Bradners on the ground in Myanmar
Former Gunnison residents offering 'Thirst Aid' to cyclone victims
Special to the Times
Originally published 2008-05-22
Two former Gunnison residents, Curt and Cathy Bradner, are inside Myanmar helping people get access to safe drinking water in the aftermath of a devastating cyclone.
The Red Cross reports that the death toll is as high as 128,000 and the United Nations reports that some 1.5 to 2.5 million survivors are in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical care as a result of the May 4 tragedy.
Back in the U.S., daughters Willow Bradner and Bree Ervin, both graduates of Gunnison High School (class of 1995 and '96, respectively), assist their efforts.
"I worked a 15 hour day yesterday," Curt Bradner explained in a recent e-mail. "Cathy beat me. She worked a full 18 hour day."
The Bradners set off from Gunnison a decade ago to take a world tandem bicycling trek. They sold their house, their possessions, and even got rid of their dog and cat. They also sold their mechanical engineering business, A-1 Tool, which they owned and operated in Gunnison.
Dave Meyer, longtime Gunnison cyclist and owner of Rock N' Roll Sports, is a close friend to the Bradners. He describes them as, "good people" -- the kind who "would do anything for anybody."
Starting off from Spain, the Bradners rode over the course of a couple years all the way to Thailand. There they began to work with Burmese orphans.
Burma is the original name of Myanmar, which was changed after the ruling British were overthrown in the 1950s.
The Bradners stayed and worked with the refugee community in Thailand for five years. They formed the organization Art-Exiled, selling refugee-made art in the United States. All of the proceeds went back into the refugee communities.
Later they formed Thirst-Aid to help the world's poor solve their water problems.
When a massive tsunami hit Thailand in 2004, the Bradners were some of the first people on the scene.
"We distributed over 6,000 water filters to marginalized people in a matter of months," Curt recalled.
Now in Myanmar, where they have been operating Thirst-Aid for over two years, they are on the ground dealing with the aftermath of the cyclone. Many aid agencies have been denied access because of a complex visa process. The Bradners, however, secured multiple use entry/exit visas last year, enabling their rapid entry into Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis. Their daughter, Bree, works for Thirst Aid as the communications director from her home in Eugene, Oregon. Willow Bradner lives in Denver, where she runs a salon and volunteers her time to Thirst-Aid when available. Both have spent time with their parents in Thailand in refugee camps.
In Myanmar, Thirst-Aid has two factories that produce ceramic water filters. The factories are run by local citizens with government oversight.
Since the cyclone hit Thirst-Aid has also begun distributing water purification tablets donated by Global Medics. Amidst the death and disaster, they have helped roughly 30,000 people secure access to clean water.
The Bradners are hoping the people of Colorado will reach out to help. "Send money, send love, tell everyone that you know that we are in (Myanmar) and we are helping," Cathy said.
For more information on Thirst-Aid and their disaster relief inside Myanmar, go to www.thirst-aid.org or contact Bree Ervin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541.517.5141