New Humanity, a small NOG with a different look on Myanmar (photos-video)
by U Zaw Zaw

It is not enough to rely on international reports. People want to build a “future and an identity” after 60 years of dictatorship and isolation. Education, integration and training can change the lives of young people through “a job or a profession”.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar is more than what international media coverage suggests. New Humanity Myanmar (NHM) is a small NGO devoted to human and professional development of the most marginalised young people in a “nation eager to work for the good of the people” and break its isolation.

Building a water purification plant outside Kyaing Tong, Shan State (eastern Myanmar) is its latest project. Inspired by Buddhist compassion, NHM also works with the country’s largest youth detention centre to educate and train in a project that involves a vocational school, six teachers and 120 pupils. Working with Buddhist clergy and the authorities, it is involved in the fight against alcohol and drug dependencies. Here is the testimony of U Zaw, an NHM volunteer.

It was great seeing the quiet and smiling faces of the people, the monks, the authorities that had spoken...

Today, New Humanity Myanmar confirmed that one cannot define with a single word a state, a nation, the many peoples building a common path. The international controversies of the last weeks may have some bases, but it is also true that, for outsiders, it is very hard to understand many peoples after more than sixty years of dictatorship as they slowly build a future and an identity. Not everything is clear and transparent, and not everything is to be thrown away. Quite the contrary.

At present I can only talk about my experience of a nation that wants to emerge from its isolation and fully join the world; a nation eager to work for the good of the people. This is also Myanmar. Talking about Myanmar and the ways its situation is often depicted in newspapers and world politics is not enough.

Myanmar is something else and much more, this according to a small local NGO– New Humanity Myanmar (NHM) – that is working in various fields.

It recently inaugurated a drinking water system on the outskirts of Kyaing Tong (Kengtung), in the north-eastern Shan State. A place of so many cultures, peoples and languages ​​is hard to imagine. It is also hard to imagine being welcome in such a difficult place.

Although this may seem self-evident (as far as providing water), it is not so always so obvious when one can goes to sensitive places, such youth detention centres or villages where the danger of drugs looms. Yet, this is also what we do.

We have always been open and eager to give young people new possibilities, in particular those who may have had very negative experiences. For staff who are sometimes exhausted and tired from working long hours with methods that are sometimes outdated, there is certainly little training or possibility of upgrading their skills.

But we cannot fail to recognise how the authorities we deal with, down to local authorities and staff, are first of all led by a sense of compassion typical of Buddhism. Everyone is aware how often the causes of juvenile crime are found in the abuses and difficulties kids have had to face at a young age.

For this reason, I can say that closeness and collaboration in Myanmar’s largest juvenile prison remains a positive element and a point of reference.

Albeit small, NHM has been able to open a school for the most serious cases. Six young teachers are involved in a demanding task, educating 120 pupils, especially hard cases, i.e. kids with learning and integration issues. One of the teachers also serves as a counsellor, reaching into their hearts.

But the NGO does more. No one likes words like reformatory or youth detention centre. The preferred term is “vocational centre”. This is not inaccurate, reflecting society’s desire that life can change for a young person who has a job or a profession. The issue is providing them with the skills they need.

For this reason, NHM offers vocational courses in cooperation with a trades school: electrical wiring, welding, carpentry ... especially for those who are about to be released.

Moreover, NHM and others are helping people become more aware of and cope with their dependencies, (alcohol, drugs, etc.) and the authorities are increasingly open to this. This shows that many seek what is good, for themselves, young people and society as a whole.

This is another way of seeing things, the experience of a small organisation – New Humanity Myanmar – that seeks to meet the heart of this nation.