Myanmar, Asia

MYA05 - Bright Hope Myanmar Development Projects: Partnership Reports



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Report Date: April 17, 2019

Report from BHW Myanmar Partnership Facilitator Following Visit

Key Person:  Samuel Thang 

 

On my last trip to Yangon I was able to make a visit out to see Samuel and his family at their home. Samuel has made some significant changes on the property over the last year, with a new dining area being built and the kitchen expanded. 

After taking in the many changes at the Peace Home we made the trip out to the dairy farm and the first look at the fish ponds since they have been filled. While I always enjoy visiting the farm I was more circumspect on this visit when it was pointed out that a recently purchased bull had died after being bitten by a cobra, which are common in the area. For some reason it made walking through the long grass a little less enjoyable than usual!

Later we made a visit to the town house where many of the young people are going after graduating from high school when their education or training needs require them to be in Yangon. I heard many stories about the challenges of finding work in Myanmar at the current time, and also about the cost of education and specialisation. 

 

Recent Events

Peace Home (MYA04)

great additionThere has been a lot of development at the Peace Home since our last visit. Using bricks made on the property (and welding done by the boys) a dining hall has been built, along with a guest room and library. The extra space by the new building has allowed the expansion of the kitchen and more room for the girls’ dormitory and bathroom, with the boys also having more space.

Part of the old dining room has been turned into a sewing room to help with the skills training.

Samuel and Mercy have planted some new fruit crops on the site as a trial run and they are looking promising.

The rear part of the property is now fully planted, made possible by irrigation from the water tank installed with Bright Hope World funding.

There are about 100 children living on site with another 17 living in the transition house in Yangon.

 

Farm

The dairy farm has continued to provide a good income, and some of the local villagers are employed to live on site and look after the animals. Samuel laughingly said that while the boys could earn more working on the farm they didn’t like the work, preferring to work on air conditioning units.

add to dietThere are two large ponds on the land that have been stocked with fish and whose feed is supplemented with manure from the farm. The large bucket of fish caught each week is added to the diet at the Peace Home.

The limited foray into raising pigs wasn’t profitable so the pens have been repurposed for goats which are easy to feed and sell well in Yangon.

An unemployed family from Chin State have come down to help on the property, particularly with the goats, and grass has been planted to assist with feeding the cattle. A group of boys come from the Home regularly to cut it.

 

Preschool

A few years ago we visited a small village preschool that had been begun in one of the largely transient communities. Unfortunately issues with non-payment made it unsustainable, and the site has been turned into 10 simple dwellings which are rented out to local families. The rent is one of the cheapest in the village and Samuel maintains the solar powered well water.

 

Town House

further studyI was also able to visit the house that is rented in Yangon for the older students who are studying in the city. There were 17 students there at the time plus a teacher from out of town who was staying in a spare bed while studying English.

It was great to see that some of the students whom I met on my last visit have become self-sufficient, with several having moved out to be closer to their new jobs. A ten minute walk from the house through the neighbourhood, which felt more like a densely packed village than a conventional suburb, took us to the new home and work premise of two of the young men who have recently started their own air conditioning business.

 

Loan Program 

While I wasn’t able to sit in on one of the loan program meetings this time I am assured that it is functioning well with regular repayments and loans being recirculated. There are currently 32 people with loans within the network, using the loans for a variety of businesses from agriculture projects to small stores to motorcycle taxis.

While there had been an increase in the number of students accessing the loan program to pay for study fees (to be repaid from their income) this has been capped or reduced because of potential conflict of interest given their close connection to Samuel.

 

Samuel

Samuel has been busy teaching both in Myanmar and also by invitation in Thailand.

 

Personal Stories

Beckham

Beckham used a loan to buy a motorcycle and start a motorcycle taxi business, the proceeds of which were largely used to pay for the education of his children. All his children have now finished their schooling with funding from the motorbike.

Young lady

While visiting the Peace Home I met a young lady who had previously been studying in the city until ill health made that impossible. She returned to the Home to rest and recover. Her health has improved to the point where she is now able to help in the shop on the property and sew some clothing while she studies by correspondence.

Gyi Shwe

Gyi's family comes from the northern area of Myanmar and is involved in subsistence farming and tree felling. After a visiting missionary put the family in touch with Samuel and Mercy she and her older sister came to live with them about 11 years ago.

After completing high school exams she moved to the town house and did a three month course in sewing. She has been working as a seamstress for the last 9 months and would like to study law, though the cost of the 5 year degree is beyond her means at the moment.

Pastor Ni Kyaw

Pastor Ni Kyaw took a loan from the programme to buy the materials to make bricks and slippers (which on investigation are jandals/flipflops/sandals/zori/take your pick). The income helps to provide for his family and the 16 orphans he cares for.

 

 

Partnership's Influence within the Community

It was interesting on this visit to get a better feel for how the secondary beneficiaries of both Samuel and Mercy’s work and the loan programme are coming into the picture. Aside from the direct beneficiaries (the children living in the home and now the city house) and the participants in the loan programme, these people are living and working in their own communities and making changes there too.

The success that Joshua has seen through the expansion of his village water provision has led to him being asked to take care of several young people from remote areas, and he now has care of over a dozen young people. He is currently looking into ways where he can create more income to provide for his new charges.

 

 

Plans for the Future

As has been outlined, the core of the Peace Home is continuing to be developed with the extension into vocational and higher learning through the transitional town house.

I recommend that the funding of the loan programme be maintained. 

 

Current Issues and Challenges

As usual Samuel seems to have a good handle on the changing nature of business in Myanmar. There are always the occasional issues like the unusual-for-NZ threat of cobra deaths in the dairy herd and neighbourhood kids using explosives to steal fish, which are generally managed with aplomb.

The main issue for Samuel at the moment is the costs of rental and further training for the older students which are likely to continue if not to grow.

 

Prayer and Praise Points

Praise

- The continued growth of the Peace Home and provision for them
- The success of the various enterprises that help provide income and materials for the Peace Home

Prayer

- For a way to meet the rising costs and increasing number of graduated students who need opportunities to get vocational training
- For safety in travelling and good health for the students

 

Comments

I continue to be impressed with Samuel’s adaptable and various business ideas, and even more so by his dedication to the young people in his care. He is an important leader in a growing network and very personable. It is always a joy to visit with him and Mercy.

The loan programme appears to be functioning as was intended.

Myanmar continues to be a rapidly developing marketplace and there are many new business opportunities for those with capital. One of the recurring questions I found myself wondering about on this trip was the best way to support local Christians to make progress. Many of the small business opportunities are specific to this place and time, and Samuel’s experience and leadership make for a strong support for those in his network.

There are always follow on effects of success in this community-oriented culture – Joseph, whose loan was used to help expand his water supply business into his village and subsequently to open a small shop (now a bigger one), now has a number of young people living with him sent from northern villages for education. While they are living with him they become his responsibility.