The 10 month training program at NEED-Burma 2012-2013 has, so far, been a great success due to the determination and diligence of both students and staff!
As you are probably aware the objective of NEED-Burma is, primarily to educate the youth for a more peaceful and sustainable future in Burma. Our students, this year, range in age from 18 to 27 and are from different states, divisions, ethnic groups and religions in Burma. (see here for specific details) To fit our multi-ethnic and eclectic group the range of teachers and subjects has also varied enormously, the practical activities and workshops with outside trainers have been very well received and the various field trips added some variety to the regular school curriculum.
The subjects covered this year in the full-time curriculum were taught by a mixture of volunteers from organisations including Burma Volunteer Program (BVP), Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and American Jewish World Service (AJWS), teachers from other schools including Mekong School and Burma School as well as independent volunteers, plus the permanent NEED Burma staff.
The academic subjects in the general curriculum 2012-2013 were as follows:
- Community Development
- Computer Skills
- Environmental Studies
- Human Rights
- Personal Finance and Budgeting
- Photography and Video Documentation
- Proposal Writing
- Sustainable Agriculture
Workshops and Guest Trainers
NEED-Burma has been very lucky this year to host many workshops conducted by highly qualified guest trainers and we would like to extend our gratitude to them!
Forestry & Reforestation
This 2-day workshop was conducted by James Cornwell of the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU) immediately after orientation in July. James’ workshop was very well received by all the students.
Held at the end of June, this 3-day workshop was taught by Hannah El-Silimy, a free-lance volunteer, and Ellen Bryna & Nang Shining, both from Mekong School. The students enjoyed this workshop immensely as it’s highly relevant to current conflicts on-going in Burma.
Andrew Pascale very kindly conducted this week long workshop ably assisted by 2 of NEED’s very own interns, Loa Khaoung and Kyaw Kyaw. The Bio-gas training not only discussed the theory of environmental and economic benefits of using bio-gas, it also included the construction of a new concrete bio-digester as practical experience for the students.
An old friend of NEED-Burma, Green Steve, conducted this four day training course with his glamorous assistant Nyein Tun from ERI Burma School acting as co-facilitator and translator. Lessons are very rarely translated at NEED, but the highly technical content of this workshop meant, to avoid confusion, a translator was required!
Fuel Efficient Stoves
Especial thanks to Khun Aung from ERI Burma School who held this training course over a weekend to share how to make, cheaply, a stove which reduces the amount of fuel required as well as the amount of smoke produced.
Training of Trainers
NEED-Burma was very happy to welcome back Hannah, Ellen and Shining to facilitate this week long course to teach the students how to be efficient trainers when they return to Burma. A huge amount of fun was had during this workshop and it helped the students recognise their own strengths and abilities to share the knowledge they have gained at NEED-Burma with their own communities.
Ban Mae Samai
Held in conjunction with James’ Reforestation workshop, the NEED-Burma Students visited this village to meet the organisers of reforestation activities around the Mae Sa Valley. Included in the trip was a tour of their fully functioning nursery, a very useful observation exercise for the implementation of our own nursery at NEED.
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden
This trip meant the students saw differing varieties of plant species and spent the day researching the properties of various plants and how they can be cultivated, maintained and efficiently used in the future.
Wat Phrathat, Doi Suthep
As we are based in Chiang Mai, a visit to this beautiful temple atop Doi Suthep was a must if only to enjoy the panoramic views of Chiang Mai. For the students it was also a chance to learn about the various tourism practices of Thailand as Burma opens its doors to more and more visitors every year. On the way home, we couldn’t not visit the Huay Kaew waterfall and much fun was had by all!
Our visit to this village on the Thai-Burma border was, in large part, funded by Border Green Energy Team (B-GET). For two weeks, students and staff wehe housed by Blessed Homes Orphanage , members of Gyaw Gyaw and B-GET. This visit was highly enjoyable and productive. The students learnt about organic, sustainable farming from Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP), green energy from B-GET and sustainable architecture from award winning architect, Line Ramstad of Gyaw Gyaw. We were very fortunate to have such highly qualified trainers and magnificent hosts. After two weeks of very physical, taxing work making organic EMs (Effective Micro-Organisms), 3 kinds of compost, pest control, animal feed, digging irrigation swales, constructing a composting pig pen, making almost 300 mudbricks (no it did NOT turn into a mud fight, honest) and designing and making a vegetable garden for the orphanage, both students and staff were tired but happy! This trip was a huge success not only due to the massive amount of knowledge gained from such experienced trainers but because the NEED-Burma students taught the children of the orphanage everything they had learned. It was a great experience for them and good practice for those who plan to return to Burma as trainers.
Community Relations and Networking
An important part of any project is to cultivate and maintain a good working relationship with the wider community and similar organisations. Shortly after arriving, the NEED-Burma students volunteered to help with the funeral of a local villager. They helped with the preparations, served food and helped clean up after the event. While a sombre occasion it helped the students to settle in the village.
Every year, as well as graduation, NEED hosts two special celebrations: the Rice Planting Party in early August and the Rice Harvesting Party in late November, both of which, this year, were great successes. Members of organisations including Child’s Dream, ERI Mekong School, ERI Burma School, VSO and School for Shan State Nationalities’ Youth (SSSNY) all visited and participated in the planting and harvesting. After working in the morning everybody sits down to a large lunch and spends the afternoon mixing and relaxing, two very enjoyable occasions.
We’ve also been very lucky to enjoy the company of various visiting organisations including International SOS, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) and Women’s League of Burma (WLB).
We were very privileged to have a visit from the inordinately busy Dr. Cynthia Maung, founder and Director of the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, who discussed health issues and their implications on the future with our students.
Practical Agriculture Skills
This year was an amazing year for our farm. Our students got many opportunities to learn new sustainable farming techniques that they can use when they return home. Through the hard work of the students and the MFI Staff the practical skills they learned include: EM, Compost Making, BioChar, Grafting, Soil Management, Livestock Breeding, Organic Fertilizers, Natural Pest Control, Water Management, Farm Design, Nursery Management, BioGas Production and many more!
We would like to thank all the students, staff and visitors who made this year possible. We all learned so much in the time we spent together and we wish all our wonderful students the best in their future work. We look forward to seeing how they change the world!