Volunteer Teaching in Myanmar
When choosing a country in Asia in which to volunteer, you have several things to consider. Asia is home to some of the world’s most vibrant and interesting cultures in the world. Because of this cultural diversity, Asia has been a destination for volunteers who are looking for a world unlike their own.
Many choose to volunteer in Asia because there are unique opportunities to serve underprivileged communities. In communities across the continent, volunteers make differences in people’s lives. There are so many ways that a volunteer working in Asia can lend a helping hand. From working in hospitals to helping out at an orphanage, Asia is full of opportunities to help others. While there are many countries in Asia where help is needed, Myanmar, or Burma, provides unique opportunities and experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.
Why Volunteer in Myanmar?
Many have gone to countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Nepal to spend time volunteering. While these countries are excellent choices to spend time volunteering, Myanmar provides volunteers with a different experience. The country of Myanmar has just recently opened up, so to speak. European tourists have been going to Myanmar in relatively small numbers for 15 years or so, but it’s just in the past decade that more people are discovering the culture and the people of Myanmar.
With this new frontier, opportunities are popping up everywhere, and there is no shortage of people and communities who could use a helping hand. Myanmar’s history and political situation plays a large role in the culture and people’s lives. Some groups of people are very marginalized in their own country and thus, need assistance from others who are willing to help. Plagued by civil war in some parts of the country for 50 years now, there are some communities in Myanmar who have suffered greatly. Volunteers can make a meaningful impact in these communities that have been affected by the complicated political situation within the country.
Why Volunteer Teach English in Myanmar?
There are many ways volunteers can use their skills to help people in disadvantaged communities while working in Myanmar. Teaching English allows volunteers to develop relationships with people in communities while offering a needed service. By default, native English speakers have unique skills that are valued in Asia. While many in Myanmar can afford English classes or even an English tutor, many people in more impoverished communities lack the resources to learn English. This is why volunteering your time by teaching English can truly make a difference in people’s lives.
By learning English from volunteers, students will have more opportunities to make a better life for themselves. As Myanmar’s tourist industry grows, so too does the need for people who can speak English. Speaking English gives people the opportunity to find work in a guesthouse, tourist restaurants, or schools. Volunteers who teach English in Myanmar can give an amazing tool to people who might not have otherwise been able to learn to speak English.
Challenges to Volunteering in Myanmar
Myanmar can prove to be more challenging to volunteers for many reasons. Unlike some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, Myanmar lacks some comforts that some volunteers may miss.
The infrastructure in Myanmar is not as up to date as Thailand or Malaysia, for example. It may take longer to get to where you are going and delays are a part of life here. Motorbikes are not allowed in the capital city of Rangoon, but they have a fairly efficient bus system. Cell phone service can be spotty, at best, and you can just forget 3G. Some guesthouses and hotels will have wifi for you to use the internet and to talk to family back home. Myanmar is mostly cash only, with only a handful of high-end hotels and resorts accepting Visa or Mastercard. In big cities volunteers will have the ability to take out money but make sure you get enough if your plans will take you to more rural areas.
Many people in Myanmar have little or no English skills. So teaching here can be slightly more difficult than in other countries. As a teacher, you may have to start from the beginning with the ABC’s. Classrooms may lack certain resources like current textbooks or whiteboards. Teachers here need to be able to think outside the box and react quickly when a lesson isn’t working out as planned. It’s best to stay patient and remember that despite having few if any English skills, volunteers are providing people with a vital service that they otherwise might not be able to afford or have access to. Although improvements may be small at first, you may be surprised how quickly students pick it up.
The people of Myanmar are diverse. Over 150 different ethnic groups call Myanmar home. This is part of what makes Myanmar such a dynamic and interesting country but it is also the root of many of the country’s problems. As the country becomes more transparent, we on the outside are beginning to understand what the people of Myanmar face on a daily basis. Some people situations are desperate, and may be difficult for some to hear or see. But that is why volunteers who believe in making the world a better place are needed in Myanmar. Volunteers who out others before themselves will help serve people who need it the most.
Rewards for Volunteers in Myanmar
So why would a volunteer what to spend a few weeks out of their lives to come serve people in a place that will test their patience, mind, and body? Myanmar is home to very kind and loving people. Working directly with communities to help better their situation is a very rewarding experience. Volunteers are not seen as tourist. Locals who see volunteers working for the benefit of their community are welcomed with open arms.
Volunteers in Myanmar have to be a little more thick-skinned in Myanmar. Things don’t always go as planned and being able to adapt quickly is a trait that will go a long way in Myanmar. But for people seeking a more challenging volunteering experience, Myanmar is sure to give long-lasting memories. Seeing such a diverse culture and helping local people better their lives reaps huge rewards.
Not only will you make a difference in people’s lives, you will also leave with a new perspective and appreciation for other cultures. Volunteers in Myanmar work along side volunteers from other countries as well, adding to the experience in many ways. Everyone working there will bring with them their own cultural identity. But volunteering in Asia brings together like-minded people who have a desire to help others. No matter where you come from you will meet people who share similar ideas about how to make the world a better place to live.
Asia is a vast continent, with many vibrant cultures. Choosing to serve in Asia is not for everyone but those who do will leave with amazing memories. And while Myanmar may not be the first on many people’s lists, volunteering here provides opportunities and experiences that you simply can’t find anywhere else in Asia. Although a little less comfortable than other Asian nations, Myanmar makes up for that in many ways. People are warm and accepting. The food and culture is diverse and unique. Working here will give you a sense that you can travel and work anywhere. And though living and teaching in Myanmar may be more challenging for some, the rewards far outweigh these challenges. Teaching people English who otherwise couldn’t afford it not only enriches the volunteer’s life but the students will take with them a skill that can help them better their own life.