Sep 29, 2015

5th Report on Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre

Handmade tables and chairs by the girls
Handmade tables and chairs by the girls

Dear Family, Friends and Supporters,

We are happy to share the latest news from our Sprouting Seeds Learning Centre. As many of you know the Learning Centre will be the base for our trainings and the location of our social enterprise The Sprouting Seeds café, bakery and eco-shop. It’s been a busy few months as we edge closer to the opening of the café and we continue to deliver trainings and support initiatives across Myanmar.

6 Month Internship with Shalat Education Resource Center (Kachin State)
Back in April we ran an intensive training for students from Shalat Education Resource Center based in Myitkyina, Kachin State in Northern Myanmar. (See 4th Report) The exchange helped the students build a variety of skills they could then use to implement new programs back at their school. As part of the exchange the students taught us wood working helping them build their confidence and giving us valuable new skills.

Two of the students, Grace and Bawk Mai, were so inspired by the training that they now hope to open a small café. To further this aspiration they have returned to Kalaw to spend six months with us working on the café so they can experience first hand every aspect of running a small business.

Together with Aye Aung, the girls have been working diligently on getting the café and bakery open and helping to facilitate the trainings.

DevelopEd School (Lashio, Northern Shan State)
We have been working with DevelopEd, a small pre-collegiate program for ethnic youth based in Northern Shan State for the past two years. These youth have limited opportunities and are routinely discriminated against. In July we set up a five day training program for the students and teachers of DevelopEd . The group and their teacher joined us in Kalaw where we taught them a variety of skills including baking and cooking of western dishes and breads, ice cream making, handicrafts and yoga.

The group is currently working on business proposals as part of their third year school projects and are thinking of starting a small café as part of their efforts to gain skills and raise funds for the school.

We have future trainings set up with DevelopEd to continue to support their work in Lashio.

Ngaung Shwe Buddhist Youth Group (Inle Lake, Southern Shan State)
In the famous tourist area of Inle Lake in the town of Ngaung Shwe, we have been working with a multi ethnic group of lower income youths. They are working on livelihood generation projects including an eco shop and crafts which we have been supporting. Our latest training with them was around environmental awareness. We aimed to give them the tools and knowledge to advance their efforts in environmental protection in what has sadly become a highly polluted part of the country.

Opening of Shop in our Centre in Kalaw
In August we were joined for a few weeks by the ex Senior Director of UnLtd India an incubator for social enterprises based in Mumbai. She led us in a number of brainstorming sessions that helped us redefine our business plan and build a stronger marketing strategy. This combined with our conversations with tour guides, hoteliers and others engaged in the tourist industry in Kalaw have led us to the decision not to wait for a viable space in town but to launch the Sprouting Seeds Cafe and bakery in the existing training center which is a short walk from the downtown area.

In the next few months we will be working with two new monasteries Tilokarama and the Naung Taung Monastic School to help support them in their livelihoods efforts to launch a café and bakery within their Monastic Schools.

Experiential learning through shared meals
Experiential learning through shared meals
DevelopEd group building skills and confidence
DevelopEd group building skills and confidence
European food preparation
European food preparation
Opening Soon!
Opening Soon!
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.

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,


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
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