Global Hope Network International (GHNI) Meets Myanmar:

Impact of Leadership

By Dee Rivers
Part 6

Global Hope Network International (GHNI) Meets Myanmar: Disaster destroys the delta but opens the door.

On maps, Myanmar resembles a flame leaping up into the Indo-China landscape from the Bay of Bengal, spreading from a long, thin wick of land on the coast of the Andaman Sea. The people who live in the coastal delta -- farmers, traders, fishermen, laborers -- coexist in harmony, despite having vastly different ethnic origins -- of which Myanmar has 135!

They also live with danger: The hazards of living at sea level in a region at severe risk for weather catastrophes that begin at sea -- cyclones, seismic events, tsunamis …

On May 2, 2008, an early southwest monsoon spawned Nargis, a giant cyclone that inhaled miles of sea air and exhaled, at over 200 km/hr, to push a 12-foot tidal surge that obliterated the southern coastal regions of the country.

According to official figures, 84,500 people dead; 53,800 missing; 35 townships significantly damaged; infrastructure demolished; 2.4 million people affected. 

Michael Parks is the Disaster Relief Coordinator for Global Hope Network International (GHNI) and when Nargis struck, he “... petitioned the government there relentlessly until he finally got a visa to go in with relief,” says Mike Shea, TLD director. “The compassion we brought into Myanmar led to relationships within the government.”

Those relationships did not materialize with a finger snap. It took years. It took steadfastness. It took sensitivity. It took respect. It took patience. It took the leadership of people of peace.

In the years since the Nargis disaster, Shea has sipped countless cups of tea, leaned in to listen over tea leaf salad lunches, and slowly built a common-goal consortium with key leaders in Myanmar’s fledgling, yet fluid, democracy. More key relationships have been cemented, more doors have opened.

In 2013, key delegates attended GHNI’s Geneva Institute of Leadership and Public Policy (GLIPP) and caught the vision and took it home.

In 2014, again they came and again took home the vision. The vision went viral and TLD went to work.

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” Washington Carver

The TLD approach in Myanmar is to gain access to people already in leadership positions, a.e. parliament, central government, political parties.

“While we’re waiting for the [new] government to be seated, we’re going to try to work with university students, the future leaders,” says Shea, who worked with multiple political parties prior to the election.

In the pre-election workshops, “We took them through our leadership modules training and taught two distinct groups, according to social status,” says Shea.

That process required masterful diplomacy. One group was older, established in the economic hierarchy, less flexible, and … call it … socially tenured. The second group was younger, more teachable, the emerging New Guard.

As the process unfolded, the deep desire for change was palpable. An eloquent speaker said. “Please come … You [Americans] have 200 years of democracy; we’re just getting started. It’s a dream. We have never heard of this kind of leadership before -- transformational and servant leadership, rather than a dictator, an influencer telling others what to do.”

So, after all that history, after all those years of inaccessibility, here is the Miracle: The entire organization (GHNI, GILPP, TLD) working cohesively, has, by early 2016, equipped 700 leaders in this long-closed land -- 700 leaders -- with the TLD values, vision, methods and empowerment to bring the transformation so craved across their land.

“I have made eight trips to Myanmar. After all this time, now I understand it. I have a comfort level. It’s something like home.” says director Shea. “It has become my primary focus.”

Much has changed for the symbology of Myanmar: King Wareru would be insulted, if not downright horrified, to learn that the hinthar, that strong, royal bird of courage and wisdom that adorned his standard is now available pickled or marinated from the Little Burma online grocer for six dollars. And though the dancing peacock no longer appears on Myanmar’s banknotes, he still glitters on old coins and soars on festive pennants, having his call and dance after all, because Myanmar is spreading her wings, trembling with fledgling democracy.

What has not changed is the linguist meaning of Myanmar: the strong people.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader  -- John Quincy Adams

Will you help others to dream, learn, do and become more by helping provide training to leaders in Myanmar, as they set out to guide their people on that country’s brave new path?