Build a School in Burma

    17 July, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Burma also known as Myanmar, is one of the poorest countries in the world. United Nations says people there earn an average of about $460 a year.

    For more than twenty years, the military ruled the country leading to international economic sanctions. The country now has an elected government and international aid has begun to arrive, but there are few resources for education in rural villages.

    Bob Cornwell and the group called Build a School in Burma are trying to change that. Three years ago, he was a financial advisor to several foreign government. Today, he is building schools in Burma.

    "We're really trying to help kids on the margin who wouldn't otherwise get an education, and kids not having an education is just a recipe for every kind of personal disaster."

    He met some of those children in 2010. He and a friend were travelling from village to village in the northwestern province of Burma.

    "None of these villages had electricity. Many of them are not really accessible even by road. And lots of kids. Maybe like five on average per family. No school."

    Bob Cornwell returned to his home in California. Back home, he learned that the cost of building a primary school in Burma was just $15,000 to $20,000. So he sold his interest in the financial consulting company that he had started 25 years earlier, and returned to Burma.

    He looked for villages that would give land and construction help in exchange for school.

    Rick Heizman, an expert on Burmese music volunteers to help. He had been working on humanitarian and education projects in Burma for more than twenty years.


    Rick Heizman is married to a well-known Burmese harpist Su Wei. They live in San Francisco, California. But they return to Burma often to visit the school projects.

    Su Wei says the children are excited to learn to read and write, and she says their parents are happy that their children can getting an education without having to leave their village.

    "You know, The school is inside their village, nearby, so, at least, they don't have to worry about taking the kids to the school in faraway places. You know like that."

    Build a School in Burma has built two schools, and a third one is almost completed. In June, construction or renovation began on two more. Bob Cornwell says the group works with community leaders.

    "They have a very good connection to the local people. They understand what the needs are. So having someone who really understands the local situation is crucial. They are underground there all the time, so we really focused on those groups."

    Bob Cornwell is applying for grants and asking for donations, so he can build more schools. He says spending his retirement years this way has made him happier than he ever imagined he would be.

    And that's the Education Report from VOA Learning English, I'm Jerilyn Watson.