Face of Indawgyi is establishing the Lon Ton Social Impact Guesthouse which will provide new career opportunities that exist nowhere else around the lake. Through partnerships with local families and experienced hospitality trainers, the hotel school will draw in additional foreign and local visitors to the region to effectively prepare the local economy for future growth not only in Lon Ton but around the entire lake. Since July 2017, we have been working towards getting the guesthouse built while pursuing goals in four pillars: conservation, education, cultural preservation, and sustainable business development. 

Beyond the Environment: Social Issues at Indawgyi

 One of many mining fields that lay just beyond the main road hugging the western edge of Indawgyi Lake.

One of many mining fields that lay just beyond the main road hugging the western edge of Indawgyi Lake.

Around Indawgyi Lake, there is a huge absence of opportunity for children to find secure employment. Formal education for most ends before tenth grade and the majority of work is seasonal fishing and rice farming. Since these livelihoods are not enough to sustain families and their children, many have no choice but to work in the jade and gold mines near Indawgyi which continue to put workers’ health in danger and destroy the environment.

Another consequence of social immobility is the growing heroin and methamphetamine problem among the lake’s youth. A new source of opportunity is critical in confronting these issues, and a hotel school will provide lifelong skills for both students and educators.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS & ASPIRATIONS

Face of Indawgyi was formally established in July 2017. Since then we have begun projects in our four target areas. Below is a list of what we have accomplished so far along with our current and future goals:

 

Environment

  • Provided sustainably made local bamboo trash cans to four different villages and the two main tourist sites to help pull trash from the lake. Working on two more villages now with the goal to have the entire lake covered by early next year. 

  • Partnered with Palu Myanmar to replace single-use plastic straws around Indawgyi with reusable, Myanmar-made bamboo straws.

  • Trashcans have been provided for Lon Sant, Ywathit, Manahkaw, Lon Ton villages and Shwe Myintzu and Bamboo Buddha Tourist sites. Currently working on Le Pon Lay and Hepa. 

  • Worked with local community members to design informative signs that would encourage using these trash cans. Each community designs their own sign.  

  • Plan to better maintain and build more trails to increase visitor access to the mountains as well as improve the ability of forest rangers to patrol. This increased ease of access will deter illegal logging. Have begun GPS mapping of logging trails.

  • Started monthly plastic awareness campaigns. Most recent was at Shwe Myintzu Pagoda and are going to time them up to go with when we deliver trash cans to a new village.

 

Cultural Preservation

  • Researching the different cultures— Shan, Kachin and Bamar that are living at the lake and have begun documenting them

  • Creating a short history of all the villages at the lake.

    • So far: Lon Ton, Ma Mon Kaing, Le Pon Lay. These are all published on our blog.

    • Researched Nam Mun, Lon Sant, Na La Tan need more work before publishing.

  • Strong focus on Shan-ni Language and culture preservation. We have done extensive research and interviews around the lake and are now moving into video archiving.

  • Currently hosting a linguist who is specifically working on Shan-ni language preservation and compiling the first sketch of Shan-ni grammar.

  • Goal is to use all this research to create language courses available to all ages by early next year. This is especially important because the current Shan-ni classes at the lake are generally only for young students, and there are many people here who are looking to learn but don’t have the opportunity.

 

Education

  • Trained a small staff to help assist in our day-to-day operations.

  • Creating an operational hotel training-school where high school grads can learn on-the-job skills, earn a paycheck, and later have savings to pursue other ambitions and jobs.

  • Currently sponsoring one student to study English, computer and business skills in Yangon. She will return and work for us full time from November 2018.

  • Another student will go to Yangon in the fall and begin work for us in January 2019.

  • Developing computer skills courses for students at the lake through partnerships with local initiatives including the Shan-ni Youth Network and country-wide startups like Phandeeyar.

  • Partnership with Pinnya Tagar Academy to assist Face of Indawgyi projects including hosting two interns from October to December 2018 .

  • Creating curriculum for language exchange classes to bring together local community and guests.

 

Business Development

Promoting and facilitating sustainable tourism around the lake: 

  • Creating restaurant menus in English and Burmese

    • Already finished Lon Ton Village and have done various restaurants from Mohynin to Nyaung Bin

  • Maps of different villages in Burmese and English within six months on an app for the whole lake

    • Lon Ton soon to be known as Indawgyi City now available!

  • Created new tourism opportunities that never existed here before and support local culture: freshwater shrimping, local cooking class, observing local alcohol production.

    • Looking into meditation and discussing with Lon Ton Monastery and want to do something at Ma Mon Kaing Monastery as it is very close to Lon Ton.  

  • Teamed up with Burma Bike Partnership. Myu Htoi Awng Kareng and Tu Seng are from the nearby capital city of Myitkyina and build strong and sustainable bikes using bamboo frames and recycled bike parts. Local initiative is a priority, and their bikes are already helping to better ecotourism practices at Indawgyi.

  • Worked with villages to create signs from the water indicating which village you are entering.

    • In three languages: Burmese, Shan-ni and English. More Shan-ni language visibility increases its presence it daily life and encourages learning

    • Sign for Ma Mon Kaing is being built now.

    • Discussing now with the other five villages directly on the south end of the lake. Next one is Le Pon Lay.

  • Working with local artisans to create crafts ranging from custom fabrics and longyis (sarongs), bamboo mats, pottery and so on. We are in initial stages right now, and will be organizing this through the summer and later connect them to an online marketplace so they can sell both locally and to our bigger audience.

  • Created joint venture tourism platform, Find Myanmar, to help boost visibility of Indawgyi Lake and Kachin State which has already succeeded in drawing more tourists to the region.


We are always looking for new ideas and inspiration. If you are interested in lending a hand or just giving us your two cents, please let us know!