FCA will continue development cooperation operations, despite cuts

Finn Church Aid’s work continues in Kenya and Myanmar, which are the targets of development cooperation cuts

Ville Tavio, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, recently presented cuts to Finland’s development cooperation.

VERY SIGNIFICANT CUTS are planned for development cooperation, according to Finland’s new minister for development cooperation. During the term of the government, which was inaugurated in June 2023, Finland will end the country programmes for Kenya, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Mozambique. After the cuts, in 2027 Finland will spend up to 280 million euros less than previously planned for actual development cooperation.

FCA continues its work in Kenya and Myanmar, partly with the support of Finland, but mainly with the support of other financiers.

“At FCA we are saddened to see that Finland is cutting support from precisely those countries where the need for development cooperation and aid is great. The countries in question are either very fragile themselves or, like Kenya, bear the burden of refugees from other countries,” says FCA’s Deputy Executive Director, Ikali Karvinen.

“We are committed to continuing our work in Myanmar and Kenya, where we work in many different ways to promote education, livelihood and stability.”

FCA’s work in Kenya and Myanmar focuses on strengthening quality education, livelihoods and peace, as well as humanitarian aid. While Kenya’s economic development in the region has been positive, the country is a significant recipient of refugees. FCA supports access to primary education in Turkana, Garissa and Marsabit, Kenya’s poorest counties, which host a large number of refguees.

Development cooperation is effective and is still needed

Tapio Laakso, head of Advocacy at FCA, says that the cuts demonstrated how Finland’s presence in the world is weakening.

“Development cooperation is part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. With the cuts, Finland’s presence and opportunities for influence in the world will decrease,” he says.

Mr Karvinen adds how even distant problems ultimately affect the stability of Finland and the safety of its citizens.

“We have seen that international solidarity is in danger at this time. In a networked world, we will encounter even distant problems at our doorstep eventually, if we do not react to them where they first appear. Climate change, refugees and difficult development issues are issues that affect all of us.”

“Of course, it is positive that civil society is still seen as an important actor in these countries.”

At the beginning of 2024, there will be 300 million people in the world relying on humanitarian aid. Before the beginning of this decade, the number was decreasing, but the situation has been dramatically worsened by the Coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis and events such as the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza.

Mr Laakso states that a humanitarian crisis is an extreme situation that can be prevented precisely through development cooperation.

“It is often said that nothing can be accomplished with development cooperation, but that is not true. Compared to the beginning of the 1990s, global extreme poverty has decreased, more and more children – and especially girls – go to school and, looking at the big picture, the world is doing much better. It is worrisome how many of the long-term development indicators mentioned above have declined while conflicts are also increasing,” he says.

More information and contacts:

FCA Deputy Executive Director, Ikali Karvinen
+358 40 509 8050

FCA Head of Advocacy Tapio Laakso
+358 50 536 3280

Women-led businesses are bringing change in Myanmar

Women-led businesses are bringing change in Myanmar

A group of four people sit on the floor of a room with bamboo walls around a small table covered in papers. They are talking. On the wall hangs a banner with writing in Burmese and the logos of the Kaw Lah Foundation, Women's Bank and FCA

In Myamar’s Kayin State, FCA and Women’s Bank have supported women in 20 villages to establish and develop businesses to generate extra income.

NESTLED IN the Kayah-Karen Mountains range are the Kayin Highlands. The area has been plagued by armed conflicts between the Myanmar Military and the Karen National Union, People’s Defence Forces, resulting in very limited development opportunities. The region has been classified as a ‘black zone’ by successive governments.

Women in the area were often confined to the traditional living style of their village, struggling to make ends meet with small daily incomes. With some working as day laborers and others focusing on their existing farm businesses, financial stability proved hard to pin down. Although they could afford daily meals, they needed money to save up.

As the economic crisis worsened, the prices of food and gasoline skyrocketed and their income and investments also fluctuated dramatically. Additionally, products they farmed could not be exported in large quantities.

A man and a woman in face masks pose for the camera in a room with concrete walls. The man is handing money to the woman. On the wall hangs a banner with writing in Burmese and the logos of the Kaw Lah Foundation, Women's Bank and FCA
As part of the project, the FCA provided financial assistance to 80 women to help them establish and develop income-generating activities.

Women-led businesses are bringing change

A project aimed at empowering women in the region co-implemented by FCA and led by the Kaw Lah Foundation, brought about real change.

As part of the project, FCA provided financial assistance to 80 women, granting each of them 500,000 Myanmar Kyat (188 Euro) to help them establish and develop income-generating activities. Women participated either as members of the Women Empowerment Committee or as part of a Women-Led Cooperative.

A woman stands talking to a large group of women sitting on the floor
Women participate either as members of the Women Empowerment Committee or as part of the Women-Led Cooperative.

Starting and running businesses in politically sensitive and fragile areas can be challenging, so FCA provided organised comprehensive business entrepreneurship training sessions to cover various aspects of business management, including financial planning and management, branding, and marketing strategies (including online platforms).

After the business was established, we continue to provide coaching and support. The project team regularly visit the businesswomen, offering guidance and addressing concerns.

The range of businesses established by these women included grocery stores, food stalls, seasonal crop trading, bakeries, motorbike workshops, and pharmacies. Within a year, 35 out of the 80 women (43%) began earning profits from their activities. 11 of them earned profits exceeding 10 million Myanmar Kyat (376 Euro) and one woman even generated over 50 million Myanmar Kyat (1880 Euro).

