Shanta is the only organization committed long-term to the Pa’O people of rural Myanmar
Shanta’s partner villages are in the Pa’O minority ethic tribal area of the Southern Shan State of Myanmar. The Pa’O people are proud, industrious and generous, but are frequently discriminated against and neglected. Life in their villages is like living in the distant past; drinking water comes from scummy ponds, walking is the primary mode of transportation, and cooking is done on open fires inside their homes where they burn bamboo and wood from diminishing forests. Village schools are dark and damp one-room bamboo buildings with dirt floors, and most end at grade five. There are no trained health care providers in the villages, and hospitals and clinics in nearby towns are often made inaccessibly by poor roads and lack of funds. There are few economic opportunities beyond meager cash crops such as ginger, rice, wheat, and sesame. The poorest families earn less than $700 annually.
Who We Serve
- More than 52 percent of rural Myanmar lives in extreme poverty (UNDP)
- Access to electricity is limited to 26% of the population (UNDP)
- The rate of child and infant mortality in Myanmar is nearly 250 percent higher than the average across Southeast Asia. (UNFPA)
- There are millions of people in Myanmar living in dire conditions, in households without safe drinking water, toilets or electricity. “Substantial reductions in under-five mortality could be achieved by improving people’s living standards, especially in remote areas.” (UNFPA)
U Mone is a 44-year-old farmer living in Ga Naing Nge West with his wife, Nang Loon, and their three children. Like so many in the villages, U Mone’s family has faced a lot of misfortune. Ten years ago their bamboo home burned down, U Mone is blind in one eye from an accident, and his work as a carpenter ended when the “company” dissolved. In recent years, the value of his main crop, cheerot leaves, has plummeted.
But after partnering with Shanta, U Mone’s life began to change. His youngest daughter, the “sunshine of their family”, is attending our special boarding school. And in 2014, he started his own pig farm as a way to increase his income. With the additional funds, U Mone built a new home for his family—made of cement blocks and a tin roof, keeping them warm and safe.
U Mone told us, “Ever since Shanta Foundation came into our lives it has felt like Buddha is lifting us up.”
From the village of Pone Tan, Nang Ohn Phyu is 18 years old, one of six siblings. She attended grades 1-5 in Pone Tan, but had to live away from her family to attend grade 6-9 in Yangon, leaving her family in a village of a few hundred to attend school in a city of a few million. Those years were hard for her, but she persevered. Her siblings were forced to move to Thailand to find work. When her mother became ill, Nang Ohn Phyu returned home to support her parents. At grade 9, Nang Ohn Phyu’s education was forced to take a back seat.
With limited income opportunities, Nang Ohn Phyu thought she may have to go to Thailand and work illegally, like her siblings.
But then Shanta partnered with Pone Tan, and when the village needed to elect a local woman to train as the Village Nurse Midwife (VNM), Nang Ohn Phyu was chosen. She was honored, and nervous.
“I was very nervous to start the training because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do well in learning. But after three months, everything was easy for me. I and four other women came from the villages and Shanta supported us. When I came home from training after six months the villagers were happy,” she said.
Upon returning she began to provide care to pregnant mothers and children. The first baby she delivered was easy, but the second presented challenges.
“The umbilical cord was short and came out before the baby. I did not have training in that specific experience, but I had confidence,” she said. Because of her confidence and skills, both mother and baby made it through the birth in good health, but that wouldn’t have been the case if it hadn’t been for Nang Ohn Phyu.