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We are still here! Let us send you tips for travelling through Myanmar and stories from the road …
And we are not the only ones.
Below we list a handful of other companies and organisations that like Sampan Travel are working to preserve and enhance the heritage and rich qualities of this country, whether it be environmentally, economically or socially.
These are Myanmar’s green heroes.
In the centre of Dala weary travellers can revive themselves at the Chu Chu café, attached to the Chu Chu workshop where Wendy and her young team convert plastic waste into purses, pencil cases and retro jewellery.
For a while Sampan has been taking over our plastic waste from the office to give to Wendy and her team. In turn, we then pick up little wallets that they have created out of the waste plastic and give these as presents to our guest. Recycling at its most pure.
In August 2022 a fire burnt down the entirety of Wendy’s workshop. Thankfully there were no serious injuries. But it was heart breaking to see so much hard work and passion literally go up in smoke. There are ways to support Wendy and the team. Sampan will continue to place orders with Chu Chu. Others such as Hla Day have made similar pledges. More information and a direct way to donate can be found here.
Doh Eain began in 2015 when they helped one man and his family renovate their second apartment in a historical building on Bogalay Zay Street. In 2016 they started converting one of Yangon’s many trash alleys into a small vegetable garden, thinking that these spaces should be used for something more enjoyable than waste. While initially the project met with surprise of the neighbourhood, slowly people became more interested, especially as children started to play in the garden. Early 2017 the garden went viral on social and local media and the local government threw its weight behind several more ‘trash alley to alley garden’ projects.
Doh Eain realised that heritage restoration and upgrading urban spaces is not only of value to a city and its historical and cultural identity but can also improve people’s livelihoods, support neighbourhood’s socio-economic growth and contribute to social cohesion, health, wellbeing and sustainability.
Today Doh Eain manage several dozen heritage properties for short and long term rental, as well as 20 public spaces across the city open for community use and visits. They welcome stays and visits and can also organise tailored walking tours.
Help 4 Forgotten Allies (H4FA) is focused on supporting widows and veterans from the Second World War who fought alongside the British, as well as on humanitarian work with increasing numbers of refugees and IDPs from the Kayin (Karen), Chin and Kayah (Karenni) ethnic groups.
The numbers of remaining veterans and widows are dwindling rapidly and so the charity is in a process of transition, focussing increasingly on educational needs within these areas, seeing this as a lasting legacy and memorial to honour those who have served faithfully in years past. You can a video about their school project on the Indian border with Myanmar here.
In 2017, the film makers Grammar Productions joined H4FA in Myanmar, as three of the charity`s trustees travelled to meet some of the veterans: to deliver aid and ensure them that they had not been forgotten. Sampan supported Grammar Productions operationally on the ground. You can watch a trailer of the documentary here.
In 2022, Sampan`s CEO Bertie Alexander, was appointed a trustee of Help 4 Forgotten Allies. Read more about the charity and their work here.
Inle Heritage Foundation is a not-for-profit organization working to preserve and enhance the culture of Inle Lake and the people who call it home. The organization was set up by people of Inle who are proud of the rich heritage of their region, and who want to ensure that their children and grandchildren grow up in the same surroundings.
Inle Heritage has set up a vocational training school to train students in the hospitality sector. We know from direct experience that the graduates from this school are some of the most well-trained and diligent young things working in the Myanmar hospitality industry.
For visitors to the lake, Inle Heritage offers cookery classes in the famed Inthar cuisine and serves up ‘Grandma’s Inthar Cooking’ in the restaurant. These are recipes that have been handed down for generations, with all ingredients coming from around the lake.
Those searching for an even more immersive experience may wish to sleep on stilts in a house designed in traditional Inle fashion. These ten stilt houses are surrounded by good agriculture practices (GAP) gardens, which can be appreciated upon one’s personal terrace.
Kokkoya Organics is a social enterprise that focuses on training youth in organic farming while growing fresh vegetables for a community. Kokkoya grows a variety of safe, organic vegetables which are sold through a Community Supported Agriculture system.
“The future needs smart farmers. We believe that training the next generation of farmers to run regenerative farming businesses is the most valuable thing we can do now. Kokkoya is jointly owned by the young farmers who receive regular farm, English, accounting, computer, business, marketing, photography, teaching and cooking trainings. … Kokkoya is not only the team and farms in Yangon but a growing network of small, passionate farmers across Myanmar.”
Kokkoya have helped Sampan dispose of our organic waste responsibly (through the remarkable Bokashi “soil revolution”!) and they were participants in our second supper club.
LinkAge is a vocational training restaurant that trains marginalized youth – they are taken under the wing of the restaurant to be trained both in food preparation and service; additionally, LinkAge provides children and students with English language lessons and education on personal health and finance.
Not only is LinkAge a great benefactor to Myanmar’s most vulnerable, it also serves some of the best food in Yangon. The restaurant is hidden away on Seik Kan Thar Street in the heart of downtown Yangon. If you aren’t looking for it, it is unlikely that you will find it. The menu serves up traditional Burmese and southeast Asian inspired dishes, small and simple and utterly divine.
The atmosphere is free of pretension and ostentation: local artwork adorns the walls inducing the feeling that you are being entertained in someone’s bright and cosy dining room.
To ensure that a trip to LinkAge is incorporated into your Yangon itinerary, get in touch at email@example.com. You can also read the interview that Sampan Travel conducted with Ma Khin, Linkage`s founder, here.
Medical Action Myanmar (MAM) is a medical aid organization whose mission is to improve access to quality health care for the poorest Myanmar people. MAM has set up a network of clinics where basic health care is provided and preventative education offered.
