DESIGNING BELONGING, MYANMAR
Mudita Foundation is an NGO which aims to improve the living conditions of underprivileged and orphaned children in Myanmar. Currently they have two educational initiatives, one in Mandalay where they support around 3,000 children, and their flagship project in Nyaung Shwe, where they support another 250 children, in a completely self-sufficient eco-complex based inside the Htet Ean Gu Monastery.
Mudita provides children with free, modern education, including a Waldorf kindergarten, computer classes as well as life-skills development such as eco-farming, building, crafts, among others.
Students also receive food and access to healthcare, and a big portion of them live in the school.
To learn more about Mudita go to www.muditafoundation.de
Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the world, devastated by internal conflicts and a civil war. Over 25% of people still live below poverty line. Mudita's main focus is to support a healthy and well educated new generation.
Students, teachers, admin staff and volunteers spend most of their time at Mudita, most of them live within the school facilities, this is why being able to feel at home is crucial.
For children, having a sense of belonging is fundamental to their development, as it's directly related to developing a positive sense of identity and feeling valued and respected as part of a family and community. This is particularly relevant for kids who have been neglected or have become orphans.
Belonging has demonstrated to play a central role in how students and teachers show up in school, whether they feel they can be themselves, whether they can see themselves as learners. Space design that fulfil the human need for belonging improves engagement and productivity.
How might we create a space that promotes a sense of belonging and pride among students, staff and volunteers?
A big part of belonging is related with being able to find common ground with a group of people and a place, feeling that we are part of a community and a territory.
That's why during the summer school 2020 we put together a collaborative team of teachers, volunteers and students dedicated to make Mudita school a place everyone could feel they own. We co-designed murals to bring life an identity to the school facilities and built didactic spaces using plants and bamboo structures to create a connection with nature where kids could learn how to take care of it.
We also designed the new school uniform and some merchandising, which not only provides recognition and a sense of pride to those wearing it, but also it can be sold to to visitors to create a new stream of income for the foundation.
The results and feedback were extremely positive, kids and staff were excited about being able to visibly transform their space and make it their own. Having a new space and uniform helped creating a sense of pride and community.