Yangon, December 5, 2015 – Cuso International and its partners in Myanmar celebrated the incredible contribution that volunteers make in this country. International Volunteer Day was recognized with a festival in Kandawgyi Park in Yangon. Co-hosted by Cuso, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the Yangon-based Youth Volunteers’ Network, Australian Volunteers International (AVI), Karaweik Garden and DM-4, organizations from across different sectors, including education, social services and health, were there to share the work that they do with potential volunteers. 

Cuso International, UNV and Searchers Myanmar also presented findings from recent research on volunteerism within Myanmar. There is a long history of volunteerism in Myanmar, with volunteers engaged across all ages, genders and ethnicities. Many people are driven by a strong sense of altruism and religious faith to give back to their communities and do so across a variety of sectors. 

“While the people of Myanmar are eager to donate their time to support their fellow citizens, the country is emerging from years of virtual isolation that held back development, and entering a new time of change after the recent elections,” says Ali Lane, Cuso International Country Representation for Myanmar. “There is a lack of technical expertise to help strengthen organizations. Cuso International is trying to close this gap by having Canadian volunteers lend their knowledge and skills to local organizations.”

 Anne and Andy Joyce were among the first Cuso International volunteers who arrived in the country when the organization started working there in 2014. 

“The recent election in Myanmar has put the country on the cusp of meaningful change,” says Anne Joyce. “Many of the local NGOs are aware of the unique chance they have to ‘get it right’ because they can look to mistakes made in neighbouring countries.  Their country has been virtually untouched by tourism and business development in the last 50 years.  However, one of the largest issues in the country is an enormous human capital deficit. The shortage of trained professionals in every area makes it an ideal place for skilled Cuso International volunteers work with local people to help build a capable trained workforce.  The country itself is rich in history and culture and the citizens are eager to bring their country back to its former place on the global stage.”  

Cuso International is proud to work with organizations such as the Network Activities Group, Educational Initiatives, Gender Equality Network and the Mon Women’s Organization. Our programs in the country will help build civil society as it shapes how citizens participate in this emerging democracy. Volunteers will also work in the area of sustainable livelihoods, working to support the growth of small businesses in a responsible way, and with gender equity and social inclusion. Despite the positive changes in the country in recent years, including last month’s election, rates of violence against women remain high and poverty is an issue for more than ten million people. Cuso International is recruiting qualified volunteers to support work in these areas.