Stories of Change

U Aung Myint working at home for his family's weaving business.

Building a better village by changing mindsets and habits

We first met U Aung Myint in 2015. Auk Htone, his village near the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, had flooded. CWS had brought supplies for families who needed help. In the years since he first came to know CWS, U Aung has become an active community member and has served ash the Village Development Committee for about a year now. 

U Aung and his family earn a living by producing bamboo baskets, mats and trays. When he isn’t working in the family business, he has volunteered to organize mothers and children for a CWS-led nutrition program. As a father of four children, he was interested and invested in the program and offered to support the participating mothers. 

As he was chatting with some of our team members recently, U Aung shared a powerful insight:

Development, he noted, is not just about having things like blankets, water pumps, seeds and road paving equipment. Yes, he’s grateful for all of these supplies that have been part of CWS emergency relief activities in Auk Htone. But, he says, the larger benefit was something else. “Last year, CWS introduced us to an opportunity to learn about consultative leadership, participatory community development and shared project management. I realized then that community development is largely about changing mindsets and organizing as a group to solve problems. This was a revelation; in  the past, I thought of development being about roads, bridges and building.” 

As he reflects on the nutrition program, U Aung says he sees that mothers have changed their behavior. They have changed the foods that they are preparing for their young children as well as how they cook them. As they participate in cooking demonstrations and learn about the importance of clean cooking spaces and balanced meals, they have changed their habits to incorporate their knew knowledge. Yes, they received hens, roosters and seeds from CWS to support their efforts. But the changes in cooking and food choice are the long-lasting backbone of the program. 

CWS is the only international organization working in Auk Htone, and U Aung mentioned to our staff how meaningful our impact has been. He credits his leadership role and CWS partnership for expanding his thinking about what it takes to build a better village.