Covid-19 has been a catastrophe this year in Myanmar, since the government announcement of banning large gathering and social distancing rules and new regulations, we’ve been unable to teach the children in person, initially, the children who are always ready to take the adventure in their learning were afraid that the Esther Project would be suspended until a future date. However, while virtually all education programs have shut down; thanks to The Esther Project’s investment in technology and the availability of social media, we have been able to make progress beyond my imagination, for which I am always grateful to God. The caregivers and children are also happy to discover that the Esther Project is still going forward. Everyone is challenged and excited to be learning new skills as we adapt and embrace online training.
One of the reasons The Esther Project is so successful is because my colleagues and I take the teacher-caregiver relationship very seriously, and during this time we have increased our efforts to stay in close contact with the caregivers. We not only talk to them on the phone regularly, but we also ask for their Facebook page so that we could follow them (everyone in Myanmar uses Facebook). The idea is to stay in touch with them and to keep them informed of the classes, availability of teaching materials, and any developments that might arise. Most importantly, we want to continue developing a strong network with them.
“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
- Chuck Swindoll
As the world deals with the Global pandemic of COVID-19; Myanmar, with its limited health care system, has not been immune to the consequences of the virus that the world is struggling with it. As a result, The Esther Project has made significant changes temporarily to how we deliver our programs until we are once again confident that it is safe for the children to gather together to learn the life-changing skills we provide.
Unlike many training programs and schools, The Esther Project was not caught unprepared for the outbreak and subsequent legal restrictions on schools and training programs. Beginning in the last week of January, with the guidance of our country manager, our staff began to prepare contingency plans for online training in the event of an outbreak. How it would be conducted and what additional equipment and infrastructure would be needed.
As we began a new program year in early March, we were able to conduct classes at our centers using our traditional methods. However, with the number of COVID-19 cases in Myanmar climbing rapidly: the decision was made that beginning the first of April, The Esther Project would conduct classes online. In support of that decision over 50 laptops were dispersed to the 35 orphanages that partner with us in our 9 locations, additionally The Esther Project absorbed the cost of providing a data internet connection to enable each orphanage to have access to our instructors as they teach our English language courses online.
As a result of our laptops being utilized at each of the orphanages to conduct English lessons, we have temporarily suspended the computer education classes. We expect this situation to be temporary and when we are confident that we can once again conduct our classes at our learning centers with minimal risk to our students and staff, we will resume our traditional method of instruction and restart the computer training courses.
In support of helping the orphanages do what they can, to reduce the spread of the virus the Esther Projects’ new sewing program will begin the task of producing over 2,000 masks to supply each child, and caregivers at all of the orphanages that partner with us with at least 2 masks. In addition, we will supply 2 masks each to the children and caregivers of the orphanages who are on our waiting list to join the program when we are able to accommodate them. To manufacture that number of face masks will require time, so as a temporary solution and in an effort to provide the sewing program time to produce the masks, several thousand face masks are being shipped via DHL to Myanmar, these will then be distributed to each of the orphanages.
During this time, we are reminded that in life, each of us has battles to fight. But it is in those battles when we are most alive: it’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work. Or, as we tell our students, remember to be like a little rubber duck…
I Will Be Like A Little Rubber Duck,
I Can Not Be Crushed,
I Can Not Be Broken,
I Bounce Back,
I Will Always Rise to The Surface.
We wish to congratulate our County Manager, Mr. Solomon Shwe Oake for being selected as a Deboer Fellow for 2020.
The Deboer Fellowship could not have selected a better recipient. He is a living example of their motto "Go Do Good". He brings a passion and commitment to improving the lives of everyone in Myanmar and he would be the first to say that he is just one of the many amazing staff members of The Esther Project.
We are grateful for Solomon's heart and passion to serve and to set such a tremendous example for our students.
To learn more about the Deboer Fellowship, please visit their website at: https://www.deboerfellowship.org/
A letter from Miss July Soe a 3rd-year student at The Esther Project and who is in her final year of school, who we are pleased to provide her with one of the Esther Project scholarships for tutoring to prepare her to pass the all-important Matriculation exam in Myanmar.
My name is Miss July Soe. I am fifteen years old. I have already written my grade 9 exam and now I am preparing for my grade 10. I was born in Shan State, into a very poor family who because they could not afford me, chose to give me away. In the village I was born in we do not access to education. but after I came to Yangon, I have a better education.
My ambition is to become a doctor. So that I may help care for those who are poor because in Myanmar they do not get to see a doctor or a nurse. I have been living in Yangon at an orphanage for five years. Under the protection and provision of my new parents at the orphanage, I have been doing great in my education. I have studied at the Esther Project for 2 years. I have found that the English and computer skills we learn at the Esther Project is very helpful and useful for me and has given me skills and motivation to seek my dream to become a doctor. But first I must pass the matriculation exam.
As we all know, it is almost impossible to pass the matriculation exam that is administered at the end of the 10th-grade year without receiving outside tutoring. If I can attend tuition and study hard, I will surely pass the test. When I pass the test, it will have a positive impact on my fellow younger sisters and brothers. I will be able to set myself a good example for them. And passing the test could open a big door to pursue my dream. Therefore, the scholarship you have given me will surely change my life.
I know the schedule is very hard, but not too hard if I want to be a good example to my younger brothers and sisters at the orphanage. The schedule for the tutoring is from 1 pm to 10 pm every day. from Monday to Sunday. There is no off day for 10 graders. There are five teachers who will be providing the tutoring as well as providing a personal guide for each student. And they also put a personal guide to help the students.
Thank you for believing in me, and helping to make all of this possible for me and for all of us in The Esther Project.
