Photo: Thanintharyi MPs working on constituent relations exercises in training
After the exciting and peaceful elections in November 2015, the Richardson Center has focused primarily on four projects in Myanmar. The first is working with the new government to plan trainings for its new MPs so that they can get to work implementing their agenda. We have also hosted a political delegation in partnership with the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and a Partnership Opportunity Delegation that focused on tech and social entrepreneurism. Another area of focus has been working with a local organization that does storytelling trainings for educators incorporating messages of peace and tolerance. The final focus area is training a variety of political parties on how to get their messages out through the media.
The new government leadership understandably has its plate full trying to tackle a myriad of challenges right off the bat from national reconciliation to economic development to natural resource governance. While new ministers were named and political prisoners were released in the first few months of the year, hundreds of new members of parliament have been trying to learn the ropes as MPs. The Richardson Center was invited to train 34 new MPs from Thanintharyi Division in Southern Myanmar. They represented both state and national level positions and one member of the training has recently been appointed as the Chief Minister of the state. Trainers, Mindy Walker and Aye Nyein Moe, worked with the MPs to understand that their job was now to listen to the people and be their voice in parliament. The day-long constituent relations training focused on how to host forums and use social media to get feedback from their community. We also discussed how to inform their constituents of the work they are doing in government through media and other grassroots techniques. This training was the first in what we hope are many trainings to be held throughout the year for members of state and national parliaments.
In addition to assisting newly elected members, the Richardson Center is training political parties on how to work with the media. Most parties are nervous, afraid or simply not connected with the media in Myanmar. We work with party members to understand how to be proactive in contacting journalists and getting their message out to their constituents. The participants practice writing media advisories and press releases on topics that are newsworthy and important to their party platforms.
In January, the Richardson Center hosted mentor Rima Kawas and the ACYPL Executive Director Linda Rotunno as the US to Myanmar part of an exchange program we partner on. In the spring of 2015, the Richardson Center helped to select and prepare two young political leaders from Myanmar to go to Washington, DC for a six-week internship program. In January, their mentor, Rima, came along with Linda to Yangon, Myitkyina and Thandwe for a program designed by the delegates to show the interesting programs they are working on. The two-week trip included meetings with political parties, activists, religious leaders and community members. The Richardson Center has been working with the ACYPL for the past three years on training programs and exchanges. This year, the Richardson Center will work with six Myanmar delegates who will go to America for similar political internships.
Dinner in Myitkyina with ACYPL delegates and other active Kachin youth
The Richardson Center has been working with a local organization in Myanmar that creates and distributes children’s books on peace and tolerance. In addition to the creation of books, the Third Story Project conducts trainings for educators on how to use storytelling to promote peace. The Richardson Center helps the team with funds for their trainings in areas of conflict where they use stories to bridge the various communities in an effort to foster understanding. We also help with technical advice and fundraising for this small project that does big things. If you would like to support the activities of the organization you can contribute at: https://www.crowdrise.com/thethirdstoryproject1/fundraiser/richardsoncenterforg
Third Story’s activities and adorable pictures can be found on their Facebook page: facebook.com/thirdstorychildrenbooks
Little girl reads Third Story books while her mother is participating in a storyteller training.