A self-sustaining community library, Dawei Millennium Centre, was established in 2007 by five university graduates in the city of Dawei, the capital of Tanintharyi region, Myanmar. The library was founded in the region with the ultimate goal of transforming the community into a knowledgeable and digitally literate society.

To implement this vision, the following mission statements were developed:

  • providing up-to-date information and raise awareness on health and education in the community;
  • enhancing English language skills of learners by providing quality English classes and self-learning books;
  • cultivating knowledge in all sectors through innovative library services; and
  • upgrading digital literacy skills of the community

As the library’s primary aim is to raise awareness of key issues in the region, a programme ‘A Nursery for Future’ was conducted between 2009 and 2019. The library visited 113 primary schools, 12 post-primary schools, 3 middle schools, 4 high schools, 8 monastic schools and 2 orphanages to raise awareness on personal hygiene and dental health. In addition, the children had a chance to learn moral values, the beauty of diversity and other life skills through the storytelling session held during our visits. About 20,000 students benefitted from the programme.

Through a collaboration with the Myanmar Book Aids Preservation Foundation, Dawei Millennium Centre started contributing its digital knowledge with the community by providing Digital Information Literacy training since 2016. With the emerging technology and rising popularity of social media, digital literacy is a must-know subject for all. Several in-person workshops and trainings as well as virtual workshops were organised by the centre for the region. About 10,000 users acquired digital literacy skills through these sessions.

Given that women’s labour force participation rate is still lower than men’s, the library has been involved in the Tech Age Girls Myanmar programme since 2017 to equip women with digital skills and strengthen digital literacy. In addition, the programme encouraged personal and professional development and introduced entrepreneurship to young women between 16 and 20 years old. For three consecutive years, a girl who represented our library was awarded as the outstanding girl at a national-level conference.

With our passion for digital transformation and innovative technology, our centre was nominated to set up a maker space. We organised a maker tour twice and provided a space for youth for their design and creation.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools to close for periods since 2020. Unfortunately, while the schools are open nowadays, many students are still unwilling to attend schools for their safety. In addition, a number of students as well as parents are still not ready to participate in remote learning due to a lack of digital readiness skills, electronic devices and internet access.

To tackle that problem, we started the Be Ready programme which was funded by the British Council. As part of the project, we trained 20 students who are between 13 and 16 years old on digital skills, media and digital information literacy, personal development skills, content writing and storytelling skills. At the end of the training, the participants created self-learning videos on digital readiness in their mother tongue and uploaded them on Dawei Millennium Centre’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Viewers who wish to enhance their digital skills could do so by watching these self-learning videos. In addition, the participants created storytelling videos for kids to learn moral values and ethics. Last but not least, they conducted research on their region and produced writings to promote their region’s tradition and culture.

Establishing a library might not be a difficult task but sustaining and keeping the library alive is challenging to all librarians and founders. The Dawei Millennium Centre hopes to receive greater support to conduct English classes that provide locals with better employment opportunities and to offer more library and community services in future.

If there are donors interested in supporting us, please visit us at www.facebook.com/daweimillenniumcentre.

Written by: Kyaw Lwin Soe, Founder, Dawei Millennium Centre, Myanmar