For several years Shine Dance Competitions had been planning to offer underprivileged kids an opportunity to access higher education through online learning. Shine is a Canadian company that hosts and organizes children’s dance competitions in Southern Ontario and Quebec. A partnership was formed between Shine and Response I.T., a company who would supply the computers needed, so it was time to begin planning the first project.
I have been working with Shine for the past 6 years in various roles. During their off season, I travel. In September 2015, I went to Thailand to complete my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course and then began teaching English in Northern Myanmar. I had an incredible experience there and was excited to share my stories with the Shine Team when I was back for the 2016 season. At the end of the season Shine decided it was time to start planning their Resource Centre Project and put me in charge. Immediately I knew Myanmar would be the first city we would reach out to.
The town I taught in is a small but fast paced town in the north of Myanmar with lots of stories to tell. One of the most loving places in town is a small orphanage. Some of the teachers who were teaching before me would go on the weekends and teach the kids English. They invited me along one weekend and I was absolutely moved by the experience. It was my first-time meeting kids in an orphanage and experiencing their way of life. We arrived while the kids were in the middle of mass. Hearing their voices in song was beautiful. They saw us come in and knew it meant it was time for their English lesson. They quickly finished mass and were ready to be taught. Their enthusiasm was infectious. They laughed and shouted throughout the lesson on animals. It was so inspiring to see a young generation so eager to learn. Although, I didn’t make it back to the orphanage as often as I would have liked, I was motivated to bring Shines’ project to these kids.
The children at the orphanage have access to public school in town for a small fee per child. Their school system is much different than North America, but they cover many of the same subjects. The students spend their day learning Myanmar Language, English, Math, Science, History, Geography and Health Education. Everything is taught in their native language. After Grade 10, everything is taught in English. However, the likelihood of them having access to a higher education is slim. By installing the computers, the students can begin to learn any course they want when they feel inspired to learn.
The goal for this project is to let the kids learn new skills to help their community. They could learn anything from Tree Planting, to Rocket Science! We want to encourage these kids to enjoy learning and improve their current living situations. For now, we have the kids just learning on English websites, with our core objective of improving their English proficiency. Once they have a stronger understanding with English we will start to talk to them about what other topics they would like to learn. One of our teachers working with the kids is a Native English speaker and the other is a Native Myanmar speaker. This way when the kids don’t understand the program on the computer they can ask in their Native language, but still have an opportunity to speak English as well.
In other countries, where there are learning sites in their Native language we will allow them to begin learning any topic they want right away. However, there is limited resources online in the Myanmar language so we must get the kids to learn English first.
Currently, we are looking to expand in South East Asia, reaching out to communities we know in several different countries. Once we have a few strong centres we will begin to expand in each country where our project has proved successful.