From entrepreneuship to financial stability

Life dealt 59-year-old Naw Aye Thar a devastating blow with the untimely death of her husband in 1997, leaving her as the sole provider for her three sons. To her support her children, she took on various odd jobs, earning a modest income of 3,000 Myanmar kyats per day.

But life changed for the better when she assumed the role of secretary for the Women Empowerment Committee in her village. It was during this time that FCA launched its project, aiming to promote women’s entrepreneurship and business ventures in Maing Lun. Recognising her potential, she was selected as one of the women entrepreneurs and provided with a business capital of 500,000 kyats.

A woman in a face mask takes notes while sitting next to an elderly woman. They are sitting underneath a wooden hut. In the background, a man cradles a baby in a swing
The project team regularly visit the businesswomen, offering guidance and addressing concerns.

With the newfound capital, she started a grocery store. Following her project proposal, she sourced products from wholesalers and began selling them retail. This venture proved to be a sustainable source of income to meet her family’s needs.

“Previously, I was very tired because I was buying goods by walking to Leik Tho Town with a bamboo-made backpack, and I couldn’t a motorcycle due to the high rental cost. My business became more convenient when I owned a motorcycle with my savings. In this time of political instability, the economic crisis worsened, food and gasoline prices skyrocketed, but mercifully I don’t have to worry about the daily meal anymore.”

Journey to business success

Naw Rutha, a 46-year-old widow from Kyaung Kone Lan Khwel village. She grew up selling groceries with her mother in a small food and local product trading business. However, despite having a wealth of experience in the industry, Naw Rutha struggled with keeping records of her business operations which made it impossible to ascertain the profit and loss of her enterprise accurately.

In June 2022, she successfully obtained a grant of 500,000 Myanmar Kyats, which she used to expand and repair her shop. The support from the project not only helped her become more familiar with business practices but also increased her profits.

“Thanks to the project, I received training on business market system development and basic financial management. The project also recognised my hard work and provided additional support funds (1,000,000 kyats) for my business.”

Two packets of coffee with the name "Rutha" and bearing Burmese script are on a table
Naw Rutha expanded her store and started producing and selling local products under the brand name “Rutha.”

With this financial boost, she purchased refrigerators to store the goods and added value to local crops such as coffee, turmeric, honey, and tea. She further expanded her store and started producing and selling local products under the brand name “Rutha.”

The increased income not only benefited her family but also allowed her to financially support her parents and siblings.

“I can now support my son’s education without worrying about school fees. I can also afford donations for religious purposes and cover medical expenses for the sick. Moreover, I have been able to save money every month and even treated myself to a gold necklace.”

Displacement didn’t stop this businesswoman

40-year-old Naw Blu Paw from Bo Te Kone Village started as a casual worker in 2005, averaging around 2 weeks of work per month. In 2008, she began selling Burmese traditional snacks door-to-door in her village.

When the project was introduced in her village, Naw Blu Paw participated in business performance training courses and attended monthly meetings. Her dedication paid off when she was chosen as the small to medium enterprise (SME) woman representative of the village on June 20, 2022.

Unfortunately, she and her husband were displaced due to the conflict in the area. But the situation couldn’t discourage her and she began selling kitchen products as a mobile seller to other villagers who had also fled to the jungle. Despite the difficulties, she traveled to Taungoo – around 200 kilometres from Yangon – to purchase groceries and continued her work.

A smiling woman sits outside behind a pile of brightly coloured pots with a fish logo on them.
Naw Blu Paw’s dedication paid off when she was chosen as the small to medium enterprise (SME) woman representative of the village on June 20, 2022.

With this determination, she was selected as a recipient of an additional 1,000,000 kyats from the project’s top-up grant for women. This capital injection allowed her to expand her current business and she ran the fish paste and dried fish businesses. She also learned how to maintain cash accounts and create monthly income and expenditure statements, skills she previously lacked.

The continuous operation of her business greatly aided her family while occasionally providing financial support to her daughter, who lives at the Thailand border, for school. Furthermore, she was able to send three of her children to school at a church-based institution, contributing to the welfare of the community.

“Through this business, I have gained a deeper understanding of my strengths and weaknesses which improved my business operations. Additionally, I seek guidance from others experienced in fish paste production to expand my business further. Despite the challenges of travel during these difficult times, I am grateful that my business continues to thrive, bringing greater happiness to my family by relieving concerns.”

Read more about our work in Myanmar

FCA and UNICEF’s work with teachers in Myanmar empowers entire community

FCA and UNICEF’s work with teachers in Myanmar empowers entire community

A woman in a mask gives a backpack to a child outside a school while another child looks on.

Despite the ongoing political tensions and economic hardship in Myanmar, FCA and partners are working with the people of Kachin to strengthen the education system. At the heart of quality education are teachers, who tell us their stories.

THE WORKING CONDITIONS of teachers are the learning conditions of students. That’s a truth that is often forgotten when it comes to supporting access to quality education.

In Myanmar, we partner with local organisations and UNICEF with funding from the Global Partnership for Education to make sure teachers can not only earn enough to support themselves, but also receive career development and training.

When your dream career doesn’t pay

Daw Mar Mar is 21 years old and resides in a foothill village on the road to Ma Dwe Glacier. It is home to a population of approximately 350 people.

