Helping from a distance: how overseas Burmese youth are mobilizing to support their home

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

BridgeBurma is an online educational platform run by overseas Burmese youth. They’ve successfully donated 12,500 surgical masks to the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Myanmar and 10,000 MMK (8USD) to 200 street vendors in Yangon.

For the dedicated team working on the platform, BridgeBurma is nothing short of a passion project. These overseas Burmese college students are committed to giving back to their country and there’s little that can stop them. The BridgeBurma team aims to give back and mitigate the effects of brain drain by connecting overseas students to youth in Myanmar through mentorship, career, and university application coaching. From the glowing recommendations and reviews left by past mentees, it's clear that they have and will continue to fulfill these ambitions.

Screenshot of testimonials from BridgeBurma’s website (Source:

BridgeBurma was set up in 2018 by Burmese students studying abroad in the US. These students wanted to contribute to the motherland that raised them but felt that geographic distance and a lack of networks stood in the way. Their solution was simple and effective. Through an online platform, they built a bridge between the diaspora and Myanmar, connecting the global and local Burmese communities. The platform includes a Forum where users can have questions answered by the community, as well as a Mentorship Directory which allows users to interact with BridgeBurma mentors and receive personalized counseling.

I first came across BridgeBurma when a friend recommended their Phase 1 fundraiser on GoFundMe. By the time I got in touch, they’d already managed to raise 2,000 pounds and arrange for the purchase and delivery of 12,500 surgical masks to the Ministry of Health and Sports in Myanmar. As we’ve highlighted in our country summary on Myanmar, the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) is especially crucial for the country given reports of infections amongst healthcare workers.

Picture of the PPE donations being received by Dr Oak Gar Phyo, team leader and representative at the Ministry of Health and Sports (Source: BridgeBurma fundraiser)

I had the good fortune of speaking to some on the BridgeBurma team a couple of times over Zoom. I thought I’d hear about the success of Phase 1 and how they went about arranging delivery of PPE on short notice but their sights were already firmly set on a Phase 2 fundraiser. This second phase of their campaign is targeting street vendors in the city of Yangon whose livelihoods have been significantly impacted by COVID and are currently at risk of poverty. They are partnering with ‘Do Eain’, which manages a database of 3000 vendors who are in need of immediate support. Every Friday, Doh Eain disburses PPE and two days’ worth of minimum wage to each vendor in different townships across Yangon.

Editor's Note: Read COVID Attacks Culture - a feature on the importance of supporting vendors and hawkers through these difficult times

Ever-energetic, they’ve already donated part of the money raised under Phase 2. To date, BridgeBurma has donated 2,000,000MMK (US$1425), helping 200 vendors, prioritizing those in the most impoverished townships. Each time an additional US$1425 is gathered, they will be donating that money to an additional 200 vendors.

A street vendor using improvised face coverings during the pandemic. (Source: BridgeBurma fundraiser)

In its infancy, BridgeBurma was a small organization with just five employees. But in just two short years, it has grown eight-fold to 18 core employees and 22 mentors. In the near future, the team plans to roll out an editorial blog to feature user-generated content, conduct more workshops to educate youth in Myanmar, and launch an educational video portal on their website. Given how quickly BridgeBurma has grown and how effectively it has adapted to addressing the most pressing needs in Burmese society, we are confident that they will continue to do even better through the pandemic and beyond. These highly effective and resolute youth are determined to make the world a better place. You can join them in their efforts by donating to the BridgeBurma Phase 2 Fundraiser. Doing so not only helps Burmese citizens with their daily livelihoods but is also an investment and a vote of confidence in the youth of Myanmar who are actively creating a Myanmar they want to live in.