Jun 24, 2015

4th Report for Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre

Strawberry muffins & Banana Choco Cookies in oven
Strawberry muffins & Banana Choco Cookies in oven

Greetings Family, Friends and Supporters,

It has been another productive few months here in Kalaw working on the further development of Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre. We have been able to continue working on product development, setting up our space, and connecting with local groups here in Myanmar for partnerships.

As we have mentioned previously, working in Myanmar is extremely challenging. For the last few months, we have been working with one of our partner organizations based in Mandalay to help support the development of the project here. We are pleased to share that we now have together, with support of our eldest girl, Aye Aung and our partners in Mandalay, have registered The Giving World, which our be our key partner helping to support Sprouting Seeds. With this new registration here in Myanmar, we will be able to reach more youth and provide further opportunities for development work.

Partnerships
Besides our new link with The Giving World, we continue to reach out to other groups to form partnerships. As some of you may remember we had a wonderful exchange with Kachin students from Shalat Education and Resource Centre back in March. Two of the girls who participated in the exchange, Grace and Bawk Mai will be moving here to live and work with us in the coming month. They will stay for several months to learn all they can in order to return to Myitkyina, in Kachin State to open a small café as part of their school to help with skills capacity building and income generation. During their time with us, they will also be sharing more wood working and help getting that project better established, while helping to make all the tables, shelves, chairs that we need for the running of the café and bakery project.

Last month we also had a visit from the staff from a small Buddhist Youth Network based in Nyaung Shwe in Inle Lake. The girls will have been planning to open a small café and coffee shop as part of their youth empowerment work and trainings. We had a wonderful first visit and the girls from their project will be working with us to create a training program to help in the development of their project. We are excited to connect with this group and their large network of youth all over the country and to be able to support them with a variety of trainings over the next several months.

New Product Development
Back in April, we several kind donations, we were able to make our first large purchase of appliances for the Centre here in Kalaw. We were able to purchase a new new bread oven, incredible ice cream maker and a freezer!! This really kicked things into a different gear!

Since that time, we have been experimenting with all new kinds of recipes and products, labels and other product development as well as which markets we will target. The search continues for a small shop front in downtown Kalaw in which we can offer our new line of ice cream and gelato as well as some of our first crafts and baked goods. 

Meanwhile, we have signed a 1 year lease on the big house we are staying in and have been prepareing the downstairs and outside to open the first part of the café here within the next few months. Deep cleaning, painting, building tables and chairs, designing products, planning for the introduction of basic cooking classes to foreigners and more have been keeping us extremely busy!

Gelato, Ice Cream & Baked Goodies!
Ice Cream and Gelato have become a new item here at Sprouting Seeds. After roughly two months of trials, we now have several ice cream and gelato flavors which we are selling out to shops around Kalaw, selling in bulk orders for parties and getting ready for the ice cream and gelato bar to open at the café space. Some of our new flavors include:

  • Mango-Lime Gelato
  • Mango Chocolate Chip Gelato
  • Fresh Vegan Coconut Milk Ice Cream
  • Fresh Coconut Choco-Chip Ice Cream
  • Thai Milk Tea Ice Cream

Some more flavors on the way include: Masala Tea Ice Cream, Strawberry and Passion Fruit Gelato, Jackfruit Ice Cream, Coffe Mocha Ice Cream and many more!!!

We also have been working on several baked goodies to be packed and prepared for easy sales, which include:

  • Banana Choco-Chip Cookies
  • Oatmeal Raising Cookies
  • Strawberry Banana Muffins
  • White Chocolate Mango Walnut Oat Cookies
  • Pineapple Coconut Muffins
  • Pineapple Tea Cake
  • Mango Tea Cake
  • Apple Tea Cake
  • Fresh Coconut Macaroons
  • Sprouted Wheat Berry Breads
  • Fresh made Bagels and Doughnuts
  • Variety of handmade granolas and granola bars (including fresh dried fruit from the project)
  • Variety of Pizzas

We have been working hard over the last few months to develop relationships with local suppliers to ensure quality and to support other local merchants. We are very pleased that the majority of our ingredients are all locally sourced and as fresh and natural as possible, including whole grain wheat flours for all our baked goods milled here locally in Kalaw and fresh dairy products from local farmers in the mountains around Kalaw!

With many things in the works at the moment, we are very excited to see how the next few months unfold. We will busy getting things ready for the internships, further development of products and finishing the work on the house we are renting. We are looking forward to sharing all the new developments in the next few months.

 With sweet bakery smells from Kalaw!

The Sprouting Seeds Team

Mango-lime gelato going into new ice cream maker
Mango-lime gelato going into new ice cream maker
Finished mango-lime & mango choice chip gelato
Finished mango-lime & mango choice chip gelato
Homemade bagels for cafe sandwiches
Homemade bagels for cafe sandwiches
Homemade Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
Homemade Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
Jun 22, 2015

6th Report for Rural Teacher Training in Myanmar

Young ethnic Palaung Novices building earthen oven
Young ethnic Palaung Novices building earthen oven

Dear supporters of our Teacher Training Programs in Myanmar,

 It is now the beginning of the monsoon season here in Myanmar and thus our trainings slow down and planning is made for the rest of the long rainy season and for the upcoming cold, dry season following the ends of the rain. Over the last three months, we were also busy with two trainings and are excited to share that news with you.

