rangers. We discussed a hybrid design that would best meet their needs in the field.
The Rangers needed a lighter, more compact hammock with untied loose rope threaded through the end channels so they didn’t have to carry straps separately. The loose rope allows them to turn the hammock into a gurney or stretcher of sorts to evacuate the injured. The design adjusts to open with all four corners separated, allowing the Rangers to carry people to safety.
After a few prototypes, we were able to secure the right design for the crew and outfitted the team with their own FBR retrofitted hammocks!
The Rangers have recently used their hammocks on missions in Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria, and other war-stricken areas of the Middle East. We are honored to help support, if even just a little, their efforts to bring relief to victims of war and oppression around the globe.
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