Myanmar is a country of significant and rapid change. The county's transition to democracy after years of military rule has heightened expectations of political transformation and quality of life.
Myanmar remains one of the world’s least developed nations despite being a fertile country, rich in natural resources. The 2014 census found that 29% of people in rural areas – where 71% of the population resides - live below the poverty threshold, while in urban areas the poverty incidence is estimated at 15%¹. GDP per capita is $1203² and the country is ranked 148 out of 188 on the Human Development Index³.
VSO's three-pronged strategy supports the transition to a more equitable, open and accountable society by:
- Improving education services
- Improving healthcare provision
- Promoting civil society and social accountability (especially in terms of engaging women’s voices)
Since 2012, we have been working with the government, local and international partners to ensure the most disadvantaged participate in development that benefits themselves.
We already have established a small country team, and have ongoing work in supporting reforms in pre-service teacher training, pre-service midwifery training, and the government initiatives in improving adolescent sexual health practice as well as offering support to a number of local civil society groups.
1,522 people accessed improved inclusive education and maternal and newborn healthcare through VSO in 2015/16.
Although our programmes are in their infancy there are already many exciting opportunities for VSO to engage in Myanmar’s development.
We look forward to working with you.
If you are interested in volunteering please see our current opportunities. Volunteer in Myanmar
The education system in Myanmar faces major challenges - such as school access for children living in rural areas, children with disabilities and child migrants.
Other challenges include quality standards for teaching and school management – for example only one third of primary teachers in Myanmar have had any kind of formal teacher training.
We train the trainers of primary and secondary school teachers to help them deliver effective, inclusive education.- while also enhancing English language proficiency. We transfer planning, coordination and management skills to education staff.
- 23 VSO volunteers improved the teaching methodology and english language skills of more than 2,000 Teacher Educators attending education colleges.- these skills we be transferred to student teachers in their thousands as they pass through teaching institutions over the coming years.
- Our local partner, the Eden Centre for Disbled Children, now includes persons with disabilities on it's governing board.- partly attributable to a volunteer who worked there for two years.
- We published ground-breaking research into access to education for people with disabilities.
- We lobbied to ensure that people with disabilities may train as teachers – this is not currently allowed.
Maternal and newborn health
In Myanmar 200 out of 100,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth due to limited access to health services and personnel. Child mortality is also high, with infant mortality at 62 per 1000 live births.
Sexual and reproductive health is a taboo subject, making it difficult for young people to access accurate information.
We improve the technical skills of midwives, paediatric nurses and healthcare managers. We support government initiatives to improve adolescent sexual health services.
- Hospital acquired infections have reduced in a neonatal care facility where volunteers promote the use of hand sanitizer liquid, hand dryers, Infection control posters and paediatric stethoscopes – donated by VSO.
- Neonatal ward nurse coaching has led to improved treatment and care - for example "kangaroo mother care" has been introduced and is now routinely implemented.
- 100 nurses were trained in continuous nursing education sessions. 66 nurses received on job coaching from a nurse mentor.
Myanmar was led by a military regime until 2010 which made it extremely challenging for civil society organizations to operate freely.
The recent democratic reforms means working to strengthen civil society organizations and promote social accountability now seems possible.
We support the development of civil society organizations to ensure access to justice at the grassroots level. We work on combatting gender-based violence and aim to raise the voice of women with policy makers.
Volunteers placed at a civil society organisation enabled it to train more women leaders - 23 of whom went on to be elected to parliament.
What makes VSO different?
Volunteers are at the heart of what we do. Our programmes are delivered by energetic, passionate and skilled individuals who deliver sustainable solutions to tackle poverty. They collaborate with their host communities to find innovative, local solutions. They provide continuous training, coaching and mentoring to our partner organisations.
Evidence shows that results achieved through volunteering offer have a deeper and longer lasting impact and higher value for money.
Find out more about VSO's unique people-centred approach to make a lasting difference to poverty.
Since 2012, we have been working with government, local and international partners to ensure the most disadvantaged people in Myanmar participate in development that benefits them.
Our local implementing partners range from universities, to hospitals, to civil society organisations and include:
British Council, Eden Centre for Disabled Children, Yangon University of Education. We have a fruitful relationship with the Ministry of Education.
East Meets West, JHPIEGO - an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, Ministry of Health, Terre des Hommes.
Civil society partners
Karen Women's Empowerment Group, Women's Organisations Network, Phan Tee Eain, Local Resource Centre, Spectrum, Loka Ahlinn, FHI 360, Yangon School of Political Science.
Secure livelihoods partners
Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association, Ecosystem Conservation and Community Development Initiative
5 minutes with... Alice Redfearn, English Language Trainer, Myanmar
"As a teacher I get a lot of respect here from my pupils, they are very polite, very eager to please. That’s quite change from the UK".
5 minutes with... Jennifer Sims, Specialized Nurse, Myanmar
“Before I came to Myanmar I never thought I could have achieved what I have with this project”.
Interested in volunteering in Myanmar?
Find out more and see volunteer roles available.
For more information about VSO Myanmar or to find out about becoming a partner please contact us at:
17B-2, Thar Yar Waddy Street (off Sayarsan Road), Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Telephone: +95(0)1 401601
¹ 2014 Myanmar Population & Housing Census. See also World Bank (2016) Growing Together: Reducing rural poverty in Myanmar
² World Bank, 2014
³ UNDP, 2015