Project Yangon has moved to a new website!

Hello there! Thank you for visiting Project Yangon. We have moved to a brand new webpage, that is most updated with what we do, at www.projectyangon.com! Do head there instead to find out about our project. Thank you!

Advertisements

Clothe-A-Child

Day 11 and 12 (1st and 2nd June 2016)

“For it is in giving that we receive” — St. Francis of Assisi

The concept of giving is a rather peculiar one: in a strict sense, giving and receiving should be mutually exclusive for it is physically impossible to give and receive something at the same time without calling it a trade. However, if we were to look up transcripts of great philanthropists in history, they often associate giving with receiving. For this reason, the true meaning of giving is something that is difficult for us all to comprehend.

As the bus comes to a final halt at the gate of the monastery, we got off the bus and started to unload the cardboard boxes which contain the clothes.

The process in getting the clothes to Yangon has been eventful to say the least. It all started with a simple announcement made after a lecture in school, followed by emails and texts to everyone possible, friends, families, mentors… We dropped by house after house to pick up the generous donations even in the midst of preparing for our exams, muscled the items into boxes and flew them over 2500 kilometres. Though the donations varied from baby clothing to stationeries, there was something in common — all of them were given away with a smile.

How are they smiling when they are giving something away? Something which they most probably have some amount of mental attachment with. 

We simply concluded that we were helping them to clear their closets.

At the monastery, tables were lined up for us to facilitate the distribution of clothes. After a short briefing to our friends from Golden Lotus, the donation drive is officially underway. The school children formed a neat queue; all with their hands together, in front of their chests (much like what a buddhist will do when approaching an altar at a temple).

It was an adorable sight as they go down the tables to receive the clothes: some fumbled, went out of queue, and fell. But again, there was a similarity — all of them received with a smile.

There may be many different kinds of smiles but the ones of giving and receiving are the same. It was as if to give and to receive stemmed from the same thing after all. It is somewhere along the generations of mankind which these two words, which are so intertwined and indivisible became two words with mutually exclusive literal meanings. We may never be able to grasp the true essence of “giving” but through this, but at least we have a clue.

– Project Yangon

School Health Education

Day 11 and 12 (1st and 2nd June 2016)

Prevention is always better than cure. Apart from providing free health screenings to the villagers of Shwe Pyi Thar, Project Yangon also seeks to tackle the healthcare problems of the village via primary healthcare prevention – Targeting the school children of the Thiri Mingala Monastery. We understand the fact that these children are the futures of the Shwe Pyi Thar and therefore the biggest change that Project Yangon can make will definitely have to start from there. Our School Health Education does not go by the conventional way of educating the school children: By providing the children with chunks of information and requiring them to take them in all at once. Instead, we take on a different approach by incorporating the element of fun into our School Health Education, considering how children of age 7 -10 tend to be more active and learn things best through hands-on activities. The sessions lasted over 2 consecutive days, with each session amounting to about 2 hours, we aimed to bring across various healthcare messages and lifestyle tips to the children, hoping that in return they will spread the same messages to their family and friends.

This year, the school health education is focusing mainly on 5 health topics: Oral health, Eyecare, Chronic Diseases, Physical fitness and Nutrition. Students of educational level of P1 to P4 were divided into their respective age groups and each group was exposed to 2 activities of 45 minutes each, covering different health topics which were relevant to the health condition of Shwe Pyi Thar. Each activity was concluded with a feedback/debrief session to recapitulate the important health messages so as to reinforce the childrens’ learning. By building knowledge in these children, we hope that this will improve the health literacy of the village in the time to come.

Preparing for School Health Education was definitely not an easy task. We held many dry runs to fine tune the activities that we personally came up with, from trying the games out ourselves to conducting the full School Health Education Programme at a local kindergarten in Singapore – Greenery Childcare Centre. It took us several weeks to personally handcraft the game materials as well and all of these preparations boils down to only one thing: To make the health education experience at the monastery of Shwe Pyi Thar a fruitful and successful one. When it came to the actual day of health education at the village’s school, unexpected evevnts surfaced along the way, with students being hyperactive and many of our members faced difficulties managing them while keeping hold of their attention span during the activities. However, at the end of the day, we left the village with a sense of satisfaction after seeing how the younger generations of the villagers managed to capture the health messages that our project was trying to bring across and how the children saw the importance of staying healthy after playing the activities. It is heartening to see how we are able to alter the mindsets of the villagers with just education alone. As Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Project Yangon

Health Screening at the Village

Day 8 and 9 (29th and 30th May 2016)

The second and third day of our health screening took place at the monastery at the village of Shwe Pyi Thar. We were glad to be back at the village to provide health screening for the villagers.

