Hpa-an, the capital of the Karen (Kayin) State in southeast Myanmar historically has seen some very hard times. The lack of available work for disadvantaged youth with little skills and minimal education leads them to drugs and alcohol. ADRA Myanmar saw an opportunity to engage with these young people by establishing a café that would not only serve food, but also provide jobs, skills training and community-based activities designed for cultural exchange. This is how the Veranda Youth Community Café was born.

The café serves as a western-styled hub for youth and tourists to enjoy local and international cuisine, while giving the youth an opportunity to participate in community-building activities. A key focus of this project is to provide youth the opportunity to gain experience in customer service and food retail. Amongst the Verandah Café staff is 24 year-old refugee Nan Moe Moe Mai from Umphein Camp on the Thai-Myanmar boarder, as well as several interns looking for experience that will enhance their studies.

Basic cooking classes of classic Karen dishes native to the region, avocado juice, as well as language lessons in English and Japanese are all on offer. Organized sports activities, singing competitions and guitar lessons are also available. The future hope is to build a small library with an accompanying reading club that youth and tourists can enjoy.

The Veranda Café sees a steady increase in its clientele, even making mention on Trip Advisor as a hot spot for visiting tourists. This initiative is only a small step in the right direction. Ongoing support and development is required to build a more sustainable future for the Karen State and its people. As the primary sector of ADRA Myanmar, education is seen to be an important component of contributing to this positive change. Several projects have been established in the area that focuses on improving education not only in the capitol, but also in the outlying areas.

The Veranda Café initiative is component to the KCB III ‘Youth Mobilization and Capacity Building in South-East Phase III’ project funded and supported by ADRA Czech Republic and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

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