Supporting Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) - Graduates of Vocational Training Schools

Offering vocational training to more than 1,200 PWDs for 15 years

In Myanmar, the superstition still persists among people that PWDs were born the way they were because they were sinful in their former lives. In Burmese, the official language of Myanmar, being handicapped has a connotation of “being unable to do anything”, and people tend to dismiss PWDs as unskilled. This explains why PWDs generally have no choice but to be dependent on their family members. As a matter of fact, family members have little or no interest on how to educate PWDs. In addition to these social and cultural factors in Myanmar, the limited number of social workers and limited budget has resulted in fewer opportunities for PWDs to get involved in their community.
The first batch of graduates singing and dancing at the graduation ceremony. The representative of the class said, “We would like to make the most of the skills we acquired in this school and contribute to the welfare of PWDs in our community.”  (April 9th, 2014)
Given the situation, AAR Japan started to operate a vocational training center in Yangon in 1999 in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Up until May 2014, more than 1,200 PWDs have graduated from the three courses offered in the center: Hairdressing, Dressmaking and Information Technology. The employment rate upon completion of the courses was 95% for Hairdressing, 90% for Sewing and 42% for IT.
In the Dressmaking course, age of the students ranges from 18 to 40.  (May 30th, 2014)
“This is what we made!” - the staff and the trainees at a shop annexed in the training school proudly smile, holding their works.

Successful Graduates

The trainees from all over Myanmar become boarders and go through three and a half months of training, after which they can become financially independent in their hometowns. Approximately 80% of graduates have successfully been offered a job or have started their own businesses. Here are a few examples.

Tin Tin Aye  “I’m happy that I can support my family.”

Tin, 27 years old, graduated from the Sewing course in 2011. A native of Eyawadi, she is handicapped in her right leg due to polio she suffered from the age of three. She learned about the AAR training school from her friends and enrolled. After three and a half months of hard training, she acquired excellent skills. In the following 8 months, she studied store management designed for graduates, after which she joined her family who had moved to Yangon and started her own shop as a dressmaker. It’s been three years since then. While getting orders for custom-made clothing, she gives classes to girls interested in dressmaking. “I’m very happy that I can support my family now,” she said.
Ms. Tin Tin Aye, who started her own tailor shop in her house (March 8th, 2014)
Wai Lin Maung  Starting his own business with handicapped partners

Wai, 27 years old, is handicapped in his left leg due to polio.  After studying in the Hairdressing course, he started his own barber shop in Dara with his handicapped partners.  His partners are in charge of management and financial matters while getting their local neighbors to have a better understanding of PWDs. In the future, they are planning to donate school supplies to handicapped children in the area with the profits of his shop, thus contributing to the welfare of local PWDs. Such activities has proved to be a good opportunity for PWDs to participate in their community and for the local people to learn more about PWDs.
Mr. Wai Lin Maung working as a hairdresser in a barber shop which he runs with his partners (August 13th, 2013)
Many of the trainees at the AAR Japan vocational training center hardly had any opportunities to go out and interact with others until they were enrolled at this training center. After acquiring social skills as well as technical skills, many of the graduates have started volunteer activities in various organizations for local PWDs. I feel that prejudice toward PWD is gradually disappearing,
thanks to the excellent service at the shops operated by the graduates nationwide as well as their involvement in local awareness campaigns.

 Offering Job Opportunities to PWD

In Myanmar, a country of rapid economic growth, national and international businesses have been quite successful.  Even so, not all PWDs are fortunate enough to be offered employment. AAR has been trying hard to improve this situation by giving the trainees an opportunity to visit a
company or to obtain an internship so that they can be employed in a company, factory or shop.
Ms. Zar Chi Wai、the valedictorian in the IT course in 2011 was first employed as a receptionist in a company and now is working as a clerk in the administrative branch of the government. “Those around me kept telling me that it is difficult for PWDs to find employment, but I believed in myself and got a job, thanks to the experiences in the AAR training center.
With the help of AAR, 30 out of the 127 trainees who graduated in 2013 are now working in a factory or a shop. This year, we have helped 14 graduates find employment – 1 from the Hairdressing course, 10 from the Dressmaking course and 3 from the IT course. We now have assigned one of our staff to
specialize in employment services, thus giving support to prospective workers with disabilities.
AAR is committed to support the trainees and the graduates who have the capacity to
work in various communities in Myanmar from now on.
I visited a garment factory with a student in Dressmaking course. This factory is located in the suburbs of Yangon, where 5 graduates have been employed since April, 2014. (February 8th, 2014)
Students in IT course visited a shop selling computer-related merchandise to learn the demand on the market.  (August 1st, 2013)
Namiko MOTOKAWA has been station in our office in Myanmar since May 2013. After majoring in Rural Development in a graduate school in the UK, she became an NGO staff and supported organic farming in India. She then joined JOCV (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers) in Nepal, after which she joined AAR. “I am grateful that I can work with the people in Myanmar, who are sincere, hardworking and polite,” she says.