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The Power of Advocacy

I Din village in Northern central Rakhine, a 2-hour drive from the state capital Sittwe, is one of many villages struggling with poor infrastructure, especially during rainy season.  This has a hampering effect on trade and business, access to health care, and children’s education.

external village roadways

External village roadways

But for I Din village, this struggle is now over. Through advocacy training and the initiation of road building by CDE, the villagers have obtained the skills and confidence required to approach the local government for financial support.  This process has been facilitated by a young, female CDE facilitator, and it has resulted in the government providing rocks and other materials to build proper roads in the entire village.  The government was impressed with the development happening in the village, and therefore willing to support further development projects.

internal village roadways

Internal village roadways

From now on, one in every 10 families will have a child graduating from high school, and people (university students and workers) are able to travel all the way to Sittwe by motorbike.  Further, the new roads will make it possible to transport produce and fish to markets outside of the village, which will eventually have a positive impact on the local economy.  The community previously felt that they didn’t have any voice or confidence, so they didn’t ask the government for anything.  After advocacy training and community-based project planning and implementation, the villagers have changed their mindsets and are no longer hesitant or scared to approach the local authorities for financial support.

Winning in Myanmar – Culinary delights with a difference

MU AI Restaurant in Yangon – a quiet treasure in a city of shifting priorities.

After a short walk through a bustling market and colourful stalls, I find a quiet eating house nestled between tall buildings and vibrant green pot plants, its narrow inviting entrance impossible to ignore.


Peter Simmons (CEO of GWM) congratulates La Roi on the success of his restaurant

Ushered to a table by attentive and inquisitive staff, I finally meet La Roi, a quietly spoken young man who a number of years earlier had been a student at GraceWorks Myanmar (GWM) Multipurpose Education Facility (MPEF) in Yangon.

The MPEF centre provided assisted accommodation for students for eleven months and during this time they received intensive IT and English language training, practical life and independent living skills, and basic hospitality education. The goal of this project was to equip and empower young people with confidence and purpose as they transitioned into adulthood from institutional or marginalised backgrounds.


La Roi at MU AI restaurant

La Roi is from the Kachin State which is the northernmost state of Myanmar. It is bordered by China to the north and east, Shan State to the south, and Sagaing Region and India to the west. He is one of nine children who lived with their mother after the passing of their father.

After graduating from the GWM training centre and gaining experience as a catering assistant, La Roi established his own restaurant ‘MU AI’ (meaning ‘delicious’ in Kachin language) in 2016. This is where he shared his story with us over a selection of delightful Kachin dishes.


Art on a plate

La Roi’s culinary interest was shaped at a young age whilst watching his mother cook speciality Kachin recipes. He would join in the preparation, learning how to present dishes with a difference as ‘art on a plate’; a feature now evident at MU AI and that attracts overseas guests as an authentic Kachin dining experience.

He enthusiastically recalls his training at GWM and attributes much of his current success to the mentoring and leadership of the centres’ director Jenny Webb (a current GWM director), who instilled in the students a passion and desire to learn and dream.

The centre established a social enterprise, offering Myanmar cooking classes to foreign visitors. The venture offered the students valuable experience in small business start-up and development. La Roi spoke of this experience with enthusiasm and recalled how his interaction with overseas guests, while conducting guided tours of local wet markets and hosting cooking classes had helped him build self-confidence, self -belief and trust in his peers.


Jenny Webb (Director – GWM Multipurpose Education Facility) with La Roi

La Roi is currently working on a 5 year plan to expand his restaurant presence in Yangon and beyond. He is measured and articulate in his planning, choosing his words carefully and thoughtfully as he shares his vision for the future.

I learnt much from La Roi’s story which is as inspiring and motivating as it is enduring. MU AI is a quiet treasure in a city of shifting priorities, much like La Roi himself.