As it was the second and third day of health screening, our team, doctors and fellow partners from Golden Lotus, Myanmar Eye Centre and medical students from the University of Yangon 1 had settled into their roles and were more adjusted to the rigours of the screening. It was heartening to see us working hand in hand with our partners to serve the villagers to the best of their ability.

Most of the villagers that came for the screening were the women, elderly and children. This was unlike the screening conducted at the factory where all the workers were male. Consequently, the medical conditions which they had were more varied. We observed conditions ranging from cerebral palsy, chronic coughs, hypertension and ankyloglossia. There were also numerous villagers who had refractive errors which we referred to the Myanmar Eye Centre Ophthalmologists for further investigation and treatment.

In the midst of ensuring that the health screening proceeded smoothly, we noticed an interesting medical consultation. One of our doctors observed that a little boy around the age of 6 had ankyloglossia, also known as tongue-tie. The boy was unable to stick out his tongue fully, which affected his speech. With some medical equipment prepared, she first anesthetised his tongue before snipping the frenulum and rinsing his mouth with water. This however, shocked the boy he felt the pain caused by the snipping of his frenulum. However, within an hour or two, he was no longer in fear and pain. He could stick out his tongue fully and was already playing with his brother! Seeing his smile gave me the confidence that our work here in the village has had a beneficial impact on the village, and that every effort into this Project counts.

At the end of the third day of health screening, to thank the villagers and our partners, our team put up a simple dance performance which depicted the life of a Singaporean. We danced to “Singapore Town”, “Reach Out For The Skies” and “Home”. We also sang 童话, a song which is both popular in Singapore and Myanmar, with the audience. Everyone had a wonderful time dancing and singing after 3 days’ worth of health screening, and it was an excellent way to end the programme. In total, 493 villagers were screened over 3 days, which was no easy feat. This wouldn’t have been possible were it not for our doctors and partners who went the extra mile. We look forward to returning here next year to continue engaging with the villagers.

– Project Yangon

Health Screening at the Factory

Day 7 (28th May 2016)

HS1

The first of our three-day health screening took place at the Moe Hein Paper Mill Factory. It was a much anticipated day for our team and partners as so much time and effort had been spent preparing for it – from planning throughout the year to preparing materials and logistics, from training our partners to setting up the actual screening site.

As the factory workers queued in line, we took our places and made final preparations before officially beginning the screening.The people we were working hard for are finally before us.

With a tinge of excitement and apprehension, we began registration. We welcomed the factory workers with a resounding “Mingalaba!” (Which means “hello” in Burmese) as they entered our screening. Some of the factory workers appeared a little apprehensive. It was perhaps the first time at such a health screening for many of them and we are glad to be able to provide this service for them.

 

The stations after Registration were as follows:

  • Height and Weight, BMI calculation
  • Visual Acuity
  • Myanmar Eye Center Consultation
  • Vital Statistics and Health Survey
  • Doctor Consultation
  • Pharmacy
  • Feedback, Form Collection and Goodie Bag Collection

As we reflected upon the day, there was a sense of satisfaction amongst the team, as well as our partners. The Golden Lotus trainees and Burmese medical students seemed to really enjoy this learning experience and the opportunity they had to serve the factory workers.

Vivian: As the Health Screening committee member in charge of the health screening on that day, one of my regrets would be not having enough time and opportunities to interact with the factory workers since I spent most of the day running around troubleshooting and ensuring that the screening was running smoothly. I had the chance however, to observe a factory worker with a knee wound being treated by one of our Singaporean doctors, Dr Samuel. The wound was larger than 2 inches in diameter and was a rather deep one. It was clearly red, swollen, suppurating and inflamed. Dr Samuel told the patient that he needed to clean the wound and that it would be painful, as well as to stop him if it became too painful. He then proceeded to clean the wound thoroughly with cotton balls soaked in clorhexidine, constantly looking at the patient’s face for signs of pain. The few of us medical students observing the process winced while commenting that it was definitely going to be really painful.

To our surprise however, the patient tolerated with the pain really well and hardly showed signs of discomfort. It then struck me how the patient, like many of the people we met in Myanmar, has such a high threshold for pain. If I were in his position, I would definitely have grimaced in pain while holding on to my leg. I’m sure the patient felt the pain but did not express it since he knew that Dr Samuel had to proceed with the cleaning in order to prevent his condition from worsening. Perhaps it is the environment that the Burmese we met live and grow up in which nurtures them to take pain and suffering in their stride – not just pertaining to the physical but also emotional aspects. Many of the villagers I met during Befrienders of Yangon remained optimistic and resilient despite having been relocated to Shwe Pyi Thar, a village with vastly different living conditions from their original home in the city. We certainly have much to learn from them.

