In the wake of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008 the broader SAIS-JHU (Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University) community led by students in the Southeast Asia Studies Program working with Professor Bridget Welsh contributed funds toward the construction of a middle school in the village tract of Malot, approximately one hour from Bogalay town in the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar (Burma). The middle school was constructed in 2008-2009, with additional donations and the hard labor of the local community, and opened on May 21, 2009. It is the only middle school for ten villages and as of June 2012 has over 400 students. The initial financial contributions would not have been possible without the generosity of members in the SAIS-Siam Alumni Group based in Bangkok and the hard fund-raising work of the SAIS-JHU Class of 2009 Southeast Asia Studies program. The school has strong support of the local community and, with its dedicated teaching staff, has given the children and parents of Malot hope for a better future.
The project aims to foster international understanding and cooperation and improve the options for the children of Myanmar (Burma). The focus is on creating educational opportunities for students in the Irrawaddy Delta.The project was extended in May 2010 when the U Kyaw Hlaing (left) Library was opened. Named after the local entrepreneur who steered the school construction effort in Malot, this library contains over 1000 Burmese and English language books geared for middle school students. The library was possible as a result of the generous donation of books from the Myanmar Book Asia & Preservation Foundation and personal contributions of Professor Welsh. She contributed towards the library in the name of the SAIS-JHU Class of 2009, who honored Professor Welsh with the Max M. Fisher Excellence in Teaching Prize. Part of the prize award was used for book purchases in Burmese.
In May 2010, Professor Welsh also initiated the Patrick Joseph Welsh Scholarship, named after her father. He was the first person in her family to attend college. This scholarship is given annually to the top student in the middle school of Malot – based on merit, need and character –to attend high school for the following school year. The first winner (2010-2011), Aung Myint Myat (right), wants to be a mechanical engineer and has since graduated and started university. He is the first student from the village to attend university. The second winner (2012) Nandar Tun currently attends high school. Funds are also given to the community to hire teachers to allow the other students in the village to receive a high school education. The community contributes to this effort, and our contributions offset the costs.
Currently fund-raising efforts are underway to raise US$3,500 for repairs to the school and to make an addition to the roof to reduce the temperature in the summer months for students. There is a fund-raising event planned tentatively for October 19, 2012 in Singapore.
Project Malot aims to transform lives one person at a time through learning, sharing and mutual respect.