Nestled on the southern bank of the Yangon River, Dala Township is a humble neighbor to Myanmar’s bustling capital, Yangon. Here in this remote village is where the Samsung C&T Trading Group have been volunteering for the last three years to help build school infrastructure.
The small fishing village is still largely rural, characterized by harsh dirt roads and concrete structures. Life in Dala is harsher than most parts of Myanmar with 80% of residents making on average only two-thirds the annual income of their compatriots. Like many regions suffering from poverty, the local children are disproportionately affected by the living conditions.
This year, a group of 40 people, including Samsung C&T employees and their families, traveled to the small town for a 5-day volunteer trip. Together with the NGO Plan Korea, and local partner Diamond Star Co., LTD, they helped improve the infrastructure of Dala Primary School No. 8 in what turned out to be a fantastic learning experience for everyone.
Bringing Gifts and Smiles
Before arriving in Dala, gifts were prepared for the children including snacks and school supplies such as pencils and notebooks. Volunteers delivered the gifts as they interacted with the children and got to know the local community. They also sat with the children to do arts and crafts, finding that the close interaction helped them think deeper about their own lives.
“The children were very pure,” said Sang-soo Park. “I thought they would keep their guards up, but they approached me first and said ‘hi’ in Korean, which made me want to devote myself to more volunteer activities like these. It’s very rewarding.”
Building New Infrastructure
Much of the tasks on this year’s trip involved upgrading the elementary school’s broken infrastructure and improving the safety of the facilities. To improve access to water, a new water tank was installed. Inside, a bulletin board and a shoe shelf were installed, while the entire facility received a fresh coat of paint. Volunteers took special care to paint murals on classroom walls.
“I heard children in Myanmar are very curious about the sea and ocean because they don’t get to see it often,” said Bo-hyun Kwon. “So, I thought by having a sea-themed mural, I could help them satisfy their curiosity.”
While it took a lot of effort, perhaps the most important part of the trip was that it offered a learning experience. Samsung C&T members were joined by their spouses and children, offering a chance to share the unique experience with their loved ones.
“Even though it was not a relaxing vacation, it was a meaningful time to enjoy the joy of sharing with my daughter,” said Chang-soo Chung. “It is rewarding to see the school facilities cleaned up.”
For others, the trip provided a chance for some personal reflection.
“Helping others was an opportunity for me to look back on life. It was a chance for me to think whether I was living a fierce life, and how content I am with life, and to be more responsible for my life,” said Yong-soo Kim, head of South East Asia & Oceania’s regional office. “It also got me to think about how I should make time to care about other people.”
A Legacy of Volunteer Service
This is not the first trip Samsung C&T Trading Group members have made to Dala. The program has been running since 2011, starting with activities in India where they renovated school playgrounds, libraries, and helped deliver clean water with the construction of new water towers. In 2016, they transitioned to Myanmar, where they have been doing similar work with local elementary schools.
Guided by the mantra “Share Together, Happy Together”, Samsung C&T is steered by an overarching company culture of corporate social responsibility that brings out the best in their employees as they engage the communities in which they work.
Other volunteer activities have included a one-day vocational program for disabled youth from the Shanghai Disabled Person’s Employment Service Center, which gave participants a chance to see the inner-workings of Methanex, a Canadian methanol supplier, and Samsung C&T’s Shanghai subsidiary. In the United States, Samsung C&T America conducts an annual blood drive, while members Samsung C&T Japan have participated in cleaning up the hiking trails of Mount Fuji.