“My top priority is for people to understand that they have the power to change things themselves.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
‘The Lady’ of Myanmar. Her story is inspiring, if you don’t know it look it up. We forget that there are people all around us who still inspire greatness by virtue of example. People that go through so much with such grace that their stories brand themselves deeply on the pages of history. Aung San Suu Kyi is one of those people. Even so, she would rather not bring focus to herself and her part in history. She would rather turn your focus to her people; the people of Myanmar. She is their champion but she cannot change the country alone. Everywhere she goes she empowers citizens to ‘change things themselves’.
Here at LFM we have the same goal in mind. We want to offer help; education, food, love, and change where there has formerly been none. We are a humanitarian aid organization trying to empower people to change things themselves. Beyond these basic needs, it is our desire that the people of Myanmar know that they are not alone in the midst of the battle for change.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:15-18
Interested in helping us help the people of Myanmar? Check out how at www.loveformyanmar.org
You can also find us on facebook, instagram, and twitter.
A nah deh.
It’s a phrase in Burmese that loosely translates into ‘I feel something’. Only, this feel isn’t of the good variety. It is used to describe that uncomfortable feeling you get when other people feel bad. Or when you feel bad because you think something you have done has made people that you care about feel bad. Like maybe you have hurt their feelings or made them feel little and insignificant. It’s a hard phrase to explain to be sure.
So last week when a youth from Yangon instant messaged me and said, ‘Sister, the Love For Myanmar Face Book Page makes me feel something’ I was immediately worried. What has she read on our page that has made her feel like she has done something wrong? What are we doing wrong if we are making the youth we are trying to encourage and build up feel like they are letting us down! With panic rising in the pit of my stomach I quickly replied, ‘Sister what do you feel?’
Luckily in this instance she was using the phrase in a very childlike ‘western’ way. What she went on to describe were feelings of civic duty and interest in the future of her country. Perfect! Exactly what we at Love For Myanmar hope to inspire in the hearts of youth that we touch. A feeling that the future is theirs and that they DO in fact have a say in how it goes.
What she said was actually this:
‘Sister, I feel that we are not alone here because you (LFM) help us. As a citizen of Myanmar we have to try to improve our country, especially for the next generation.’
Well-said dear sister! We will continue to help you in every way we know how! What a good reminder that if we are but bold and courageous in all we do then mountains can be moved. We serve a God that promises just that.
BE BOLD young Christians of Myanmar and MIGHTY FORCES WILL COME TO YOUR AID.
Our guest blogger this week is Director of Myanmar Development Chase Wooldridge. He has spent more than four years with the people of Myanmar helping break boundaries and helping youth discover their inner creativity.
After years and hours of schooling with little or no time for play, a seventeen year old in Myanmar is suddenly set free. They may attend college only if they are highly gifted in memorization. “What are they memorizing?” you might ask… and the answer is “Well, the test of course.”
Every section of the test is covered; multiple choice answers, math equations, and entire essays that they must rewrite verbatim in order to pass. It gets worse. The entire test is written in English from the time of the British rule over Myanmar! If they are unable to afford English classes from the time they are five until sixteen then too bad. They will still have to take the test and match the memorized words in their head with those on a test devoid of meaning. A student writing his or her own essay or answer would be unable to pass the test with high marks since writing your own ideas can’t be graded properly. The graders do not know the answers themselves. They have the test that the tutoring centers have been training students with for years. I have seen this test and it has some errors – students must write the incorrect answer in order to pass!
From this experience emerges a teenager unlike those we encounter in the west. They have been discouraged from playing, creativity, thinking for themselves, and dreaming. Faced with free time they usually just go home and watch TV. Those who can’t stand having nothing to do immediately find a training center or language school to fill their time (or their parents force them in to a program). Some people reading this might say “Good! Our spoiled little teens could use some more of that.” That might also be true. I think a balance or work and play is important. I would not wish the vacant stare of the teenagers of Myanmar on anyone. Do not assume from this that I mean to say Myanmar youth are less than intelligent, far from it. Anyone who can memorize hundreds of pages of Math, Science, History, and English has a big brain on their shoulders. After all, Myanmar was what South Korea has become to Asia at one time. It is only a result of years of oppression that Myanmar youth have become this way.
Fast forward to the present day in Yangon… We are witnessing a crack in the isolated and controlled teen. From crazy clothing designs to blue Mohawks and graffiti young people are screaming out. Expression, even when it is done on the side of your house with a can of neon spray paint, is a breath of fresh air in a country that once controlled everyone with an iron fist. I am witnessing students who want to play and they play, want to dance so they dance, want to go around town doing any and everything and do so. We have been working to encourage youth in all areas of their life since we first arrived in Myanmar. The change is incredible. Our school that we work at has allowed me to teach a wide array of classes to promote expression and community. I taught an acting class in which my shy reserved students came alive and discovered who they were and what they were capable of for the first time in their lives. One student told me ” I was supposed to jump around the room making noise and acting like a horse, and I did! I can’t believe I would do that. It changed my life and now I am not afraid to do anything.” He has become one of our most active students and often volunteers for LFM projects. Another class was about being a good citizen and how society should work. To teach such a class two years ago would have gotten me kicked out of the country. By the end of this class all of our students developed a community project and implemented them. It was a huge success and has placed in many of their hearts the importance of making a difference in Myanmar. We have taught dance and fitness classes and on and on we could go. In all of these we witnessed students come alive and a light come on in their eyes. The work is far from over. Every couple of months I have new teens show up at our school with the look of despair in their eyes. Surely they must think this class will be like all of the others they have ever known. I start with a smile, a quick introduction and tell them promptly to put away their books, move the desks aside, and stand up. We are going to play a game.
Something really awesome about the Non Profit world is the ability to collaborate with local businesses and other NGOs in the area you work. The work pours out into all facets of your life! Recently as collaboration with SCBI International school in Yangon LFM Director of Myanmar Ministry Relations Meagan Henry was able to negotiate some education opportunities for underprivileged young people that would otherwise have not been able to learn English and Computer skills. Meagan also works at SCBI as the English Program Director.
The girl pictured above (with Meagan) is one of the girls sent to SCBI by ‘Business Kind’ an NGO participating in this program for free education. She completed the elementary course and got on at Yangon Bake House, a social business that is training staff to cook western style food so they can get careers at hotels or as personal chefs to foreign people. Totally, of the 8 that came to SCBI School for totally free English class, three ended up at Yangon Bake House (their picture is below). Others went to do further coursework for computer training (for instance) and one even went back to her home village as the new English teacher for the village school. The idea was that all of these girls (none of whom had even ‘matriculated’ by taking the test you have to take to enter higher education facilities in Myanmar) were destined for a life of work in the paddy field in their farming community. Business Kind wanted to provide them with education (especially in English at SCBI) that might broaden their potential working options.
Meagan went to Yangon Bake House for the first time a few weeks ago, and not having been inside the door for more than a minute or two, the girl pictured with her came rushing from the back yelling “Teacher Meagan!” She remembered her because, though Meagan wasn’t even in the country while she took the majority of her course, Meagan gave her extra help on the weekends to prepare for the final presentation to ensure that she could pass the class.
It is incredibly special to get to make these connections with people and see them succeed in meaningful ways!