Read caption War War Khaing, 22, pictured with her mother Htay Win Khaing and her sister Saka War Khaing, at their home in Hpa-An, Myanmar. War War Khaing is a post-grad student from the 2013 YEP course. She is from the host community and lives with her parents, two sisters and grandmother. With the income from her business she supports her sick father. Photo: Andrew McConnell/NRC

Maybank visits the Norwegian Refugee Council’s programme in Myanmar

Published 04. Jun 2018
Over a two-year period, the Norwegian Refugee Council has been working with Maybank, the biggest financial services group in Malaysia and the 4th largest in South East Asia, to set up a global humanitarian effort to find new funding streams for our work to protect and support displaced people.

In April, two representatives from Maybank Islamic, the Islamic banking arm of the Maybank Group, Mr. Arshad Ismail, the head of the Global Banking Business and Mr. Gurtej Singh an Analyst with Islamic Capital Markets, visited our country programme in Myanmar.

Maybank invited to field visit in Myanmar

Maybank is Malaysia's largest financial services group. Since Maybank already has an established presence in Myanmar and an interest in the ongoing situation there, it was a good match to invite the Maybank representatives out into the field to introduce them to our activities within the country and give them an opportunity to personally witness a glimpse of the global displacement situation.

Since its independence in 1948, Myanmar has been mired in multiple conflicts over land and natural resources, which have been exacerbated by ethnic divisions. While the country works towards peace, displacements continue as a result of ongoing conflict, inter-communal violence, and frequent disasters. In 2008, we established our Myanmar Country Programme and have since then provided assistance within all five of our core competencies countrywide.

Arshad and Gurtej joined us on April 4th for a full three-day programme in the field. During their visit, they were introduced to numerous programme activities while being provided with contextual information and the strong personal stories of those affected by displacement, whom they were able to meet. 

It has been a privilege to observe for myself all the good work NRC is doing in the Region.
Arshad Ismail, Head of Global Banking Business, Group Islamic Banking

One Stop Identity Service

Their visit began in the early morning of their first day with a brief context overview presented at the field office in Hpa-an. Shortly thereafter, Arshad and Gurtej travelled to our One Stop Identity Service centre in Shwe Lu village, accompanied by Mr. Prasant Naik, our Myanmar Country Director, and Ms. Annicken Saxlund, Head of Corporate Relations. The centre is a small venue in the Shwe Lu Village, Kayin state where our Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) staff issue identification documentation to paperless people in the area. The room was filled with people of all ages seeking personal documentation, more commonly referred to as the "pink card”, which would ensure them basic civil rights in Myanmar. Owning a personal pink card would open up a door of possibilities such as travelling within Myanmar, owning property, voting during elections and having legal recognition of their marriages.

In Malaysia, if I lose my ID, all I have to do is simply walk over to the police station, get a report done, and I’ll be eligible to receive a replacement within the next couple of days. Here in Myanmar, and based on what I’ve seen, if you misplace your ID card, you potentially may lose your life.
Gurtej Singh, Analyst, Islamic Capital Markets

Maybank’s representatives test their skills at NRC’s Youth centre

The following day presented Maybank’s representatives with an opportunity to visit our Youth Education Package (YEP) Centre in Hpa-an, where we attended the students’ graduation ceremony. The ceremony included various elements, such as a colourful fashion show from the tailoring students, a group song performance and personal presentation of the students’ diplomas by the Minister of Education in Kayin State, Mr. Prasant Naik, along with our visitors from Maybank. After the ceremony, two students invited Arshad and Gurtej to try out some of the youth centre’s equipment with a brief training session. They were placed behind a manual sewing machine with a piece of fabric while the two students tried to teach them their newly learned skills. One of the students, Than Whyn Kiaw,19, had already shared that he was planning to teach his 13 year old niece tailoring as well.

“She is also interested in tailoring and sewing, which are technical skills that will help her earn her own income” he said.

During his training session with our guests from Maybank, he continued to share his story about how he, his five siblings and their mother had recently returned to Kyar Inseik Gyi village after years as refugees in Thailand. His father had passed away and their mother was now too old to provide for the family on her own. Than Whyn, therefore, made the decision to apply for the tailoring course at our youth centre to pursue his dream of supporting his family. After graduation he planned to travel back to the Kyar Inseik Gyi village and open up his very own dressmaking shop. He proudly shared that he had already received 18 dress orders and was confident in the start-up of his enterprise.

Read caption Tailoring graduates Than Win Kyaw (left) and Nah Lar Phuang (2nd right) show Mr Arshad Ismail, Head of Global Banking Business at Maybank (right), and Mr Gurtej Singh, Analyst at Maybank (2nd left) how to sew at the YEP (Youth education program) Centre in Hap-An Township, Kayin State, Myanmar. The YEP Centre was opened in 2012 and runs a three month programme for 15 - 25 year olds that covers life skills, small business skills, and vocational skills. By the beginning of 2017 a total of 1,500 students had graduated from the YEP Centre. Following graduation approximately 80% of students end up managing their own business. Photo: Andrew McConnell/NRC

Big dreams

The second student in the training session with Maybank’s Arshad and Gurtej was 23-year-old Nah Lar Phuang Klein, who was a post-graduate tailoring student from 2017. She was visiting the students’ graduation to give them a motivational speech on their big day. She emphasised to our group in her speech how important it had been for her in the set-up of her own shop to never give up when challenged, and how essential it had been for her to keep practicing and learning skills to succeed with her shop.

“In the beginning I did not believe in myself, but I continued to practice until I got it right” said Nah Lar. “I then improved and received return customers.”

Her patience and ability to pass on her skills showed that she was passionate about tailoring. Back in her village in Kokrait, a three-hour journey from Hpa-an, she was successfully running her own tailoring shop while providing private training sessions for interested customers. The income that she earns goes to support her parents and seven siblings, all of whom are supportive of both her business and her dream to become a fashion designer.

Both Than Whyn and Nah Lar acted more mature than their actual age because of their priorities and their planning for their futures. While Arshad had impressed both of them with his talent to get the machine going during the training session, Gurtej’s less coordinated skills and entertaining determination brought smiles to their faces. The relaxed circumstances and the students’ collaborative behaviour was a great way to end our field trip.