Autoworkers carefully repairing welfare vehicles; villagers volunteering to assist the “medicine box” project and help build schools; children studying hard—these are just a few scenes from the range of activities the Nippon Foundation is carrying out hand in hand with the people of Myanmar.
During the era of military rule, most news about Myanmar that reached the international community concerned internal strife, demonstrations, and other public disturbances. Unlike the impression conveyed by such reports, the people of Myanmar, many of whom are devout Buddhists, are diligent and hardworking. The country is said to be safer than Japan, and even in Yangon, the biggest city, women walk around alone at night. It is not surprising that so many tourists who visit Myanmar are keen to return to the country again.
The Nippon Foundation has implemented programs in Myanmar for more than 30 years, beginning in 1976, when the country was still under military control. The sincerity of the people and their spirit of cooperation have made these longstanding ties possible. Though the country’s economy is growing rapidly as a result of the democratic reforms, the people living outside urban areas still endure many hardships, and many issues remain to be addressed. Negotiating a peace agreement with the ethnic groups that are engaged in armed conflicts with government troops and improving the standard of living in regions where the ethnic groups live are two of the most pressing tasks. With this in mind, the Nippon Foundation increased the budget for its programs in Myanmar, which numbered 25 in fiscal 2012 (April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013), to $28.87 million, along with doing its utmost to support the emergence of a true democracy in the country.
The Nippon Foundation’s support is designed to ensure the long-term viability of initiatives. For example, its program to build schools in regions where ethnic groups live, which it is undertaking in cooperation with a nongovernmental organization called Saetanar, combines a local developmental project with the actual building of each school. The completion of a school is the starting point, not the finish line. Though villagers must take on more responsibility under this setup, the people of Myanmar have welcomed the program and made its success possible, based on their strong belief that education is the key to a better life.
Naoko Wada, who works at the Yangon office of Saetanar, describes the role of the organization:“The villagers take the lead in the construction of the school and local development project, and we simply provide advice. The autonomous role played by the villagers is one of the things that distinguishes this program.”
This video was created to convey the extraordinary efforts being made by the villagers and workers, as well as the children who are devoted to their studies. It is our hope that viewers will gain a sense of the great potential of Myanmar from the smiles and laughter of its people.