PROJECT 4: Myanmar
Whether it’s family, friends, or strangers, when we share that our current project is in Myanmar (aka Burma) we get many puzzled looks. If you weren’t aware this country even existed, you’d be in good company as most people have no knowledge of this magnificent land in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia with 60 million people. It is bordered by Bangladesh to the west, India and China to the north, and Laos and Thailand to the east. The south borders the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
The country is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement, and isolation.
Under military rule since 1962, Myanmar’s government tightly controlled all major industry, including oil production, consumer goods, transportation, and tourism. As a result, it has become one of the world’s most impoverished countries. More dramatically, the United Nations has reported systematic human rights violations by the military.
During the years of military regime also know as “the censorship years”, journalists, writers, artists and activists in Myanmar risked being blacklisted and tortured for speaking freely. Some even spent decades in solitary confinement. Throughout the regime, if you were caught capturing video or images in public you would be imprisoned. YouTube and social media sites were blocked and the government tightly controlled the style and content of all publications.
Since 2011 the country has greatly changed under the leadership of a new President. The government has now been implementing a program of domestic reform, recognizing that it must open its country to the rule of law and international cooperation in order to escape the continuation of a downward spiral that will eventually lead to bankruptcy. The government is now moving towards the future of free speech for everyone in the country. Daily news journals were finally allowed to exist to rival the government organ and publishers no longer had to submit material in advance.
Giving an opportunity to freely share their story to people who would have been imprisoned for doing so 7 years ago makes this project our most significant undertaking to date. Most of these individuals have little record of their family history through photographs. This project gives these individuals proof of life, and acknowledges that their story should never be silenced.
GET TO KNOW MORE ABOUT OUR PARTNERS!
Do you know that over 2 million children a year die of hygiene related disease?
Do you know that the hospitality industry throws away billions of bars of gently used soap into landfills every single year that could potentially save those lives?
Our partner for Project 4 – Sundara – is brilliantly approaching this problem by taking those bars before they hit the trash, cleaning and sanitizing them so they are pathogen-free, can not transmit disease and are fit for use again. With a completely holistic approach to soap recycling, they employ local community members for leadership, giving dignified jobs to underprivileged women and focusing on intensive hygiene education in a sustainable movement to reduce preventable hygiene related death and disease.
Through recycling soap, Sundara has rescued thousands of kilograms of waste from ending up in overcrowded landfills – but more importantly they’ve brought soap to those who couldn’t afford it, given economic opportunity to unemployed women and seen increased rates of hand washing in all the communities they work in.
We are excited to meet the people Sundara is helping in Myanmar and to work alongside this incredible organization to raise awareness, and bring life-saving hygiene to the vulnerable communities within the country!
You will get to experience this remarkable location which holds all of the charm of old Asia before the people in remote villages grow accustomed to tourists and lose their curiosity, before people switch to global ways of dressing and thinking, before the menus and signs are transferred to English. Before the country’s wealthier areas become more wealthy and ugly from the opportunities of commercialism – turning the poorer areas more poor and isolated. You will be giving opportunities and experiences to people who have spent the majority of their lives being censored and stifled and your outstretched hand will create lifelong change and empowerment. We thank you for this beautiful gift, and look forward to sharing your kindness with the people of Myanmar!!