On May 25th 2015, the ambassadors from the UK & IE began their visit to the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (also known as Burma). Our journey to Myanmar starting 22 hours before at London Heathrow Airport, where a group of 6 excited, passionate and somewhat nervous co-workers met in Terminal 2. Loaded with energy, education supplies and around 200 soft toys, we began our migration to the other side of the world.
The first leg of our journey took us to Bangkok International Airport in Thailand where we got our first taste of Asian culture. With influences from Asia and the Eastern world decorating the airport, we all began to wonder just exactly what the country of Myanmar would have in store for us.
Flying into Yangon presented a stark contrast to neighbouring Bangkok. High-rise offices / apartment blocks next to neon branded companies were replaced with Buddhist temples, deep forests and homes made from waste metal, concrete and wooden material. Central Yangon is one of the few places in Myanmar that appears to have received financial support, being more urbanised away from the airport than our group had expected. Nevertheless, locally ran business stalls for selling cooked food, tyres, cans and water bottles littered the fronts of the streets: with private homes for the wealthy sitting just behind.
Save the Children has led global action on children’s rights for over 90 years. They have been working in Myanmar since 1995, helping children to access essential services such as healthcare and education. Since then. Save the Children expanded it’s programmes within the country, and through donations from IKEA Foundation they have been able to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families.
Some of the key work that Save the Children is implementing is around giving awareness and education to children and adults regarding the rights that children have, and how to govern that. They are actively working to improve child-rights laws within the country, and at the same time educating children and families in various townships: building their confidence, skills, networking and capabilities to respond to child rights violations.
How do we work with Save the Children in Myanmar?
Our first day was spent visiting the head office of Save the Children in central Yangon. It was during our afternoon here that we met Yin Yin Chaw and Thanda Kyaw: Project Officers / Managers for Save the Children. They spoke with incredible passion and commitment about their work, what it’s like for children growing up in Myanmar, the culture and challenges facing them as well as how funds from IKEA Foundation have been used.
Save the Children have 36 field offices across the country, covering 6 regions, 6 states and 13 townships. IKEA Foundation have funded work in 3 of those townships over the last 3 years. At these locations, they have established Child Groups, Child Protection Groups and Community Based Officers: all volunteers (children and adults) wishing nothing more than to educate and protect other children and their families from rights violations.
The biggest challenge that faces Save the Children here today is working to change peoples attitudes towards children and their rights: something that they know will take a long-term approach: perhaps even generations to alter. A great sense of humbleness resides in these fantastic colleagues and especially over the last few years, they have really started to see an impact on the lives of the communities.
Simply meeting the people who are based here to do such an amazing job with IKEA Foundation was an incredibly inspirational but also humbling experience. The job is being done because it’s worth doing: it outweighs all the sadness and stress of delivering such critical work; in fact we got the impression that this drives them on even more!
What will we see on our visit to Myanmar?
We will spend 3 days out in the field visiting various projects that we are currently involved with. They are all centred around establishing child rights, rights governance and educating townships so that eventually they can become self-sufficient in these areas.
Our visit will take us to meet Child Protection Groups in the Ka Sin and Ward 7 townships of the Hlaingthayar region, and Ward 19 and Bone ShaeKone Village in the Shwepyithar region. We will also meet Community Based Organisations here: these members are working voluntarily to continue the work started by Save the Children in townships outside of the current target areas.
We then also have the chance to meet with the Country Programme Director for Save the Children; who will also inform us of how we are working with the crisis action in Nepal.
Much of our final day will be spent experiencing the culture and the sightseeing that the Yangon region of Myanmar has to offer.