Peter Simmons, CEO – GWM


You will find MU AI at:
No.(10/B) Ground Floor,
Hledan 1st Street, Hledan road,
Near Hledan Centre,
Kamayut, Town ship, Yangon


La Roi’s journey is the highlight of a generous donor who funded the GWM training centre. He is one of several students who has seized he opportunity to explore possibilities that have changed their life, and by extension, that of their immediate and extended family. GWM has learnt that the greatest value and support from donors may not be realised until long after the funding has ceased and often cannot be tracked with short-term goals. The road to success for marginalised youth is long and challenging, and recognising that results take time, GWM has implemented a post funding review of individuals and projects to monitor their progress and long term sustainability. La Roi’s success is a testament to the enduring, persistent and courageous people that have been influenced and shaped by GWM’s training and support.

Understanding & Responding to Conflict in Rakhine State: Conflict analysis & conflict sensitive strategic program advice for GraceWorks Myanmar, responding to the Rohingya–Rakhine–Burman conflict

Learn what is really happening in the Rakhine State.

Our partners Deakin University have recently prepared a research paper for Graceworks Myanmar (GWM) that sets out the historical and ethnic issues that have impacted and shaped the current conflict in the Rakhine State.

Prepared by Dr Anthony Ware, Dr Vicki Ware and Dr Costas Laoutides.

To read the full paper click on the following link:
Understanding and Responding to Conflict in Rakhine State FINAL – Ware, Ware & Laoutides 2018

Lifesaving Training and Resources for Myanmar Communities

GraceWorks in Myanmar is proud to partner with a Health Care Training School (HCTS) in Yangon, where students are taught basic health care. They are also trained to a level where they have the ability and resources to deliver a baby.

21 Community Health Workers Graduate

21 Community Health Workers Graduate

In late August, GraceWorks had the pleasure of celebrating the graduation of 21 Community Health Workers from the funded training school in Yangon.

At this time, we also launched the Vscan Access Ultrasound machine, a portable ultrasound machine that we believe is the first of its kind in Myanmar.

Portable ultrasound – a lifesaving resource

GraceWorks in Australia recently raised funds to purchase this portable ultrasound machine. The machine is designed by GE Healthcare to specifically meet the needs of poor and remote communities, and was purchased to complement the training carried out at HCTS and to expand on resources that are available for medical clinics.

Portable ultrasound – a lifesaving resource

Allison Swinkels, from Adelaide, is the Manager of GraceWorks’ partnership with HCTS. Allison is a qualified sonographer and will be conducting medical field trips to visit pregnant mothers within Myanmar. Allison said

“With the death rate of women in Myanmar relating to pregnancy and childbirth being the second highest in ASEAN, this portable machine will provide a lifesaving resource for under resourced communities.”

The ultrasound machine will be used during the medical field trips carried out by Allison. It will also complement the maternal health care training in the school and be used for training Community Health Workers; all of which Allison will oversee. A unique and holistic feature of the Vscan Access is the inclusion of teaching videos for pregnant women that can be played in the Burmese language. The ultimate goal is to now equip every GraceWorks community development education initiative in Myanmar with a health care worker equipped with a Vscan Access ultrasound machine.

Portable Ultrasound - A lifesaving resource.

Ultrasounds available at Maternity Health Clinics

Ultrasounds available at Maternity Health Clinics

On Saturday the 9th of September, a promotional Maternity Health Clinic was held on Seikkyi Island where pregnant women were given the opportunity to have an ultrasound for the first time, using the Vscan Access machine. Most of these women do not have the financial means to travel across the river for healthcare in downtown Yangon, which results in them not having access to an ultrasound throughout their pregnancy and limited knowledge about any problems that may exist or that could be prevented or treated.

Three newly graduated Community Healthcare Workers returned to Yangon especially to help Allison for this promotional clinic. The Healthcare workers had an opportunity to try their hand at scanning; a skill that will be taught by Allison in future training of remote and rural based graduates.