She has been a preschool teacher since 2021, following a lifelong desire to teacher young children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools closing, she temporarily worked for her uncle. When they reopened, despite her uncle offering her continued work, she chose to return to teaching, although that would effectively mean taking a large pay cut.

A woman sits on a wooden floor and talks to five children who are lying on the floor
Daw Mar Mar teaching her students

“I don’t mind the low income, I am passionate about our children’s education. Preschool is the beginning of our education. Our village lacked educated people because we had never had preschool. Now we can see an increased number of educated youngsters in our village since preschool started. This is my dream job,” she tells us.

Her friends, by contrast, left the village, in the search of jobs that paid more money. Daw Mar Mar stayed, not just due to her commitment to being teacher, but through practical financial support she received through a programme called the “Ethnic Equality Initiative (EEI)” that FCA supports with UNICEF funding through the Global Partnership for Education.

“I couldn’t leave the village whenever I saw the children. Previously, I was only paid 80,000 kyats (approx. 35 Euro); today, thanks to the EEI, I can earn up to 150,000 kyats (approx. 66 Euro). Though the amount given is not huge, it is sufficient, and I am truly grateful for the support.”

The project offers her the opportunity to participate in preschool teacher training in Bhamo and Putao. She tells us the results in her have been significant. For example, she used to be irritated when children did not always follow every word of her instructions. After training, she realised and accepted that this is normal child behavior.

In July 2022, the GPE project contributed 3,360,000 kyats (approx. 1,400 Euro) to build a new preschool, since the stream next to the village was eroding ground and threatened the building.

“Our old preschool is no longer secure. There aren’t enough shelters, and we’re constantly threatened by livestock and losing our belongings. Furthermore, the stream has collapsed near the school, putting children in danger. Mercifully, we now have a new school which ensures the children’s lives are safeguarded and they can study without disruption. I was concerned even when students went to the restroom, but I now no longer have to worry.”

A row of girls sit on a wooden balcony reading books
A book club started by Daw Mar Mar is popular with village children

Daw Mar Mar even established a small library. In addition to the preschool kids, children from the village are encouraged to participate in the reading club on weekends and are also provided with food.

Teaching is still a low-paid profession in most countries and Daw Mar Mar doesn’t sugar-coat her experience. But with our support, she can pursue her dream as well as help her community.

“People may question whether I am weary of teaching and working even on weekends. Truthfully, I’d say I’m exhausted – I don’t have any spare money. But I’m more concerned about the children who will grow up without proper education. So, I’ve been working hard, and I’ll keep working.”

Enhancing teaching skills

Supporting teachers’ salaries is key for keeping teachers motivated, but it’s not the only factor in developing quality education for all. Teachers need career development and support, if they are to flourish within their jobs.

Amidst the economic downturn, Daw Nu Nu, a 21-year-old teacher from Bum Wa Community School, took responsibility for the basic needs of her household which has 11 family members.

Under the EEI programme, she received monthly assistance money for six months as well as a teacher kit and completed Basic Education Training.

A class of young children pose underneath a shelter - they are all holding backpacks
Schoolchildren showing their new backpacks provided through our programme in Myanmar

The training was developed by the INEE, a network of members from NGOs, UN agencies, donors, governments, academics schools and affected populations.

Daw Nu Nu absorbed learning styles, teaching approaches, and curriculum development so that she could practically apply her knowledge even to her siblings first, and afterward to her students. Students who were previously uninterested in learning were noticeably more motivated to learn.

“I had never heard of INEE before, but now I understand its fundamentals, which are extremely helpful for developing curricula. I can skillfully instruct my students and hinge on their learning ability. It boosted my self-esteem, and I realise the importance of constantly enhancing teaching approaches.”

Over and above that, local partners the Dai Fin Social Work Group, provides students with school supplies. Daw Nu Nu extended the parents’ appreciation for the programme.

“Parents are genuinely grateful for such kinds of support because they are unable to fulfill their children’s requirements due to their own struggles working on farms and odd jobs. It’s a huge relief in these difficult circumstances.”

New Classroom

Daw Wai Wai is a teacher from Chanmyae Mizzayi Nunnery School in Bhamo, and the mother of an 11-year-old daughter. Following the death of her spouse in 2022 she finds herself confronted with the dual burden of assuming family responsibilities and striving for a home income. Those were the hardest times she’s ever had to endure.

But she’s not the only one having a tough time of it – so are a lot of other people in her community. This year with the dramatically increased price of goods, parents are worried as they cannot afford to support their children’s learning journey.

A man and a woman sit next to a table and talk. The man is wearing a mask.
Daw Wai Wai talks to a community volunteer

EEI supported 100,000 kyats per month for teachers’ salaries, provided school supplies, and conducted Basic Education training. Daw Wai Wai found the breadth of the project extremely helpful.

“There are countless benefits from this project. A new classroom was built, and school furniture was purchased as a direct result of the project. The support money eased my hardship somewhat.

But being a part of this training has also helped me grow as a teacher, another accomplishment I’m pleased with. Prior to the training, I was mostly preoccupied with one-way teaching and ignored the needs of my students. I got several new bits of information and insights throughout the programme. Because of the profound impact the training had on my life, I feel compelled to pass on what I’ve learned to other teachers.”

Find out more about our work in Myanmar

“More than 50% of the students changed their behaviour.”

“More than 50% of the students changed their behaviour” – counseling is making a difference in Myanmar

In Myanmar, Career Guidance and Counselling (CGC) is improving student and teachers’ school experience. FCA and the Teachers Without Borders network have conducted extensive teacher training since 2019 to enhance counselling sessions with children.

