Aung Kyaw Swar – principal of Inle Heritage – organisation that preserves the cultural and natural wealth of Inle region, and helps it to thrive as a place to visit, work and live. They run high level hotel on the Inle lake, provide vocational training for young people from Myanmar and lead several socially and ecologically oriented projects.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
I think achievements are to be recognized by others, not by ourselves… But if I have to answer, success for us is the happiness and putting into action the vision that we have in our hearts. Every year 40 students come to us. We don’t know how they will end up in their life but we feel we can do good, we can give some knowledge that we learned ourselves before, we can share. And we are happy with that despite challenges which are behind. We are happy.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Every day we are dealing with human beings and we are not professional trainers, it’s not our background. It’s only the third year. The space is limited, facilities we provide are limited and the surrounding area, the lake, is quite noisy because of tourists and especially because of the engine of the boats. We are running a 6 rooms hotel and it’s a kind of premium brand. We also have premium price we charge clients with. That means actually more and more restrictions on ourselves in terms of service we provide, to make clients happy. We have to set rules. For example, we have a playground but we can’t let kids play as much as they want. The noise is not always good as we have to care about clients. In late afternoon the scenery and everything goes tranquil etc. We don’t want any complain from tourists because of us or students. Another challenge… our students are pretty young, 17-23 years old, they are full of energy and we cannot provide the way they want to enjoy life, apart from studying. It’s our limitation, part of the challenge. And not really a big thing but maybe be challenging as well are finances. We want to make long term sustainability but with the market system, competitiveness, with stuff’s salary, etc. is not easy. We also have quite high maintenance costs.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
We are going to expand our social business. We will produce and offer more products in our souvenirs shop. We want to give more benefits to product makers, weavers, etc. When this is done, we want to open a foundation. Have you visited a weaving factory? Some of the weaving techniques are actually in danger. Less young people are interested in learning them because of those complicated things and sophisticated patterns, you need a lot of patience and it’s time consuming. The other thing is wages. You can pick up easy or difficult weaving technic, but the wages are the same. So people just pick up easier one. We want to change this. All the products will be sold through this shop under the foundation. And another project: we are trying to build a private school. The school is going to be built from bamboo. We are working with an expert group from Thailand. They are going to build this really, really beautiful architecture. And after that ideally we will follow with bamboo training to produce craft.
Would you like to add something more?
Change is not an easy task. I see it as a process. If you don’t believe in anything, actually the change doesn’t come. You have to believe in something that you want to change. From this what you need is education and everyone’s participations. Change doesn’t happen on your own, you need community.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Inle Lake, Myanmar, 25th May 2016