Category Archives: Education

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

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 .

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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.

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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

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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.