Having stepped into Thailand for just over 5 minutes I made my way back to Yangon with my visa successfully extended for another month. I had a few more days in the Prospect Burma office with Hnin before setting off to Loikaw. During this time we worked to finalise the list of applicants for review by the trustees. It was great to be back in Yangon again, which is beginning to feel like home! Following a bit of trouble booking a ticket, which really proves patience is key in Myanmar, I eventually set off for Loikaw, Kayah state, on 30th April.
Loikaw is completely different to Yangon and it was fantastic to have the opportunity to experience a slightly more rural lifestyle. While living in Loikaw for two weeks I really experienced the warm hospitality of the Myanmar people, within the first few hours I was there I was at a wedding! I was kindly hosted by Rosemary, a friend of Prospect Burma’s and became aquainted with Aloycious, who introduced me to lots of local food, people and activities like football, swimming and even visits to local waterfalls! Throughout the two weeks I was inundated with invitations into people’s homes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was so touched that people made a huge effort to make me feel welcome. Furthermore I celebrated a Father’s 25th Jubilee, and the 5th anniversary of Level Up Academy with traditional dances and feasting. A foreign visitor in Kayah state is a slightly rare occurrence, and my presence around the town was often met with surprise followed by a beaming smile from the local people.
I split my time during my stay between three main English language learning centres, but also had time to work with a few other organisations. YLFC, Seh Teh Academy, and Level up Academy are the three English schools based in Loikaw and the surrounding area. Each has a programme for students who have finished their matriculation exams (the end of the Myanmar school education) and are preparing for their futures. Whilst YLFC and Seh Teh were in the middle of their summer holidays and hosting English classes instead, the Level Up Academy year was in full swing. All of the students already had a high standard of English and were well up to the games and activities which I set them despite some of the students being very shy. These learning centres work hard to offer the students the vital skills which government schools don’t teach. The students learn everything from English to computer skills to finance and leadership. It was fantastic to see the passion of the students not only to learn English but also about their plans for their future as well as Myanmar’s.
On top of those activities I worked with an education programme called Zetaman to work on their proposal for increased funding from corporate bodies. I was invited to give a talk to a group of 400 young people in Demoso and decided to discuss Cyber-bullying, as Myanmar’s presence in the digital world is ever growing, and there is a lack of clarity surrounding the ways to act online.
The last week or so was spent in Yangon where I split my time between the PB office and Sky Age. I got to meet the newest member of the PB team, the new Office Administrator Shwe. We went for dim sum together with Hnin to welcome Shwe to the team which was lovely; she is fantastic and a brilliant addition to the team! In the office we continued our work on the Scholarship process, and we also had a visit from a current PB student studying in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which was really insightful for me. I stayed at Sky Age for 3 days, which gave me the chance to really integrate with the way of life the students have – sleeping on the floor and waking up at 5.30 AM were both a shock to the system! Again it really showed the passion that students in Myanmar have for education; as soon as the students woke up they were practising English with me, right up until the lights went out in the evening. As this month comes to an end I will spend 5 days in Vietnam to extend my visa and return for my last month in Myanmar before heading back to the UK.
Joe Massey, Prospect Burma Volunteer