What I had forgotten was the renewed energy and passion for EE’s mission provided by my actual presence in Myanmar. From my first morning in Yangon I eagerly soaked up the joy of being back in this country that has touched my heart. No matter their socio-economic conditions or level of connectivity with the outside world, the Burmese people radiate dignity, joy, and hope.
Since my last visit late 2012, there is noticeably more eye contact, smiles, and interest in talking politics. Civil society groups, formed during the military’s rule, now openly participate in public debates and government forums. Internet is much improved in the cities. Traffic is horrendous. Tourists are plentiful. And hotel construction is rapidly attempting to keep pace with demand.
It was a delight to nurture EE’s existing partnerships and develop new relationships. Our third ethnic folktale book, a Shan story of Orion, is now being distributed to schools, libraries, and book stores, benefiting approximately 6000 children. A thousand teacher training DVDs reinforcing critical thinking tools and techniques have been distributed to approximately 700 monastic and nunnery school teachers in numerous states.
I met several Burmese patrons – middle class Burmese who work full time in professional careers and donate a significant portion of their income and time to projects that benefit their people. Three of these patrons are EE’s new partners for our microfinance project outside of Bago. EE intends to focus support to the school, library, and socio-economic needs of this village of 1000 households so we can develop relationships with the beneficiaries and see the project impacts.
Almost two years old now, EE intends to stay small and scrappy. We’re proud of our impacts in promoting education, whether for children and literacy or vocational training for women. And we’re excited to see where the next year takes us.