In addition to basic health care, MAM facilitates condom and needle distribution, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer screening and counselling. To further prevent the spread of HIV, MAM treats pregnant HIV+ women in order to keep the disease away from their unborn babies.
MAM also supports a network of 1,700 Community Health Workers to provide health care in the most remote villages of Kachin, Kayin, Chin and Mon States as well as Sagaing Region and the Naga Self-Administered Zone.
See here for more information: https://www.mam.org.mm/
When visiting a teashop in Myanmar travellers will likely be served by a young boy or teenager. It is an undesired necessity that many parents from poor villages in Myanmar must send their children off to work so they can support the family. More often than not, the family becomes dependent upon the child as the main breadwinner. The children work long hours and commonly sleep on the floor of the teashop.
At the forefront trying to tackle the cycle of poverty that these children become caught up in is the myME project.
myME’s vision is that every child in Myanmar has the right to access quality education – a critical step towards alleviating poverty and the abuses associated with child labour. In early 2014 myME began taking busses converted into mobile classrooms to two teashops in Yangon, offering evening classes to 60 of the boys working there.
Less than four years later, myME has expanded to serve almost three thousand students across the country. Now teaching not only in busses but also in the teashops themselves, the teachers of myME hold classes on basic literacy, maths and computer and internet skills as well as vocational training in a safe environment where the young workers can gain self-confidence and develop critical thinking skills through innovative, interactive instruction.
For more information, please visit the myME website.
Pann Nann Ein is an organization situated in the township of Dala, just over the Yangon River from Myanmar’s commercial capital.
The enterprise works with disabled people, training them to create ornate handicrafts that riff off traditional Myanmar aesthetics and are marketed towards foreign visitors to Myanmar. Pann Nann Ein aims to not just create beautiful products – which they do – but allow their members to feel autonomy and worth; things that they are often denied.
In Myanmar society, it is common to regard disabled people as helpless and look at them with nothing but pity. Pann Nan Ein battles these false assumptions.
You can watch a video we made of Pann Nann Ein here.
Plan Bee is a social enterprise introducing advanced beekeeper training in the nectar-rich regions of southern Shan and Kayah states. Through honey, their intention is to empower and improve the livelihoods, nutrition and food security for thousands of vulnerable people.
Plan Bee has already trained more than 150 beekeepers and is providing them with the necessary training and support to become successful in their new businesses.
The honey produced by the Plan Bee keepers is 100 per cent pure and free from antibiotics and pesticides. Plan Bee promotes an awareness of the importance of bee colonies and pollination in the face of the harmful effects of modern agriculture.
Additionally, Plan Bee supports their beekeepers to develop bee-related micro enterprises and disseminate their produce throughout the country.
Plan Bee products can be found throughout Myanmar and they have an education centre in Pindaya where visitors can learn about the bees and the process of producing honey.
Learn more about Plan Bee here.
RecyGlo is committed to providing environmentally friendly recycling solutions in Myanmar. Founded in 2017, their mission is to process waste in a safe, non-hazardous manner — with an aim to keep the world environmentally clean.
RecyGlo believe in promoting smart recycling habits in order to achieve long-lasting results.
Sampan Travel was one of the first companies in Yangon to begin working with RecyGlo. We were certainly the first tour operator. The team at RecyGlo helped us dispose of all the bottles, cans, and paper generated in the office, as well as offer tips to help us reduce our waste generation.
RecyGlo is a brilliant example of the optimistic and enterprising vim of Myanmar’s youth. More on them here.
Sanon is a restaurant in Bagan that trains disadvantaged youth of Myanmar in catering, hospitality and the F&B business in general.
With an open plan kitchen, guests at the sublime Sanon restaurant are able to watch the young cuisiniers hard at work. The food is superb, and the service not only sweet and obliging, but utterly professional. Indeed, for those not in the know, it would come as a surprise that the staff are actually ‘students’.
Sanon is a not-for-profit organisation run under the banner of the Myanmar Youth Development Institute and any funds generated are reinvested back into this or other similar projects within Myanmar.
To find out how we can incorporate a visit to Sanon into a Myanmar itinerary, please write to us here – firstname.lastname@example.org. You can watch a video by Sanon here and read about the time Sampan sat down in conversation with the directors of Sanon here.
Third Story Project is a non-profit social enterprise creating books for Myanmar children in Burmese and other indigenous languages. Over 100 languages are spoken in Myanmar and Third Story Project has created books in over 13 of them; in some cases printing in languages only spoken by small pocket communities in far-flung areas of the country.
The books, written and illustrated by local artists, cover a selection of key topics ranging from peace and tolerance to female empowerment and child rights.
The books are distributed to children and communities free of charge. But to do this they require your help! Let us know if you wish for us to help you meet the team behind Third Story Project while in Yangon.
Yangon Bakehouse is a non-profit social enterprise in Yangon, operating Empower Women, a 7 month apprenticeship programme for Myanmar women, and Empower Ability, a new programme providing skills for women with disabilities. Working under the vision that strong women make for a strong community, the Bakehouse combines meeting the demand for small batch, quality food and the need of strengthening women in Myanmar that are poverty-stricken and with few marketable skills in the workplace.
The Bakehouse training programme does not merely give women skills in the kitchen but strives to empower them both economically and socially, providing courses in a variety of life skills such as personal finance, health and English language. Over 120 students have now graduated from the programmes.
Beyond supporting the enterprise by dining at the café or utilizing the catering services, it is also possible to make a donation directly to the programme.
For more information, please get in touch with the Bakehouse at email@example.com.