Myanmar Leadership Institute (MLI), Kamayut Township Yangon

On 14 March, we welcomed nineteen debaters from various educational institutions who participated at the first MLI Debating competition. The participants presented some thought- provoking speeches which left the audience with nothing but some challenging homework to take away connecting with the debate topics. It was an eye-opening and widening of horizon experiences to listen to the debaters who revealed the essence and reality of the employment for Myanmar youth as well as the risks and challenges of internal labour migration within Myanmar and ASEAN. Such a first debating event cannot happen overnight and we were blessed by a motivated and dedicated organizing team of MLI faculty and student representatives who spent weeks and months in preparation. The team of competent juries consisted of Fr Mark Raper – Jesuit Mission Superior, Mrs. Vicky Bowman - Director of the Myanmar Centre of responsible Business, Mrs. Jackie Pollock - Chief of Technical Advisor for Migration of ILO and Mrs. Ohnmar Ei Ei Chaw - Country Director of the Issara Institute Myanmar; this enhanced the quality of the fist MLI debating event. They skillfully crafted the day as not only a memorable occasion but a real academic exercise which laid a significant foundation for future young leaders. Sut Mai Tu Ja, MLI student debater who won the second prize wrote:

“The experience was so exciting. I usually get nervous whenever I hear the word “Competition.” Avoiding the stage is what I always do. But this time, I took a risk to challenge myself after getting much support from my MLI part time class mates. Out of my expectation, the second prize was awarded. It means a lot to me. It was also my very first time to participate in Debate Competition. I was very surprised already since I was selected for the second round! Then I found myself in confidence that I was going to make it till the end and eventually, I could make it. It was tremendous moment which I had never experienced in my life before. “

The six students of the Peace Leader online course have completed their six - month program which included the final projects and practicums. We had the privilege of participating in their final practicum presentations and reflections highlighting their real and valuable learning experiences as peace leaders. We were affirmed by students sharing that the course was a transformative process which had improved the quality of their lives and students’ respective communities. With the help of the user friendly and intuitive - Learning Management System (LMS) within the Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), students engaged confidently in the on-line learning process which led to a successful course completion. The second cohort of the Peace Leader Course will commence in September 2020 and the application process starts in May. Any interested candidates are most welcome to enrol.

The Italian course with Mr. Stefano Santoro had a regular run from January to March and was well attended by some religious sisters from different congregations who find learning Italian valuable prior to their new assignment in Italy. Stefano not only taught Italian language but also exposed participants to interesting and vibrant Italian cultures and customs which students really appreciated. With the given COVID-19 pandemic reality and restricted travels to the country, he continues helping the students through Skype online conversation. ON 19 March, all staff gathered for an evaluation and planning matters pertaining to the academic and administration of MLI. Adding to the discussion on the MLI marketing and target audience, programs and future engagement, staffing and networking, we prepared some contingency plans in the event of the Covid19 outbreak. During the event of the pandemic, it was suggested that students and staff should take all precautions of personal health and hygiene. The students are encouraged to stay and work at home and submit the assignments online to the respective faculties. The MLI community is encouraged to follow the updates and implement the guidelines of the response to the current pandemic provided by Myanmar Jesuit Mission Office. The MLI - end of term meeting concluded with a delicious luncheon from our local cuisine in honor of St Joseph’s feast day.

On 20 March, we joined with Fr Jacob who celebrated his birthday. The surprise visit from current and former students of MLI, the singing of the “Happy Birthday” and some light conversations made the birthday simple yet meaningful. We wish Fr Jacob many blessings as he continues to serve God and the people in Myanmar.