When you go to Myanmar, definitely visit these places. You’ll get great food and souvenirs, and you’ll truly be helping the local people who need it. The amazing power of social enterprise – do what you love and make the world a better place at the same time!
As I mentioned in my previous post “5 Fun Things More People Should Do In Myanmar“, there are three great social enterprises that I recommend you visit on your stay. Here’s a bit more information about each of them:
For your lunch – Yangon Bakehouse
As a customer, what you see when you walk into Yangon Bakehouse (YBH), is a small bustling cafe with a delicious looking menu, and mouth-watering baked goods on display. I ordered a chicken wrap with fresh salad, fresh juice, and had a brownie and coffee for dessert. If I’d have been passing by, that might have been all I’d have noticed. Freshly prepared, high-quality food. But behind the scenes, there is another world going on, that sets this cafe apart from the rest in Yangon. The next day, a came back and met co-founder Cavelle Dove, who explained more.
“YBH runs an apprentice training program for local women that have come from difficult circumstances,” Says co-founder Cavelle Dove. “All women that join the apprenticeships are referred from specialist agencies that work with women in need.”
“The program sees the women training with YBH for 10 months. They become part of a family. During the apprenticeship, they are paid for their work, and often for the first time they feel a sense of security. They are able to access healthcare and plan for their children’s education. By the end of the program, the women have key skills that can be transferred to other restaurants and bakeries around Yangon and will be especially well suited to the high-value work in the growing tourism sector. ”
The Yangon Bakehouse shopfront may be small, but the dreams and plans are big. New partnerships and locations were being put into place when I visited, so have a look at the Yangon Bakehouse website for the latest information on new locations and more beautiful photos.
For your souvenirs – Pomelo Yangon
Now you’ve finished your lunch, it’s time for some shopping. Head over to colourful Pomelo Yangon, and pick up a souvenir that helps the local people that need it most. I met co-founder and advisor Annie Bell, who talked me through their work: “We provide a fair trade marketplace for small Myanmar producers, opening opportunities for them to improve their social and economic situation.” It’s not just small producers, it’s social enterprise producers.
One of their suppliers of furniture, called Helping Hands, works with disadvantaged young people, often from the street. They find and upcycle wooden furniture, often by adding amazing carvings. Furniture was a little too big for my backpack, so I opted for a t-shirt, and pouch, with the suppliers of both products supporting children with health difficulties like HIV. There’s a growing list of groups that they work with on the Pomelo Yangon website. They work with more than 30, so have a look at how your souvenirs can make a real impact on local people.
For your Dinner – LinkAge
After all that shopping, you must be hungry again. Time to head to LinkAge. This little art gallery restaurant is in the busy heart of Yangon. Walk up the dark stairs to a room filled with local art, and a lovely balcony view over the streets below.
The restaurant is a “linkage” to Forever Humanitarian & Development Projects, a local NGO that provides training to street children. The children are given experience and training in the restaurant industry, much like at Yangon Bakehouse. I have to admit, on the day I went I didn’t have time to stop for a full meal (I had a date with Aung San Suu Kyi – more on that another time), but friends that had been the night before said it was lovely. For me, it was a great place for a drink and a chat with the head chef Ko Ye. I found a painting I’d quite like as well! Next time I’ll make more time in my schedule, and I’ll try not to get distracted by Nobel Peace Prize winners.
But I’m telling you now all the social enterprises to visit, so you’ll have plenty of time to add them to your agenda – no excuses! Enjoy them all next time you are in Yangon, and let me know what you think.
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Inspired by these stories of social enterprise success in Myanmar? Follow this blog at the top on the right, to get the next instalment, where I’ll be talking about how to start a social enterprise in Myanmar.
Share your thoughts
Do you know of any more social enterprises to visit in Myanmar? Let everyone know about them in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!