Sagaing Monastic School, Sagaing Division (Dry Zone)
For a week, Jim spent time living at a small monastic school serving over 50 ethnic Palaung children who were coming from Southern Shan State. The majority of the young children were ordained as young, novice Buddhist monks. The school was part of the larger International Buddhist Education Centre in Sagaing.

 We focused on several projects with the teachers, primary care givers and Buddhist nuns who help to care for the children. The children and staff were all very interested in learning to make an earthen brick oven, and to learn baking and cooking. The aim of the monastery was to build the first oven there at the monastery, then make other ovens in Sagaing downtown area where they would be able to sell their baked and cooked goodies as an income generation project.

 Together we built a cob oven and learned several different kinds of breads, cakes and cookies. We also focused on various kinds of sweets and desserts which could be fried. To see the completion of the oven and then to be able to taste the banana chocolate chip cookies and homebread from the oven was very exciting!

 During the building of the earthen oven, we introduced several techniques of earthen building so the staff would be able to start making earthen bricks for further development of the project, including plans for building a meditation hall and better buildings for school and housing, which they can now to more efficiently, sustainably, cost effective and they have skills to do it themselves.

 We also introduced co-operative games for the children to play which promote peace, conflict resolution, team building and just pure fun in a non-competitive manner.

 We have plans for follow up training to further support the teachers, staff and children in various capacities.

Shanan Education Networking Group (Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Division)
One of our partner organizations that we have been working with for several years now is the Shanan Education Networking Group. They provide teacher trainings each year during school breaks for teachers primarily from Kachin State, and those working with ethnic Kachin communities. This year we were excited to join them once again and provide support training and facilitation for their program and teachers.

Together we explored the challenges that teachers, parents and students face here in Myanmar and particularly those issues faced by ethnic Kachin communities. We introduced the principles of Holistic Education to the teachers. Through creative and cooperative processes, they explored the fundamental differences between holistic models of education and the current methodologies and theories used in mainstream models.

In the training we also explored holistic child development, early childhood psychology and new research on brain development were explored. Through practical activities and games we offered many tools and techniques to support them in their teaching. Hand skills which also support cross brain integration were introduced. These skills, knitting, crochet and bracelet making are also great projects and skills which the teachers and share wit the children and use as income generation projects.

Although the rainy season brings a more quiet time with the trainings, we were still very busy here at Whispering Seed supporting teachers and students learning processes here in Myanmar. We are wrapping up our planning for the next few months and look forward to sharing more of our stories with you in our next report.

 Warmest regards,

Jim

Buddhist nuns and novice income generation project
Buddhist nuns and novice income generation project
Novices learning "cob" making for house and oven
Novices learning "cob" making for house and oven
Kachin teachers exploring new models for education
Kachin teachers exploring new models for education
Handicraft teaching for Kachin teachers
Handicraft teaching for Kachin teachers
Teachers from remote Kachin State
Teachers from remote Kachin State
Mar 26, 2015

3rd Report for Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre

Our new mud brick oven with Kachin students
Our new mud brick oven with Kachin students

Greetings Family, Friends and Supporters,

Throughout most of Myanmar, the dry season is creeping in and beginning to heat things up! Here in Kalaw in the pine forests of Southern Shan State, we are still blessed with cool weather, especially the mornings and evenings. We are getting more settled in the town of Kalaw and plans are moving forward steadily with the Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre.

Last month was most busy with our first official exchange and training program at Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre. Things are really starting to move quickly!

 Our First Exchange and Training with Kachin students from Shalat Education and Resource Center (Myitkyina, Kachin State)

In March we had our first official Exchange and Training with our dear friends from Shalat. 10 students and one teacher traveled almost 30 hours from Upper Myanmar to Kalaw to live and learn with us for 2 ½ weeks. Living together, creating our schedule together each day, doing many group projects, and learning in a holistic, participatory way was a new experience for many of the students.

Baking and Cooking
One of the main focuses of the exchange was baking and cooking. The students from Shalat are also interested in opening a small café as part of their school, and came to Kalaw to learn from us how to start this process. The first project we did with the students was to teach them how to build a mud oven for baking. During this process the students gained more fine skills in mud building and cob finish that they can then put to use when they return to Kachin State; the students are currently building their own campus with mud brick and working to open their own bakery project in Myitkyina.            