BULLYING, DROPPING OUT and lack of financial support are some of the most common issues face by students attending school in Myanmar, where 40% of the population live below the national poverty line.

In 2019, FCA started conducting extensive training for teachers in counselling and career guidance. Initially conducted in the capital, Yangon, in 2022 FCA extended the project to Mon State.

The project’s primary objectives are to introduce, support, and promote CGC in alternative education systems in Myanmar, specifically targeting monastic schools, faith-based schools, and mother-tongue-based education systems operated by ethnic education service providers.

A group of boys, some in Buddhist robes sit around a desk and write on paper
Monastic schools provide free education

These schools follow the national curriculum and have the added attraction that they provide education free of charge. However, they only go to grade 8 and do not provide a primary school graduation certificate, which is only available in fee-paying government-run schools.

But many do not even make it to grade 8. Many parents find it hard to support their children in school, often needing them to work at home or encouraging older children to seek work abroad where pay is better.

Following success in Cambodia, leading to career guidance counselling being included as part of the national curriculum, FCA started training teachers in Myanmar on career guidance as well as counselling to improve childrens’, parents’ and teachers’ experiences in school.

Rewarding work

Daw Ohnmar (not her real name, due to security challenges in the region) has been a teacher for nine years.

She participated in Learning and Career Guidance and Counseling Training in 2019 conducted by FCA’s Teachers Without Borders (TwB) volunteer network. The outcomes were significant.  

Immediately after completing training, she provided group counseling to over 100 students and individual counseling to eight. During the pandemic, she kept going, giving advice remotely over mobile phone to 50 students.

As of the end of 2023, she has conducted 15 individual counseling sessions, which take up much more time and resources, but enable her to focus more on individual issues. She says it’s rewarding work but can also be emotional when factors outside of her control come into play.

A number of teenage students, some in buddhist robes, sit in a classroom at desks and tables, listening to a teacher
A group counseling session at Dhammadipa Monastic Education Middle School

“More than 50% of the students who received counseling sessions changed their behaviour. For example, students made promises to me to quit smoking and proved it through their action. They also started following the classroom rules more diligently. I also observed improvements in their relationships with parents and friends. I am proud of the cases that I was able to handle successfully.

But, there were a few cases that I was unable to manage. For example, two students got married and dropped out of school, both of whom were in Grade 10. I felt sorry as I was unable to reach my students during the pandemic.”

Two TwB in-house trainers observed group counseling sessions, providing feedback to enhance teachers’ counseling skills and assisting teachers to also apply effective teaching techniques in their regular classroom activities.

To measure the classroom impact, FCA Myanmar conducted a longitudinal study in which counsellors reported an improved attitude. They sought to avoid physical punishment and utilise more positive language and communication. This shift in attitude can be attributed to the impact of CGC training and its emphasis on child rights.

A group of adults sit in a circle on the floor in a classroom-like room, surrounded by posters on walls and boards
Teachers at an in-house training session in Mon State, Myanmar

Managing her emotions effectively

Ma Yamin (not her real name), a 17-year-old girl at Dhammadipa Monastic School, faced emotional distress due to her mother’s second marriage, family financial hardship, and difficult relationships with friends.

One of her biggest challenges was that her mother wouldn’t allow her to go to school and insisted on her working despite her strong desire to obtain an education. Her mother often discarded her books and the essays she wrote.

As a coping mechanism, Ma Yamin, spent most of her time alone, sleeping, which helped her avoid interactions with others at home. She eventually had to leave school.

After she left school, CGC counselors reached out to her friends and arranged a meeting with her mother, resulting in her return to school. Engaging in group counseling sessions, Ma Yamin noticed improvements in collaborative skills and gained the confidence to speak out. Individual counseling sessions further helped her express her emotions freely. Despite ongoing problems at home, Ma Yamin can now manage her emotions effectively, encouraged by her teacher counselor.

“After experiencing the CGC individual counseling session, I felt a sense of relaxation and realised that I had a dedicated teacher counselor who would genuinely listen to my feelings even though my mother may not want to listen to my words.

My counselor not only listened to my words but also provided encouragement and guidance to help me find my way towards self-improvement. I finally found a safe place to express my emotions freely, even allowing myself to cry as it’s all kept confidential.”

Ma Yamin was taught healthier coping and calming mechanisms, such as the ‘butterfly hug’ a self-implemented stimulation method that can help bring someone back to the present moment and calm their emotional state.

A number of teenage students, some in buddhist robes, sit in a classroom at desks writing with great concentration
Ma Yamin shared the knowledge she gained in group counselling sessions like these with her peers

 “Since participating in counseling sessions, I’ve become more involved in household chores and have better communication with my family, rather than isolating myself. Furthermore, I began sharing the knowledge I gained in group counseling sessions with children and elders in my community. I also encouraged my friends to consider individual counseling sessions at schools by sharing my journey.”

At Ma Yamin’s school -Dhammadipa Monastic Education Middle School – FCA provided counseling to 343 out of 615 students including 117 females from Grade 4 to Grade 12 in the 2023-2024 alone.

In addition to training days, the career counsellors received mentoring from volunteers of the Teachers Without Borders network. To further support their work, they will receive a guidebook in the Burmese language with a wide range of concrete guidelines, classroom activities, and useful information.