– Project Yangon

Health Screening and Health Education Golden Lotus Training

Day 4 and 5 (25th May 2016, 26th May 2016)

GOLDEN LOTUS

Two of the core programmes of Project Yangon are health screening and school health education. For these activities, homecare trainees from the Golden Lotus Training Academy will be joining us. They will play an important role in terms of facilitating the activities. Over the past two days, we carried out training sessions at the Training Academy for them in preparation for the health screening and school health education sessions.

On the first day, we ran through the screening flow and screening questionnaire with the trainees. The trainees were also split into groups according to their assigned station. PY members at each station then went through the screening procedures in greater detail. We also introduced our pilot programme, Adopt-a-Village, to the trainees as some of them will be involved in this over the next year. On the second day, we shared with them about the Health Behaviour Model and other frameworks which can serve as a guide when they provide lifestyle advice to improve the villagers’ health. Similar to the first day, trainees were split into smaller groups to do a role-play with PY members while applying the information we taught them. In the afternoon, we did a trial of the School Health Education games with the trainees to ensure that they know how to facilitate them.

Things went smoothly on both days and we are thankful. We are especially grateful for the chief trainers, Daw Ei Ei and Oo Thein Ko. Without their professionalism and support towards our project, we will not be able to carry out these training sessions so smoothly. They were able to guide the trainees effectively with their expertise as well as bilingualism. We could not have conveyed our ideas and carried out the teaching without their help.

Apart from the chief trainers’ dedication, the enthusiasm displayed by the trainees throughout the training sessions was equally heartening. After all, what would Project Yangon be without their participation? Without the trainees’ involvement, no amount of effort we put into planning the activities will matter. Seeing them participate actively and slowly taking ownership of the activities gave us confidence that we are moving towards one of our core objectives—empowering the Burmese to help their community. As a foreign medical volunteer team, there is a limit to how much time we spend there and how well we know the local conditions. It is thus important that we pass this responsibility on to the locals gradually. Hopefully, one day, Shwe Pyi Thar will not need Project Yangon anymore. It is going to be a long process but seeing the positive attitudes of the trainees over the past two days of training gives us hope. It spurs us to work towards a common goal of helping the village together.

Throughout the past few days of interacting with the trainees, we have also forged many new friendships with them. They are really warm people! We are looking forward to the next few days of activities together!

Two of the core programmes of Project Yangon are health screening and school health education. For these activities, homecare trainees from the Golden Lotus Training Academy will be joining us. They will play an important role in terms of facilitating the activities. Over the past two days, we carried out training sessions at the Training Academy for them in preparation for the health screening and school health education sessions.

On the first day, we ran through the screening flow and screening questionnaire with the trainees. The trainees were also split into groups according to their assigned station. PY members at each station then went through the screening procedures in greater detail. We also introduced our pilot programme, Adopt-a-Village, to the trainees as some of them will be involved in this over the next year. On the second day, we shared with them about the Health Behaviour Model and other frameworks which can serve as a guide when they provide lifestyle advice to improve the villagers’ health. Similar to the first day, trainees were split into smaller groups to do a role-play with PY members while applying the information we taught them. In the afternoon, we did a trial of the School Health Education games with the trainees to ensure that they know how to facilitate them.

Things went smoothly on both days and we are thankful. We are especially grateful for the chief trainers, Daw Ei Ei and Oo Thein Ko. Without their professionalism and support towards our project, we will not be able to carry out these training sessions so smoothly. They were able to guide the trainees effectively with their expertise as well as bilingualism. We could not have conveyed our ideas and carried out the teaching without their help.

Apart from the chief trainers’ dedication, the enthusiasm displayed by the trainees throughout the training sessions was equally heartening. After all, what would Project Yangon be without their participation? Without the trainees’ involvement, no amount of effort we put into planning the activities will matter. Seeing them participate actively and slowly taking ownership of the activities gave us confidence that we are moving towards one of our core objectives—empowering the Burmese to help their community. As a foreign medical volunteer team, there is a limit to how much time we spend there and how well we know the local conditions. It is thus important that we pass this responsibility on to the locals gradually. Hopefully, one day, Shwe Pyi Thar will not need Project Yangon anymore. It is going to be a long process but seeing the positive attitudes of the trainees over the past two days of training gives us hope. It spurs us to work towards a common goal of helping the village together.

Throughout the past few days of interacting with the trainees, we have also forged many new friendships with them. They are really warm people! We are looking forward to the next few days of activities together!

– Project Yangon

Health Ambassador Training

HA

Day 4 and 5 (25th May 2016, 26th May 2016)

Health Ambassador and Trainees Training

The Health Ambassador Programme is only in its second year, and so, somewhat less established than the other activities that Project Yangon conducts. We tried to improve and experiment with several new elements this year, from a more standardised syllabus to digital registration and group discussion times. While these initiatives did need some refinements, we are glad that on the whole, their implementation was smooth.

