A Day With The Kwan Hlar Village Youth Group
February 6, 2016
Today was a delightful day in the Mon village Kwan Hlar. I was invited there because their youth group (a few of whom I had met while working in the Nath Maw Village last year and on a previous visit to Kwan Hlar) requested that I return to provide them with a “training session.”
My invaluable Myanmar partner, Treasure Shine, and I arrived with no real plan for the day because no one could tell us what the group wanted the training to be about. (Not my usual style, but okay, let’s see what happens.) Turned out the group didn’t really know either. So, we began our day together with the question of: “What can this youth group do to make our village stronger?” After working in four groups of five and six people each, they came up with an impressively long and daunting list of village issues about which they were concerned. Some of them, like village governance, reducing local conflict, and the like were way beyond anything such a youth group could actually change. So, in the interests of accomplishing something truly meaningful during the day we finally settled on creating a thoughtful, respectful, well-considered message from the youth group to the Village Headman.

About this time it occurred to us that we could make this ‘”training session” become “a real experience” and not just an exercise. So we asked one of the men of the village to see if he could locate the Village Headman and invite him to come to our training room at 4:00pm that day. Shortly thereafter the word came back. Yes, he will attend. Okay … game on!

We had just about four hours to get ready. Fortunately, the group had already identified many of their issues and concerns. They distilled them into a list of nine major areas, namely:

  • Encourage open, constructive communications
  • Focus village leadership to unite the community
  • Promote cleanliness
  • Improve economic opportunities for all
  • Improve our pre-school
  • Improve our job-skills training
  • Promote reading by all villagers
  • Get youth more active
  • Learn from other successful villages locally


To begin they divided into small teams, each working on action plans for one of the nine areas. Then they rotated to get more ideas. And, they continued to rotate and rotate until all 23 participants had had their say about each of the nine areas of concern.

Then we discussed the two components of a high quality presentation: The quality of the message, and the quality with which it is delivered.

And in further preparation, we reviewed the age-old principle of “Tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em; Tell ‘em, and Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.”

Armed with these ideas – and with only 1-1/2 hours remaining before the 4:00pm deadline, these young people went to work on their presentation. It was a scramble. Flip chart paper, post-it notes, colored pens everywhere.

The Village Headman arrived early at 3:45pm. We asked him to be patient and kept him outside the room for a bit of casual conversation. At exactly 4:00pm the youth group declared “ready” and the Headman took the seat of honor in the front of the room.

What happened next was truly awesome. While the Headman sat and listened, a total of eleven individual presentations took place. One to preview the presentation, followed by the nine topics of concern, and finishing with a summary and an invitation to proceed.

The Headman, and three other village leaders who also showed up, (somehow the word got out) then spoke. Their responses were 100% totally appreciative and supportive. In fact, they committed to encouraging even more youth participation in moving ahead with the nine major recommendations for village improvement.

We included the village leaders in our closing ceremony circle so that each person could speak about the day and their commitment to the future. Everyone spoke!! Many in Burmese. Some in Mon language. One of us in English (guess who) and – very fortunately – Treasure in both Burmese and English. We concluded with a sense of great energy.

It was an awesome day.