January 23, 2017:
See that man up there, that’s Jim – he’s a right damn impressive man. 15 years ago, after starting a teaching career in the states, Jim found himself in Myanmar near the Thai border and saw an incredible need for help. So in 2003 he started an orphanage and a 12 acre sustainable organic farm in that area and started taking in children who had no where else to go.
Shortly later, Jim started a network to provide teacher training to the leaders of 1700 monasteries for their often untrained teachers. These are 10 week programs are for local Myanmar teachers who work in the Buddhist and local schools, but have no formal training. Additionally, Jim (and his NGO, Whispering Seed) tries to work with senior monks and nuns to create a pattern of socially engaged Buddhism; encouraging education and community service/training within the monasteries.
Then, as if he didn’t seem like he had enough on his plate, Whispering Seed also teaches workshops for Myanmar locals in bamboo treatment, sustainability and construction, as well as trainings in building with adobe, cob and mud. All local resources that can easily and economically build homes.
Throughout this time, Jim found himself personally adopting 4 children without families, who he has raised as his own. About 7 years ago, with the situation changing, he and his children decided to move deeper into Myanmar; they started in Pyin Oo Lwin before settling in the little tourist town of Kalaw (you’ll remember from the last blog post this is a mountain trekking spot).
Now, as his children get older Jim wants to get them set up for adult life. So he and his oldest daughter, Aye Aung who is now 22, started “Sprouting Seed”, a socially conscience vegetarian cafe that also trains some of the local women in business skills and baking. They have only officially been open a couple months, but the new space is also will act as a place for the trainings they run. Jim and Aye Aung are already known in Kalaw for the homemade ice-cream they make (see pictures below) and are hoping to add an eco-shop very soon – I was present for the first run of soap making, but unfortunately I had to leave town before it solidified.
After being introduced to Jim via email from another friend of ours, I didn’t know what to expect as I came to Kalaw, but after I arrived I was instantly welcomed into their home, constantly feed and enjoyed two amazing family dinners prepared by Aye Aung. Easily the best vegetarian food I’ve ever had. Thank you Jim, Aye Aung, Maung Maung, Poo Pwint Weh, and Win Myant Han for making me feel at home in the midst of my travels.
If you would like to support Whispering Seed’s work in Myanmar you can get in touch via Facebook, or even easier, you can even make your Amazon.com purchases though his AmazonSmile page, where Amazon gives a percentage of the sale to their non-profit.
Jim’s oldest son, Maung Maung, cooking up some orders in the kitchen.
Aye Aung, and the local women who are learning from her, make up a new batch of ice-cream.