Learn more about our work in Myanmar

In Myanmar, cash helps children, teachers and parents restart education

In Myanmar, cash helps children, teachers and parents restart education

A father helps his son button up his shirt

Myanmar is reeling from multiple shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, political turmoil and civil conflict. That’s meant many are missing out on their right to education.

IN CHIN STATE, schools forced to close due to the pandemic remained shut due to the ongoing conflict. On top of that, economic hardship meant parents couldn’t afford to send their children to the few schools that reopened. In addition, many teachers couldn’t afford to teach.

FCA works in Myanmar focusing on education, which includes providing cash support to families and teachers. Below a schoolchild, a teacher and a father explain the impact that has had.

Len Kheng finally returns to school

12-year-old Len Kheng lives in the East Ward of Kanpetlet, Chin State. The family’s third daughter, Len Kheng’s enrollment in kindergarten was delayed until she turned 6 in 2018.

But two years after starting her education journey, schools in Myanmar had to close due to the Covid-19 outbreak. That meant Len Kheng had to return home and help out on her parent’s farm, where the family grew elephant foot yam as their main source of income.

A young student studies a textbook in a classroom
Len Kheng is at last able to return to school with FCA cash support.

She patiently waited for schools to reopen, hoping to continue her studies. In 2021, a group of parents and teachers attempted to establish a school nearby, allowing children to resume their education.

Unfortunately, Len Kheng’s family’s financial situation prevented her from going back to school. The pandemic froze the market for yam and led to financial struggles for her family. The ongoing political turmoil further dashed her hopes of returning to school.

“At the time I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to school in this lifetime. I suppose I’ll have to make a living farming like my parents,'” she tells us.

FCA gave her family unconditional cash support and Len Kheng was able to go back to school. Her family received a total of 180,000 kyats (approximately 69.07 Euro), which not only helped with their financial problems but also enabled her to continue her studies at a community-based school. Despite being in a grade level that does not correspond to her age, she is currently learning alongside her classmates and embracing the opportunity for a promising educational future.

“I no longer feel left behind, because I can focus on my schoolwork without the need to help out on the farm. I am thankful to the people who have helped me return to the classroom by providing essential school supplies.”

A father with dreams for his son

Msang Thang is the father of Mg Kui Thang, a grade 6 student, residing in Makuiimnu village, Chin State. Although he and his family survive through traditional farming, he does not want his son to engage in the laborious practice.

He has always hoped to send his son to college and provide him with everything he needs for a comfortable life. Like many parents in the Chin community, he has high expectations for his son.

A father sits with his son at a desk helping him with his schoolwork
Msang Thang worked hard to support his son going back to school

Just like for Len Kheng, the pandemic brought a major setback for Msang Thang’s ambitions for his son through a complete-total school closure, which was extended due to the countrywide conflict.

By 2022, the community had taken the initiative and established a school. But after two years away from school, Mg Kui Thang was reluctant to return and the family lacked the funds to pay for school fees and other learning materials.

Although Msang Thang took on additional work to earn money and, through encouragement and persistence, finally convinced his son to return, he still lacked adequate funds for the boy to enrol.

In 2023, his entire community received aid from FCA through unconditional cash assistance to parents, learning materials to students, and teacher stipends. Msang Thang received a total of 60,000 kyats (approximately 23.02 Euro) for his family, enough to continue supporting his son’s education.

“I hope this kind of assistance can be extended to other places in Chin State. There are many parents out there who are just like me, I believe.”

A committed teacher

Hmuchingding Government Basic High School is located in Shin Pawng village which is an underdeveloped and rural neighborhood of Kanpetlet Township, Chin State.

Mr. Khyumsi, 53, is a senior assistant teacher, enjoying nurturing future generations and helping them adapt to a changing world. His commitment to school and community events is unparalleled in his community, and he dedicates himself to collaborating with fellow teachers to foster the intellectual development of the local youth.

A teacher writes on a board in a classroom as children look on
Mr. Khyumsi’s has dedicated his life to making sure an entire generation is educated

The school closures hit him hard – he didn’t have a job or any paycheck for three years. However, his main concern is the long-term impact on children’s education. The emergence of a new generation that has not been exposed to education will have terrible consequences, he tells us, especially for the ethnic minority community.

Reopening the school for the children became his constant goal. He consulted with church pastors, fellow schoolteachers, the leaders of the village and parents, advocating for them to take charge and run the school on their own. They all share his perspective. However, there are still challenges regarding teachers’ salaries. Nevertheless, they successfully reopened the school in 2022 through a small teacher stipend contribution from the local church and the community, with just a handful of students. Mr. Khyumsi was appointed as the headmaster.

In 2023, FCA provided funding for teacher stipends which amount to 140,000 kyats (approximately 53.72 Euro) for 3 months, as well as a total of 291 student learning kits. This support allowed more children than last year to return to classrooms. Mr Khyumsi’s plans don’t stop there – it would be great if teaching aid materials could be supported for the school in the future as well, he requests.

Read more about our work in Myanmar.

Cash transfers in Myanmar are changing lives for the better

Cash transfers in Myanmar are changing lives for the better

The confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic downturn, political instability, and escalated civil conflicts since February 2021 has cast a shadow of financial hardship over countless lives in Myanmar.

A STAGGERING 67% of the country’s population, including the once-thriving Chin State, grapples with the harsh grip of poverty.

