Reflections on 2013

As the year draws to a close it is fitting to reflect on the year past. We are happy to report that 2013 was a good year for Project Malot highlighting an expansion and deepening of the commitment to the engagement and education of the community.

In 2013 earlier recipients of the scholarships continued with their high school studies and even went onto university, all with our support. With the support of the funds raised earlier in the year, a new wood ceiling was built in the school that has lowered the temperature for the students and improved the teaching environment. Minor repairs were also made to the school, with a fresh coat of paint. The high school tuition programs continued to move forward, with hard work and enthusiasm.

I returned for a visit to the Malot village tract in October to find that our efforts to promote education in the local communities are expanding. The visit began with the local Project Malot leader U Kyaw Hlaing introducing me to a prominent abbot in the area who has opted to replicate the model we initiated of subsidizing the tuition for students in the community who cannot reach or afford to attend a high school. The monastery (pictured) has over 180 students now studying tuition for high school. They will take their high school exams in March 2014. It was heartwarming to learn that our example was being copied and shaping the lives of more students in the Irrawaddy Delta. We agreed to assist the monastery by offering financial support for the students to take the exams at an estimated cost of $US 20 per student in order to make sure this effort got off the ground. The trip revealed how much Myanmar is opening up and the expansion of civil society at the local level.

There is a growing attention to education. After we visited the monastery, it was reported that another high school would open in the area, giving students more chances. There is more pressure locally being placed on the government in this pre-election period to improve education opportunities, as the communities fully understand that education is one of the most important vehicles for social mobility. At the monastery we gave the top students of the year small prizes to reward their hard work.

We followed this visit of the monastery to tour another middle school in an area north of Bogalay. This is one of the highest performing middle schools in the area led by a woman headmistress whose ingenuity and perseverance have improved standards. She spoke excellent English and it became clear that her commitment to the community had made an impact. We gave prizes to her top students before turning toward the Malot village tract.

Upon arriving in Malot the teachers and students were waiting for us. Seeing old friends and the faces of students who are growing up quickly was moving. We spent time talking to the students and teachers, hearing about their performance and successes. Each of the top students were given prizes for their performance over the year, with laughter and good cheer. We turned to the annual task of selecting the student for the scholarship to attend the high school in Bogalay. In this round six students interviewed, three boys and girls. The winner of the scholarship for the upcoming year is Bo Min Chien (pictured) whose quiet confidence was inspiring. His mother recently died of cancer and his father is ill. He wants to become a doctor. We have agreed to support the fees of three of the other interviewed students to attend high school tuition and take their examinations. While our efforts are modest, the hope is to continue to help as many people as possible.

We closed the visit with a long meeting with the village committee where we discussed the needs and priorities for the school and the community. We decided that the students needed a playground for football and to run around, and funds were given to assist with the materials for this, with the village providing labor. The focus ahead is on building new toilets for the school, with the aim of building four toilets to replace the current ones (pictured). The aim is to continue the high school tuition program and scholarships in the year ahead. We will host a fundraiser in Singapore in January. Do join us. Thanks for your support and happy New Year!