Five do-gooders have been stranded on a remote Burmese island since March and have no way of getting off due to the international lockdown caused by COVID-19.
Natalie Poole, 35, from Devon, England, arrived on the Myanmar isle of Kyun Pila on March 19, expecting to stay just one month as she and four other volunteers worked to protect a nearby coral reef. The group is now trapped with no housing or amenities while they wait for rescue.
Poole, a scuba instructor and substitute teacher, told the Mirror the group was supposed to be transported off the island on May 5 but their boat was cancelled when Thailand extended its lockdown.
“The hardest thing for me has been not knowing how long we’re going to be here,” Poole said. “It’s kind of up and down, we’re a very small group of people and we’re living in a very confined, close situation. In the back of our minds is obviously families back home and stuff, which adds to the tension a little bit. We’re just trying to take things day by day.”
The group, composed of two women and three men from England, Hungary, Canada, Malaysia and France, are volunteers with the environmental group Ocean Quest Global — and in full survival mode.
The crew has constructed a camp out of trash and plastic found washed up on the beach and live in huts they constructed out of bamboo, rice sacks and bottles. To survive they dug a well, created a fire pit, and forage for most of their food, including yams, jackfruit and other vegetation to supplement sporadic food deliveries.
“We have to be very aware of how much we consume, we are eating very basic food and really having to make it last,” Poole said, noting there have been days when the group has gone hungry.
The nearest human settlement is a resort on the island of Kyun Pila, Awei Pila, a 15 minute dinghy sail away — where the group can access water, showers and a patchy wifi signal.
Poole, who spends most of her days combing the island beaches for trash, is hoping for a rescue before the rainy season hits — and before tempers flare.
“I learned that no matter how Zen and chilled I had thought I was, in moments of solitude and difficult moments of physical and mental tiredness, I still lose control and stop being mindful and calm,” Poole told the paper. “That no matter how friendly and cheerful I usually am, when I am locked down on a relatively small island with strangers, I become moody, grumpy and little motivated.”