While maintaining a focus on education work in Myanmar, FCA also supports livelihood opportunities and humanitarian assistance with interventions such as cash transfers to beneficiaries.

Three people in Chin State, whose lives have crossed paths with FCA’s work, recently shared their stories.

Van Cung’s Journey of Hope

Van Cung is a 56-year-old resident of Thantalang Town, surrounded by teal-hued mountains and sandwiched by Vuichip and Marau peaks. The two rivers serve as the lifeblood of its inhabitants. In times gone by, it was hailed as one of the most prosperous towns in Chin state.

A devoted teacher with 24 years of experience, Van Cung poured his heart into educating the youth of Chin State in Thantalang. His dedication was unwavering even during long hours of teaching. On a modest salary of about 300,000 MMK (approximately 115 Euro), he supported his family of five, finding joy in meaningful work and the love of his kin.

A man sits on a motorbike atop a ridge overlooking a shallow valley. His features are blurred.
Van Cung relies on his motorbike for his livelihood.

However, fate took an unforeseen twist. The coup of February 2021 unleashed waves of unrest and protests, causing the education system to collapse nationwide, including in Chin state. The schools closed, leaving him unemployed. Adding to the turmoil, a devastating incident unfolded on November 19, 2021.

During a military campaign, 164 houses in his town were burned down. The destruction escalated, resulting in the loss of 900 houses and 19 religious structures to the fire. Van’s home was one of these —looted, burned, and reduced to ashes. This tragedy left his family with only an aging motorbike. Even now his voice quivers as he expresses his sorrow,

“My life has been shattered beyond imagination. I never fathomed such profound loss, even in my darkest dreams.”

In search of safety, he traveled with his family and aging bike to Zephai village, situated 44 miles away near the Indian border. The host community welcomed them with temporary shelter and food, yet the village was overwhelmed with families seeking refuge, resulting in overcrowding and limited resources. Van Cung turned to farming on available vacant lands, but the yield hardly alleviated his family’s hunger.

FCA provided 150,000 MMK (approximately 57.55 Euro) in humanitarian cash assistance to support his family. This aid was transformative. With this assistance, Van Cung embarked on a two-day journey on foot to Hnaring sub-town to buy spare parts to repair his motorbike. With the restored bike, he devised a plan to sell petrol. In nearby villages, he began selling fuel, earning a daily income of 20,000 MMK—a lifeline for his family.

Van Cung’s impact extends beyond his household. He now extends a helping hand to his community by ferrying patients on his motorbike to the medical center, navigating the winding roads of the Chin Hills.

“I am deeply thankful to FCA for their invaluable support, which has been a lifeline for individuals like me in Chin State. My hope is for their compassionate efforts to continue reaching the Chin Hills, touching more lives in need.”

Iang Ku’s Path to Self-Sufficiency

In a quiet corner of Chin State’s Haka Town resides Ms. Iang Ku, a resilient 30-year-old woman sharing her life with her 90-year-old father. Nestled on a small highland peak, Haka Town rises over 6,000 feet above the earth, compact yet proudly serving as the capital of the entire Chin State.

She and her father once owned a shop, selling cherished Chin traditional dresses, bringing in a steady income of about 20,000 MMK per day. But life’s tranquility was shattered by the echoes of a turbulent coup, rewriting their narrative in an instant.

Amidst the upheaval, a powerful explosion rocked their home, leaving them with their lives but taking away their possessions and livelihood. To take refuge, they fled to Sialam Village situated 54 miles away. For three days, they traveled on foot, enduring hunger and uncertainty, surviving on foraged fruits and vegetables along the route.

A woman hunches over a weaving frame, busily working
Iang Ku was able to support her father through her handicraft skills.

Despite the community’s generous hospitality, aid was limited due to their responsibility for a significant number of internally displaced people. Iang Ku experienced profound disappointment and a sense of hopelessness regarding their future survival, especially given her father’s chronic illness. With a heavy heart, she lamented, “I feel as though I could perish alongside my father.”

Like Van Cung, she also received humanitarian aid from Finn Church Aid, amounting to 60,000 MMK (approximately 115 Euro). She invested the entire sum into crafting traditional weaving products, which hold a high market value. With this assistance, she acquired the necessary equipment for traditional weaving production.

She started earning 8,000 MMK within a few days by selling her textiles. Her monthly income gradually ranged between 5,000 to 20,000 MMK. As her earnings grew, she could afford more materials for weaving. She now earns more than enough money to meet her family’s needs and generously assists those in need within her community.

Actively engaged in church activities, she finds herself counting the blessings of her transformed life. “With determination and assistance, I’ve woven a new life, now able to offer hope and help to those in need,” she shares.

Naw Bik’s Tale of Transformation

Naw Bik, a 47-year-old resident of Thantlang Town, was employed as a lower division clerk at the Ministry of Home Affairs. His monthly income of 280,000 MMK (107.5 Euro) provided for his family of four. However, when political turmoil erupted on February 1, 2021, he was compelled to leave his job, causing financial strain that cast his family into a state of food insecurity.

In October 2021, amidst the chaos in Thantlang Town, he and his family, like many others, sought refuge near the India border. They embarked on a grueling 41-mile journey on foot, traversing rugged terrain over two days, carrying what little belongings they could. The path was challenging, marked by steep inclines and treacherous footpaths.

A man with a grass trimmer works near a line of trees
Naw Bik received 120,000 MMK in cash assistance from FCA/MCC.

