Building schools in economically disadvantaged communities in Myanmar has always been Studer Trust’s core mandate. Every year we undergo the process of selecting 5 to 8 new project sites throughout the country. As part of our careful selection process, Studer Trust conducts a thorough site visit, typically between 8 and 12 per year, to determine which projects will be constructed that year. This year, Studer had lined up 15 total locations to evaluate.
That was at the end of February. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic shortly after, and Studer Trust found itself with a unique challenge on its hands. Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sport introduced safety measures on travel restrictions and work by NGOs and INGOs and put in place social distancing practices that set limits on group gathering. As Studer Trust’s site visits involve traveling to remote locations and meeting with multiple community stakeholders, these measures meant our traditional way of conducting site visits was no longer possible. We had a challenge on our hands, and we needed to find a solution quickly.
As we observed other organizations switching to digital communications for their operations, we set off to determine if their was a digital solution for these sight visits. What we knew is that even though many of the applicant schools are remote, there are many of them that have access to a mobile phone and data. We also knew that digital literacy is limited, and that applications used by other workplaces, such as Zoom and Teams, would be too complicated to set up. The good news: Myanmar people already use social messaging apps like Viber and Facebook Messenger to communicate with their friends, families, and often their colleagues.
Studer Trust commenced it’s first Virtual Site Visits in April, ultimately completing a total of 13 visits, including site inspections and community meetings, ultimately selecting 8 projects to be launched in 2020-2021. That’s 8 schools that, had we not proactively found a solution, would have had construction severely delayed. We are thankful to our communities and proud of the solution we found to be able to conduct these visits while also doing our part to help fight the spread of coronavirus and keeping our team and communities safe.