Ultrasounds available at Maternity Health Clinics

GraceWorks Maternity Health Clinics will soon be held monthly on Seikkyi Island and will offer free ultrasound scans to pregnant women. These scans will be performed by Allison with the opportunity for community healthcare students to participate.

Seikkyi Dental Program 2017

Yogamour funds community health projects through volunteer teams, and one of their projects is to bring dental care to poor, rural areas of Myanmar. The Yogamour team included Doctor Sissy Jimenez, dentist Dara Donnelly, and Rebeccah Bartlett (co-founder of Yogamour). They brought with them the expertise and equipment required to offer quality dental care – for free!


In order to meet urgent dental care needs in the communities of Seikkyi Island, just across the river from Yangon, GWM has joined forces with Yogamour, to facilitate a three-day free dental care clinic for the community members. The clinic was run in the GWM community centre in Seikkyi Island.
– Dr. Sissy Jimenez

The communities in Seikkyi island have no affordable access to  health – or dental care.

The people living there are poor, and it is too expensive for them to cross the river and pay for doctor – or dentist visits in Yangon. GWM has been working in the Seikkyi Island community since 2005, and one of our projects there has resulted in a community centre, which also functions partly as a health clinic. At the end of January, this centre hosted the three-day dental care clinic.

The dental damage of chewing Betel Nut

Dental damage of chewing Betel Nut

Dental damage of chewing Betel Nut

For Yogamour, this visit was an eye-opening experience. They have been working in Thailand and India for nearly a decade, but seldom come across such poor health conditions as they experienced in Seikkyi Island. One of the main concerns was the betel nut chewing and the damage it does to dental health.

Yogamour team

The Yogamour team interacting with the local community

Fortunately, the community was open and eager to learn, so the Yogamour team was able to hold some teaching sessions and raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene, as well as the dangers of chewing betel nut. Of course, there is always so much more to do, but the great thing about prevention is that it can be done by anyone. It’s just a matter of spreading the right information.

Impact – 77 patients received free dental care

Doctors from Yogamour attending to patients

Doctors from Yogamour attending to patients

Altogether, in just three days, Dr. Jimenez and dentist Donnelly saw 77 patients in total – 53 adults and 22 children. They performed a total of 227 procedures, including 50 extractions with local anaesthetics, 13 fillings, 13 silver diammine fluoride treatments, and 4 antibiotic treatments for infection.

Very fruitful first collaboration with Yogamour
The first project with Yogamour has been very successful, with a large number of patients having been seen and treated within a few days. If funding allows GWM would be delighted to facilitate similar projects with Yogamour in the future.

Make a donation now!

You can donate by direct deposit:
Bank: Bendigo Bank
BSB: 633-000
Account Number: 156689036

Or cheque to:
Graceworks Myanmar Inc
P.O. Box 29, Leopold
Victoria, Australia 3324

Alternatively please complete the form available on this page, to donate.


Changing the world…one community at a time.

In 2000,  Peter Simmons was happily working as a management consultant in the printing industry when he accompanied a friend on a mission trip to a village in Myanmar, the South East Asian country formerly known as Burma. He was immediately moved by the experience. Eighteen babies had died there in just six weeks and this played on his mind. When he returned to Australia he decided to do something about it. Please read the full article .

Cherish the Memories : Influence the Future

This is the story of an idea, a thought that became an inspiration that travelled beyond the borders of convention, where curiosity became the starting place for a journey that changed a community  forever.                      

It was through the simple principle of sowing a seed, that a generous Graceworks supporter who through his curiosity and imagination, was visiting the community the day the land became available and decided that this was his opportunity to influence and invest.                                                                                                                                                      Marginalised communities have been robbed of the most basic of human rights: running water, health services, poor shelter and sub-standard education.  Food is scarce; many having one meal a day and often succumbing to simple ailments such as a cold, with little if any medication available.                                                                                                    With no government support and prohibitive restrictions placed on NGO’s by local authorities, the outlook was bleak and uninviting for outsiders to influence.