Upon reaching Tlangpi village, his family’s spirits were lifted by the warm welcome of fellow villagers. Despite the uncomfortable living conditions, they found solace among other internally displaced families.

In response, FCA provided 120,000 MMK to address the family’s livelihood crisis. This assistance ignited Naw Bik’s determination. He invested in a grass trimming tool and secured work at an Elephant Foot Yam and Strawberry farm, earning 10,000 MMK per day and a monthly income of 240,000 MMK. This newfound stability eased his family’s daily needs.

Reflecting on his journey, Naw Bik expressed profound gratitude for the unexpected support that reinvigorated his family’s means of survival. The generosity of strangers through the project inspired him to lend a hand to others grappling with conflicts and crises. He stressed the ongoing importance of humanitarian aid in Chin State, where many silently endure for survival.

Read more about FCA’s work in Myanmar.

FCA prepares for aid operation in Myanmar

FCA prepares for aid operation in Myanmar devastated by Cyclone Mocha

On Sunday May 14 in Myanmar, the hurricane hit the Rakhine region, already suffering an ongoing humanitarian emergency.

CYCLONE MOCHA cost lives and caused severe damage, assessment of which is underway in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The cyclone, which picked up speed from the Bay of Bengal, blew at a speed of up to 60 meters per second when it hit the land and tore down trees and power lines. Due to the storm, there have been extensive data network outages in the Rakhine state area, making it difficult to acquire accurate date.

Finn Church Aid has already allocated 100,000 euros from its disaster fund on Sunday for the emergency relief work caused by the hurricane. FCA has its own country office in Myanmar and on Monday, local employees started assessing the need for aid in the Rakhine region, where we already have projects, including those financed by Women’s Bank.

Mocha caused widespread destruction in Myanmar

“Cyclone Mocha has severely damaged the infrastructure of the Rakhine region in Myanmar. Only the tallest and strongest buildings have survived the storm, most of the others have been destroyed,” says Henry Braun , FCA’s Country Director for Myanmar .

He describes surroundings covered with debris from fallen trees and electricity poles.

“The hurricane has particularly affected housing. Those who can afford it have moved to hotels and other paid accommodation. Those who can’t afford it have sought shelter on the streets and, for example, in playgrounds.”

According to Braun, most families only had time to take water and food for a few days during the evacuations that took place before the storm.

“The emergency situation requires immediate humanitarian aid in order to meet the food and shelter needs of these people and to restore infrastructure. Our goal is to extend our help to around 20,000 people,” says Braun.

An old woman sits in the ruins of her house
A Rohingya woman sits in her destroyed house at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe on May 16, 2023, after cyclone Mocha made a landfall. AFP / LEHTIKUVA / SAI AUNG MAIN

Already a state of emergency in cyclone-hit area

Half a million people were evacuated from the path of Cyclone Mocha even before landfall on the continent. In total, Mocha is estimated to have affected the lives of more than eight million people while moving from the coast to the interior. About two million of them were already in extremely vulnerable situations. A humanitarian emergency has prevailed in the Rakhine region before the natural disaster due to the military coup last year and the conflict that preceded it, and aid work in the region is estimated to be very difficult.

FCA is preparing to distribute cash grants to the most vulnerable families in Myanmar’s Rakhine region for food and to repair homes damaged by the cyclone. Distributing cash grants requires that the local market is functioning and that people are able to use money to buy basic items such as food, potable water, hygiene items, blankets and mosquito nets. The security situation in the area may also affect what kind of help can be offered to people driven from their homes by the storm in the initial stages of the operation.

We also plan to secure the continuation of children’s schooling as quickly as possible in addition to our other projects.

Additional information:

FCA Executive Director Tomi Järvinen, tomi.jarvinen@kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +35840 641 8209

FCA Myanmar Country Director Henry Braun, henry.braun@kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, +95 944 172 2176

Hurricane leaves thousands of families homeless in Myanmar

Hurricane leaves thousands of families homeless in Myanmar

Finn Church Aid grants 100,000 euros from its disaster fund to help those affected by the destruction of Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar.

Cyclone Mocha, described as the strongest in more than a decade, hit the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh on the morning of Sunday, May 14th. According to meteorologists, the cyclone that arrived on the densely populated continent from the direction of the Bay of Bengal has been intensified by the proximity of the sea.

The storm is feared to cause great destruction in the region, which is already experiencing a protracted humanitarian disaster due to ongoing conflict. On the Bangladesh side, the cyclone is falling on the Cox Bazar area, home to one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees live in Cox Bazar, whose situation is already very difficult.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) has allocated 100,000 euros from its disaster fund for humanitarian aid work necessitated by the damage caused by the hurricane. FCA has its own country office in Myanmar.

“According to the weather data, the strength of the wind was up to 210 kilometers per hour (almost 60 meters per second) when it hit the mainland. Such a strong storm can have serious effects on the already vulnerable population of the region”, describes FCA’s Country Manager for Myanmar, Henry Braun .

According to Braun, Cyclone Mocha has caused severe damage to telephone and internet networks. Fallen trees and heavy rainfall have resulted in flooding, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee in both countries. 

