Xenia Viragh ’15 has initiated a program called Mandalay-LA that will use Skype to allow students at Phaung Daw Oo in Myanmar to talk with students here and improve their English conversational skills. Her first task is to raise money to buy computers and tablets for the school, which has only one outdated computer for more than 6,000 students to use.
Phaung Daw Oo is a monastery school that provides free education to underprivileged children. It runs on donations and money it makes from small shops around Mandalay. Viragh has already paired off 32 students here with students in Myanmar and plans to have partners converse twice a week for one-hour sessions. As well as helping them improve their English, the project will give volunteers a chance to build a long-term friendship and learn about a new culture. Viragh visited the school during a backpacking trip she took around Myanmar over the summer because her trip leader had previously taught at the monastery.
“I instantly fell in love with the school and felt a deep connection with the students there,” Viragh said. “The atmosphere of the monastery is almost indescribable. All of the students are so enthusiastic and so incredibly driven to learn.”
She saw that although the students could read and write English well, they were still lacking in their ability to speak and hold conversation.
“I thought that the most beneficial thing to do was set up a program in which the Myanmar students could really practice English as a language and not a subject,” Viragh said.
However, Viragh found that the school had weak Internet connection and was not able to establish one that would work well. When Viragh returned to Myanmar during winter break, she discovered that she had no issues with Internet connection when she used her Macbook.
“I really want Mandalay-LA to be a firm project before I expand, but I definitely want to connect more students from different schools,” Viragh said.
To promote the program, Viragh has set up a web page that includes updates, pictures, and videos at http://xeniaviragh.com/mandalay-la.