The following is a press release on an upcoming event…
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 2, 2007
Executive Director, Myanmar Children’s Foundation (MCF) USA
Davis High grad sets sights on Myanmar’s orphans
By Max Harrington
Myanmar, a country of about 60 million people sandwiched between India, China, and Thailand, isn’t at the top of most Americans’ lists of must-see vacation spots.
Its relative obscurity, however, didn’t stop 2002 Davis High School graduate Max Harrington from traveling there for the first time in May 2005, while studying abroad on a UC-sponsored exchange program in Bangkok, Thailand.
That first trip sparked an interest in the country, formerly known as Burma, that would eventually lead Harrington to found a new organization dedicated to helping Myanmar’s orphaned children, the Myanmar Children’s Foundation, in November last year.
“I was blown away by people’s hospitality,” he said, adding that in spite of having so little, Myanmar’s people are among the most generous he had ever encountered.
After finishing classes at UC San Diego in June 2006, Harrington got on a plane and headed back to Myanmar, this time for five months instead of two weeks. While there, he became involved in helping Myo Oo Orphanage, home to 185 children.
Located in an impoverished rural area of the country, a bumpy six-hour ride from the capital Yangon, Myo Oo is run by a team of monks and volunteers from the surrounding village. The only paid staff – the orphanage’s teachers – are nearly volunteers themselves, working on salaries of about $6 per month.
Harrington’s idea for the foundation was sparked by working with Myo Oo, and the orphanage remains the focus of the organization – at least for the moment.
The foundation’s initial goal is to raise $10,000 for Myo Oo, which will pay for construction of a new dormitory building for the children and provide seed money for several projects to help the orphanage build a set of stable community-focused revenue sources.
The revenue-generating projects to be funded by the foundation run the gamut from vegetable growing to bicycle renting to micro-credit lending. All ideas came directly from the orphanage, and once up and running won’t need further support from the foundation, says Harrington.
“They understood what would be successful in their local community, but they just didn’t have the money to implement any of the ideas,” he said. “That’s where we came in.”
In the future, after working with Myo Oo, Harrington says that he would like to expand the foundation’s scope by moving it in the direction of becoming a grant-making organization that can work with a number of different orphanages.
The basic goal, however, says Harrington, will remain the same: helping orphanages to build a stable financial foundation to allow them to focus their attention on education, not fundraising.
“The monks [that run Myo Oo] have to spend as much time scrounging together funding as attending to the kids,” he said.
Oftentimes, Harrington says, Myo Oo cannot even afford to pay its teachers their meager $6 monthly salary on-time, and budgets necessary to buy books, food, and clothing for the kids are put together by the day and week, not month and year. Expenditures are kept to the absolute bare minimum necessary for survival: the children are fed a protein source only once per month and none have sandals or sleep with mosquito nets.
“The orphanage subsists on a very precarious financial foundation. Therefore, helping it to develop new, stable sources of revenue is really the key to its long-term ability to provide for the children,” he said.
Myo Oo, furthermore, faces what Harrington calls a ticking demographic time-bomb. Over 90% of the orphanage’s children are in Grades 1-5, and are taught directly at the orphanage. In five years time, however, as the children grow older and begin attending classes at nearby government schools, the overall cost of educating them will jump by as much as four times – a cost that the orphanage is unprepared to handle.
Harrington says that he believes that every dollar invested in the children now will multiply its effect many times over into the future: the rural communities where they come from will benefit from having educated citizens with good jobs, and the country by making sure that its poor and vulnerable aren’t forever handicapped by a lack of education at their early ages.
In an effort to educate people locally about Myanmar’s situation and the foundation’s work with Myo Oo and its future goals, Harrington will be giving four educational presentations [next week]. The talks, titled “A view from a Myanmar Orphanage,” will be given at:
- The Davis International House on Monday, January 8 at 12 noon
- The Davis Senior Center on Tuesday, January 9 at 1 PM
- The Davis Public Library’s Blanchard Room on Wednesday, January 10 at 7 PM, and
- The Woodland Senior Center on Friday, January 12 at 10:30 AM. Everyone is welcome.
Capping the week will be a wine and dessert reception fundraiser at downtown Davis’ Palm Court Hotel, on Saturday, January 13 between 6 – 8:30 PM. Attendees can enjoy live piano music and participate in a silent auction and raffle. All proceeds will go directly to projects at Myo Oo Orphanage. A minimum $10 donation is requested, and additional sponsorships are available for those choosing to be Supporters ($25); Friends ($50); Contributors ($100); Host ($250) or part of the Founder’s Council ($500). All members of the public are invited to attend.
For more information, including on joining as an event sponsor, visit the foundation’s website at www.myanmarchildrensfoundation.org
Or contact Myanmar Children’s Foundation Assistant Director Rita Montes-Martin at (530) 759-8434 or email@example.com.