Moottoripyöräkypäräpäinen mies ja nainen poimivat pellistä rakennetun rakennuksen edessä maasta roskia Myanmarissa.
Cyclone Mocha, which hit Myanmar and Bangladesh from the Bay of Bengal on the morning of Mother’s Day, wreaked havoc and forced up to a hundred thousand people to leave their homes. Myanmar’s Rakhine state was already under a humanitarian emergency before the disaster. PHOTO: LEHTKUTA / AFP

Myanmar is already in a state of humanitarian emergency

“The situation is extremely worrying and the need for aid will be huge, because there is already such a large humanitarian emergency in Myanmar. It is estimated that up to 17.6 million people are already dependent on emergency aid,” says FCA Executive Director Tomi Järvinen .

Rakhine State in Myanmar, which is one of the poorest and least developed regions in the country, has been hit hard by the cyclone. This region has experienced ongoing conflict, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to neighbouring Bangladesh. Additionally, the conflict has internally displaced many others in the Rakhine region. 

“Together with the UN and our humanitarian aid partners, we are ready to offer life-saving aid to the communities affected by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar’s Rakhine State,” says Järvinen.

FCA is preparing to support the victims of the disaster with cash grants that people caught in the middle of storm damage can use to guarantee their food security. The response is expected to reach 20,000 people. The situation is expected to worsen during Sunday and into Monday.

Additional information:

FCA Executive Director Tomi Järvinen, tomi.jarvinen@kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +358 40 641 8209

FCA Country Director Henry Braun, henry.braun@kirkonulkomaanapu.fi , tel. +95 944 172 2176

Digital solutions can increase access to education in developing countries

Education has long moved towards a more digital age in most developed countries, and the Covid-19 pandemic has pressured societies to adopt even more remote working and learning tools. Both digital skills and the availability of online services are constantly expanding and improving, but the process is different in poor and fragile environments.

FCA is working towards more digitalised approaches in education projects in Africa and Asia, and the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for new solutions. A year ago, FCA’s Coordinator of Innovations Pasi Aaltonen surveyed the pandemic’s effects on the education sector.

“Education professionals at FCA were already making use of technology in education projects in many ways. The digitalisation of education was developing through platforms such as Zoom and Teams, television and radio,” Aaltonen says.

Projects currently utilise simple technologies. Radios are convenient in countries where the means for telecommunication are either underdeveloped or out of reach for low-income families.

In Kenya, FCA distributed radios with memory card slots that enable learners to record lectures broadcasted on local radio, ultimately supporting pupils with revising the classes. Radio education guidelines were developed in the process and shared with colleagues in other countries.

Etualalla radio, jota penkillä istuvat neljä lasta kuuntelevat ja kirjoittavat vihkoon.

Children attending a radio lecture in Uganda. Photo: Hugh Rutherford

In Cambodia and Myanmar, computers and smart devices are used in the training of teachers and career counsellors. The career counselling trainers recorded video material that was further distributed in chats and Facebook groups and also shared by Cambodia’s Ministry of Education.

“The videos are paired up with worksheets since the pupils do not have exercise books. Video-based education is a new concept in Cambodia, but during the pandemic and the school closures, it has enabled education to continue without interruptions”, says Sari Turunen, education specialist for FCA in Cambodia.

In Kenya and Uganda, a mobile mentoring project for teachers has garnered good results, even though few own smartphones. FCA has provided smartphones for the teachers, who generally have decent digital skills. The greatest challenge is guaranteeing a sufficient Internet connection for everyone – and that is one of the key issues for the future of digitalisation in developing countries.

A new training kit of animated videos boosts business in Myanmar

Online learning gains new ground among artisans in Myanmar. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) training on entrepreneurship builds new paths of cooperation that help businesses grow sustainably.

A new toolkit on artisan entrepreneurship inspires a fast-growing community of entrepreneurs in Myanmar, driven by its popularity and increased demand for remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

FCA released a package of seven videos under the name of Myanmar Artisan Toolkit (MAT). Thus far, 192 people have completed the training designed to meet the demand for new business opportunities in Myanmar. The country’s tourism and business environment has grown rapidly.

The training consists of animated videos on how to start and run businesses.

The MAT education materials offer guidance on starting and running businesses. The training was translated into animated videos and paired with physical working materials that enable independent learning at home and allowing more people to participate in the training.

A Facebook Messenger Chatbot included in the learning concept allows participants to ask advice from administrators and other members of the online community, and watch additional lectures.

The training particularly benefits those that are already skilled in handicraft but lack experience in running businesses. Nin Nu Htwe makes hand puppets and participated in the live MAT-training in 2019 and took part in the online training during the pandemic.

Nin Ni Htwe has expanded her business with the support of networks she built during the training.

“The Facebook Chatbot was particularly helpful for me. I used to work alone, but now I have a large, expanding network of artisans and trainees who I work with”, Nin says.

The training supports quality and marketing

The videos are available in four languages; Burmese, Rohingya, Rakhine and Pwo Kayin. During the first four months, 1,200 users registered to the service.

Htoo Thint Zin graduated as a MAT trainer in 2019 and gained both skills and a new network of entrepreneurs. Her business focuses on handicraft, and she works with 50 other artisans.

“On top of my business, I teach business skills such as quality control, planning and bookkeeping to youth, women and persons with disabilities”, she says.

The training has helped Htoo Thint Zin’s business to flourish.

Htoo credits the training for improving the quality of their local handicraft as well as expanding the opportunities of delivering the products to markets.

“The training has resulted in social and financial gains for my business partners and me, and soon our products will meet international standards”, she says.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) develops entrepreneurship training in Myanmar in collaboration with Lutheran World Federation Myanmar (LWF).

Photos: Myat Kyaw Thein