From a little shelter where Graceworks had established a presence with our local partner, an opportunity to purchase a small plot of land became available. Finance was not readily accessible as funds were exhausted and only a miracle could facilitate the purchase of the land….                                                                                                                                                          Please CLICK ON THIS LINK to see the complete story……Graceworks_PrintedArticle_March2016_2_ 

New Deakin University partnership

Graceworks Myanmar (GWM) CEO Peter Simmons this week signed a three year partnership agreement with Deakin University (Melbourne) to facilitate research into conflict,socio-political & economic dynamics in the Rhakine State, Myanmar.

The lead researchers are Dr Anthony and Dr Vicki Ware.
Dr Anthony recently joined the GWM board of directors and implemented the first CDE program in 2013.

In signing the agreement, Mr Simmons explained that this partnership will enhance the International profile of GWM as a leader in community-led development,as the research will provide a greater understanding of conflict resolution in the expansion of GWM’s community development education (CDE) program specifically in the Rhakine State.

GWM recently opened an office in the Rhakine capital, Sittway to facilitate the expansion of the CDE program.
Dr Anthony was an observer during the recent elections and the following links are 2 of his recent papers on political development in the Rhakine State.……

Should you require any further information on GWM’s development work in the Rhakine please email:


2016 Graceworks Myanmar Charity Golf Day

rsz_1rsz_golf_day_2     rsz_1rsz_golf_day_1  image                                                                               Just recently held, the annual Graceworks Myanmar 2016 Annual Charity Golf day was a complete success, with special thanks to our partner Lions Club Blackburn North, and the continued support from Ringwood Golf Club and Mister Fox. We greatly appreciate the support of our sponsors, and we trust those who attended indeed enjoyed themselves.  All players were in top form , however Allens Mini Bus Rentals are to be commended on receiving First Prize with a team of 3. Congratulations also go to the team captained by Simon Murray who took home second prize.

Next year’s event will take place on Friday 24th February 2017. More details will follow in due course.





2013-08-12 16.07.18

What’s on in Myanmar:

Vocational training

The first group of young trainees has been recruited for GraceWorks’ Project Food Mosaic at our Yangon training centre. These students come from various parts of the country and represent a number of different ethnicities. All have had little prospect of furthering their education or gaining meaningful employment in the future. The 10-month course will provide the students with food handling and kitchen management skills, English and computer training as well as personal development and life skills education. The students receive free tuition and GWM has provided assisted accommodation in a nearby apartment for the four female trainees.

2013-08-12 16.49.42

At the end of July, Jenny Webb and visiting country Victorian chef, Freya Stokell, completed two weeks intensive kitchen management and food hygiene training with the Project Food Mosaic students. Since then, the trainees have attended a three-day first aid course run by the Myanmar Red Cross Society and a week-long art therapy workshop. This workshop was conducted by the Myanmar Art Social Project and was designed to give them the confidence to appreciate their past and an opportunity to imagine a brighter future. For further information, please see

2013-08-12 16.07.18

The trainees are attending regular English classes with Ross Denby and studying for their International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) accreditation. They are also perfecting a number of recipes so that they can begin offering Myanmar cooking classes and market tours to foreign visitors and others in Yangon. Income from these classes will contribute towards the cost of tuition for the course.

A number of students from CLC, one of our nearby children’s homes, have also completed basic computer training at the centre. These students will be offered ICDL training in due course. Approximately $300 per person is required to put these students through this internationally recognised course. Additional English classes will also be offered.

A weekend workshop is planned for parents and teachers at Wisdom pre-school in Hlaing Thayar. The aim of this workshop is to offer parents and staff further early childhood care and development (ECCD) training and to foster positive involvement by the local village communities. $250 will be needed to cover the cost of this training.