So as part my work with VIA, I get to travel a bit and check in with the fellows and see the partners. Last week, I just got back from Myanmar. It was my first time there and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I made a little video showing some of the stuff I saw, but I also wanted to write a little bit about the different places I visited and the work they’re doing. I definitely have a skewed view of Myanmar, but the thing that impressed me the most was all the things that people were trying to do to improve their communities. Whenever I ask Vietnamese people what they want to change about Vietnam, they usually list quite a few significant problems. But when I ask what should we do about it, they always start with “the government should…” People don’t really think about things they can also do to help solve the problems around them. It’s one of the main reasons we started The Lab. We want to encourage people to think about things they can do to improve their own communities. Myanmar felt like they had a lot of energy around that.
On the second day of our trip, we went up to Inle Heritage to visit the VIA fellow. Inle Heritage is a free school for people in the area. They go there and learn about hospitality and English. It is owned by another resort, Inle Princess Resort. Students who graduate often end up working at that resort or other hotels/restaurants in the area. It’s a neat little place in Inle Lake. The only way to get there is by boat, and everyone tends to live and work there together.
Mong Pan Youth Association
After Inle, I met up with a friend of a friend in Taunggyi. It’s the capital of Shan state. Shining runs a youth empowerment organization. They do three month internships where people learn about graphic design, video editing, and English. Some of the staff have produced documentaries and have even come to Vietnam to show their work. The internship is also free and they receive a small living stipend as well. Everyone I talked to there had something they wanted to do back home when they finished the internship. These are the people at the end of my video teaching us some Myanmar btw.
Hla Day Shop
Hla Day shop is a cute little art store in Yangon. It’s one of many social enterprises in the city. They sell goods from throughout the area that support the communities. One of the cool things I saw was Chu Chu Plastics. It’s an artist cooperative who uses recycled plastics in all of their work. You can buy some of their stuff at the shop too. They also had a map of various social enterprises in Yangon that we used to get around.
Phandeeyar Innovation Lab
This place is a start up accelerator/co-working space. They take on small teams who need help starting up their idea. They give them seed money and connect them with mentors and advisors. They just had one of their teams sell their business for several million dollars to an Australian group.
Pre-Collegiate Program Yangon
After vising the innovation lab, we went to visit the other VIA fellow in Myanmar at PCP. PCP is a 16-month program that prepares high school graduates to study abroad and encourages them to be agents of change in their communities. They take 3 semesters of classes and then the final semester is an internship. Amazingly, something like 98% of people who finish their program study abroad. I didn’t ask, but a few of the students I talked to mentioned wanting to come back to Myanmar to work on some community projects.
360Ed is an organization actually started by a PCP alumn. The goal of the organization is to use VR and AR to improve Myanmar’s education system. People can also take classes with them in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), learn how to use 3D printers, or get started with video editing. It’s a cool makerspace that I had a lot of fun just hanging out in.
Parami Institue currently is a semester long education program, but the founder (also a PCP alum) wants to create a 4 year liberal arts college in Yangon. Cool huh?
So within a week, those are all the places I visited. I just wanted to share a little bit about the places you see in the video, because they are definitely worth knowing. They inspired me to think more about The Lab and the work we’re trying to do as well. I hope they inspire you too!