Last year’s workshop was a fairly didactic affair. This year, we wanted to allow the participants to express themselves, so that we might learn more about their beliefs. We gathered information through an open discussion segment and quantitative data from a short quiz on health. The value of such an approach was soon evident. We learnt about factories near Shwe Pyi Thar that spew their noxious gases into the air, causing respiratory discomfort. We discovered that the villagers were keen to learn about arthritis and mosquito borne diseases. We determined that while the villagers were quite clear about their conception of a healthy diet, they were not so sure about key areas like taking medication safely. We also realised how thankful the participants were to have been given a chance to attend a programme like this, though our own efforts seem amateurish to us.

The success of the qualitative questioning in particular gives me hope for the future development of the health ambassador programme. Health education has often been, at its core, about empowering others to take charge of their own bodily wellbeing. Now, by providing them the space to speak and offer feedback, they can begin to influence the way that we design their curriculum in future. The answers we obtained point the way for strategic employment of the very limited two afternoons we will have next year. We ought to seize those precious teaching hours and fill them with lessons that are as pertinent to the community as possible. 

We hope that in the years to come, the Health Ambassador Programme will remain true to this dynamic: Connecting to the villagers not simply as teachers, but also as servants; and as servants, it is essential that we get to know the needs of those whom we serve.

-Project Yangon

Befrienders of Yangon

IMG_0477.jpg

Day 2 and 3 (23rd May 2016, 24th May 2016)

Door-to-door home visits

One of the most important priorities for Project Yangon is sustainability in the long run. As we serve the community in this village, it is crucial that we keep in mind the people we are serving, as well as their needs. Befrienders of Yangon provides a unique platform that gives us exclusive access to local insights. As we go about trying to empower the villagers by sharing our knowledge on leading healthier lifestyles, we should be careful not to neglect the need to remain sensitive to the culture of the Burmese villagers. It rained heavily on both days and as we fumbled with our ponchos and struggled to remain dry under our umbrellas, the children were playing in the rain, and puddles a few meters away, people were cycling and selling goods on their bicycles without any umbrellas. There was a stark contrast between how we responded to the environment and how the villagers responded. It left me with the brutal reminder that we are ultimately people from an arguably well-developed country, experiencing a less developing country from our “First-World” eyes. To truly experience their lifestyles, we will have to walk in their shoes (both literally and figuratively).

Another difference that touched us is the extent of their warmth. As cliché as it sounds, it really warmed our hearts when the villagers welcomed us with open arms into their homes. We are essentially strangers with no connections or kinship to them, we were muddy, wet and dirty; and they still welcomed us with a smile. Their warmth, sincerity, and willingness to share was a really humbling experience. It reminded me of the original aspirations of the Befrienders of Yangon program: to connect with our villages with an open heart and open mind, and to truly be a friend.

– Project Yangon

Arrival in Yangon

Day 1 (22nd May 2016)

Arrival in Yangon | Meeting with YMCA | Buying logistics for Door-2-Door and printing.

Today marks the beginning of the 16 days we will spend in Yangon, carrying out the activities that we have spent the past few months planning for. Feeling nervous, but excited, we truly hope that we’ll make a difference in the lives of the Burmese here.

Ralene Sim (Co-Head of PY15’16): Being here in Yangon again, I’m definitely playing a different role from the last time I was here. As a PY senior now, I hope we can tie up the loose ends of our project initiatives, strengthen old ties between the villagers and us and forge new memories. Yangon has also developed a lot since the last time I was here (more construction work is being completed , there are also a lot less stray dogs roaming around on the streets).
Gabriel Low (Co-Head of PY15’16): This trip will likely be my last trip to Yangon. It is a bittersweet flight to Myanmar because I know that in this trip, I will have the greatest capacity to help and yet it is also the last chance to do so. As I walk into the village, I see the familiar scene of housewives cooking outside the house and fragrant rice filling the air. I remember the petite young ladies carrying heavy bags of vegetables wearing thanakhar on their cheeks. The men in the village would wear their longyi and sleep on the wooden floors, lazy to swat away the flies circling above his belly. The dark clouds occasionally roll across the sky, clumsily letting rays of sunshine onto the fields of lalang. On this first day, I saw the village with different lens, one with retrospective clarity and nostalgia.
Also, we would like to dedicate a special shout out to Mr Phyo Thu for his time and dedication in sending the Logistics team around to print our handbooks and education materials, buy our medications and items for goodie bags!
IMG_5801.JPG

What is the best thing about Yangon? Mr Phyo Thu: Breakfast!! Especially Mohinga (a traditional Burmese breakfast-fish broth noodle soup with fried crackers)

– Project Yangon