It isn’t all work, part of shaping the behavior of the children is to show them that they matter, that they need to be celebrated, to this end this week, we had a birthday celebration for the students born in March at each center. This celebration is vital for the kids as they have never seen a birthday cake prepared for them in their life. We are impressed by this event every month. We can see the joy in their eyes as we celebrate for them. Each center celebrated in its own way. It was an inspiring moment as their fellow students made a wish for each of the birthday boys/girls.
This year, the instructors are busier than ever, as with the substantial growth of The Esther Project, each teacher is being asked to take more classes, combining this with the fact that many of our first-year students are younger, we have more challenges in teaching English as it seems like our traditional course in difficult for them to comprehend. This was somewhat anticipated and is the reason at the beginning of this session, we implemented a beta test going currently at the new Shwe Pyi Thar centers, testing a new method that is designed for younger learners. Thus far that program seems to be excelling, and we are beginning to incorporate some of the ideas and methods into the other centers as well for the classes with younger students.
For the upcoming week, we will be administering the first test of the year in both English and computer training, to measure the progress of our students, the effectiveness of the teachers and course work.
As part of the education being provided to our students, in addition to vocational skills, we continue to provide life skill training including critical thinking as well as moral, ethical, and citizenship building. To help advance those ideas, this week the students were given a project to plan and implement something that will make a positive change in someone’s life or environment within a budget of 15,000MMK ($10 USD). Students were partnered into four teams. Their plans had to include a Goal, a narrative of the problem analysis, drawing up a problem tree, and both a strategic plan narrative and action plan narrative, and document why their plan is the plan would provide the best ROI (Return on Investment) on 15,000MMK, and measure it against LOC (Lost Opportunity Cost), yes we also mingle in some business training as well.
They were given four days to finish the plan and to make a presentation which must include a PowerPoint presentation to all the students and instructors. The followings were the four proposals in summary;
Group 1, wants to make a campaign to clean the Esther Project campus. This includes 10 minutes sharing on cleanliness, and 20 minutes picking trash on the campus. They would spend the Kyats on buying new trash cans and put them in the classrooms.
Group 2, proposed helping the younger students study English at night back at the orphanages better. This includes 2 hours of English class every night during the implementation of the project, a test at the end, encouragements and sharing knowledge and nutrition with the younger students.
Group 3, came up with the idea of starting a mini library for the Fundamental’s students (the 1st year students) at North Dagon Center 2. This would consist of building a small bookshelf, gathering a collection of old books, and a session on sharing the importance of reading and writing.
Group 4, plans to show love to the Fundamentals students, this would include setting up the classroom before they come to class and putting away their chairs after the class, they would utilize the Kyats to purchase several umbrellas for the students to borrow when they go back home in the afternoon when it is raining (during the monsoon season).
Our instructors were impressed by all the presentations, and believe that all of the groups did great, and believe that this sort of exercise helps the students to improve their critical thinking, teamwork, advance their English skill and of course problem-solving skills in real life. The director of the Esther Project made the decision to implement all four of the group’s suggestions, to let the children experience the difference between saying something and doing something.
All four groups have been given 15,000MMK to implement their proposal and must give a presentation (including PowerPoint) to the entire staff and all the students on how they implemented their plan and the real-life impact of it.
Another year of The Esther Project has commenced, with 6 locations serving 29 orphanages and over 200 children. We have returning students, some for their 3rd and final year, as well as many first-year students, in addition, we have launched a test program to measure the effectiveness of a new teaching method to accelerate the speaking skills of our students.
Two of the new centers are located in the Shwe Pyi Thar Township, an area of extreme poverty by any measure. We understood that launching centers in Shwe Pyi Thar, will present difficulties that we have not had to deal with in our other locations, and immediately in Shwe Pyi Thar, it was uncovered that not only do our students not have any English skills (as was expected) but many of them do not speak the national language of Burmese, they instead speak their tribal language. Fortunately, our instructors are fluent in the tribal language as well and as a result, our instructors will undertake not only the task of teaching English but also the native language of Burmese to these children.
As a result, we are altering our lesson plans and methods to encompass both Burmese and English for these children. While the single most important skill to have in Myanmar to escape generational poverty is English, it is equally as important that these children are taught the national language if they are to be able to communicate with everyone in their country.
For citizens of countries that are more developed, it is almost unimaginable to be born, raised and live in your country without being able to speak the native language, unfortunately such is not the case for many of the children who come from the remote villages in Myanmar, placing yet another roadblock in front of them in their quest to escape the poverty that grips them.
Many Christian led orphanages in our country have many challenges in different areas in term of raising orphans as its demand is huge. Many of these orphanages struggle to have enough resources regarding facility and food, and the important role of education for them is usually neglected. There are very few orphanages that help the orphans grow in dignity by supporting their education and preparing them for the future challenges. This is why the Esther Project is necessary for those unengaged groups of orphans.
Observing our activities, the Esther Project meets the desire of the orphans and is making a huge impact to their lives. Our students find this project helpful and are excited learning at the Esther Project. They are a proud of being a student of the Esther Project. At their government school, they share about what they have learned at the project with their fellow students and teachers. As a result of the impact of the Esther Project, orphans have gained more confident in socializing at school, do better at school subjects, and have demonstrated large improvement in critical thinking process and skills such as English and Computer, etc.
During the class this week, we continued discussions and preparation for a presentation that the students will have in November. This is a kind of learning process that helps the students learn team work, problem solving skills and planning. They are making progress week after week and excited about what they are planning, and the staff is anxious to see the students shine.
Solomon Shwe Oke (Esther Project Myanmar)
Our Esther Project, a non-profit program in Myanmar provides vocational training to orphans. We currently serve over 200 children in 29 orphanages in 6 locations.