It is strawberry season here in Kalaw, so we incorporated the sweet berries into as many baking and cooking projects as we could, and the results were delicious! We tried to cook a balance of Western food and traditional Burmese and Kachin recipes. We taught them French toast, gnocchi, pizza, muffins, cookies and cakes, a variety of red and white sauces, Indian curries and breads, salsa, Kombucha (a traditional Chinese medicine), and much more! They taught us a variety of delicious traditional soups, salads, noodles and side dishes. Every five days a big market comes to Kalaw where we can find many traditional greens, herbs and veggies, which are very inexpensive. The group showed us new items in the market and taught us how to use them to make wonderful traditional dishes.  

Woodwork
Two of the female students did an independent study in woodworking at Shalat and came ready to pass on their knowledge to us during their visit. We invested in woodworking tools, which the two girls taught us how to use. We started a few projects and finished a sturdy, two-person bench that we will use as a prototype for the benches and tables in the café. We hope to be able to make all of the café furniture ourselves by hand, and learn enough to teach woodworking to youth at the Training Centre.

Handy Crafts
A big part of the exchange was teaching a variety of different handy crafts. We worked on friendship bracelet making, scarves, socks and hat knitting, basket decoupage, handmade paper journals, dried flower wreaths, string lights decorated with real leaves, and crocheting. The students gained many skills through these hands on craft sessions, which they can now use for income generation for future projects and trips.

Interview with Grace (Shalat student visiting Sprouting Seed)
Grace is one of the students from the Shalat Education and Resource Center who joined the group for 2 ½ weeks Exchange and Training. We first met Grace through our other program Rural Teacher Training, when we organized a group of students and teachers from Buddhist and Christian backgrounds on an exposure trip to South Korea. It was a transformative trip as Grace explains, “I changed a lot because of that trip…the past year I had been really struggling and I felt like I could not do anything. I had no confidence and I would give up easily. While in Korea, I met with other students who gave me a lot of encouragement.”

Grace wants to open and run her own organic coffee shop made of earth. She has experience making mud bricks with all the other students at Shalat as they are currently constructing their own school. She joined one of our building workshops in Myitkyina where she and the other students helped to construct a kindergarten in which they learned the specifics of building, plastering, mortar, design and more. We will be going back up to Myitkyina in the near future to help in the design and building of their school and with the café when Grace is ready as an ongoing exchange.

While visiting us in Kalaw with the other students from Shalat, Grace told us she has learned a lot about baking; “At first I didn't know anything about baking, I was just interested. Now I can do it.” She wants to open the coffee shop in her hometown of Myitkyina, Kachin State even though it is unstable for business due to ethnic fighting in the region. “I don't know if it will be a success or not,” she told us, “but I want to try it. I am almost 21 years old, I have my own dream and I want to make my dream happen.”

When Grace opens her own coffee shop, she would like to donate some of her income to charity. She is becoming more interested in politics and in working with Internally Displaced People (IDP) in her home state. She has seen the dire situation they face, especially in education. She told us, “I really want to help children in IDP camps. Some of the kids do not want to go to school because they do not have school supplies.” Grace is now finishing her University degree through a distance-learning program, and then plans to do internships and perhaps study abroad in order to learn more about how she can help her community. Grace says she has found what she wants to do in the future, and she told us “I see my hopes and I can achieve anything I want.” We hope to support Grace through internship possibilities not only through Sprouting Seeds but also through the other partners we are working with. We look forward to the next steps and future exchanges with Grace and all of the Shalat students and teachers in support of both the development of their school and the café enterprise they are planning.

Sprouting Seeds Café (Kalaw, Southern Shan State)

Space
We are still looking for a space for Sprouting Seeds Café and Learning Center in downtown Kalaw. The process of finding a rental is proving more difficult than we originally thought it would be, but we have a few leads and are still enthusiastically searching the area. We are very eager to start the process of opening the Centre and we believe with more work and patience we will find our space here.

Recipes
We have been experimenting with cooking different dishes and baking with the mud oven, as well as working to finish a recipe book for menu ideas with a focus on healthy vegetarian meals. We are now exploring the area for local and organic sources of produce. Some ingredients are difficult to find in Kalaw, so we are exploring options of what we can grow and make ourselves.

Bangkok Trip
In the middle of March, Jim, his eldest daughter Aye Aung, and a volunteer/friend Grace flew to Bangkok for a busy three-day shopping and planning trip for Sprouting Seeds. We went to the famous Jatujuk weekend market where we bought many supplies for the café, including our favorite find of the trip: beautiful pottery cups, bowls, plates, and serving dishes which fit the esthetic design of the café we were aiming for. This trip and the purchasing of supplies has helped push the dream of Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre to become one step closer to the reality of supporting local youth in reaching their dreams.

Sharing our home cooked meals with Kachin students
Sharing our home cooked meals with Kachin students
Woodworking making tables and chair for cafe
Woodworking making tables and chair for cafe
Their first knitting projects for the cold weather
Their first knitting projects for the cold weather
Grace baking chocolate strawberry coconut muffins
Grace baking chocolate strawberry coconut muffins
Gracie and Aye Aung in Bangkok for cafe shopping
Gracie and Aye Aung in Bangkok for cafe shopping
 
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