Ma Pu Sue is a welcoming, warm-spirited, strong woman. She spent a few years as a single mother, working hard to support her two daughters, ensuring that they never went without food, clothing, education or love. Sue is now also raising her two nieces in addition to her daughters after her brother joined the monastery due to some difficult times in his own personal life. Sue runs a cooking class for tourists near Inle Lake, Myanmar. She uses the proceeds from her cooking class to fund an English language school for the community children and even eager adults in the surrounding area at no cost to the students. Sue supports English speaking volunteers to stay on her property where she provides food and lodging at no cost in exchange for these volunteers to teach English classes in her school a few days per week. When we visited, there were three European volunteers who were traveling on an extended holiday around Southeast Asia, they visited Bamboo Delight Cooking School for a cooking class, then they decided to stay for a month volunteering with the children and getting to know the area better.
One of Sue’s previous cooking class guests noticed her passion in wanting to better the lives of her friends and neighbors and decided to put Sue in touch with Be the Change Global Outreach. Be the Change is a nonprofit organization which provides free medical and dental care to people around the world with an aim of better understanding the communities they serve and identifying future needs for the area. Be the Change worked with Sue to determine their immediate needs and put together a 10-member team to serve the neighborhood in Spring 2017, this is how I came to know Sue and Bamboo Delight.
Sue and her family served a home cooked meal to us at every opportunity for the three days that we spent in Inle Lake. She gathered friends, neighbors and anyone that they could reach to make sure that all the children came to see our dental hygienist to receive sealants on their adult molars preventing tooth decay; and that any adult or child in need of medical care visited our team of nurses, pharmacists, an EMT and a nurse practitioner. Sue arranged local translators who donated their time to assist our team in serving their neighbors, they facilitated discussions to uncover ailments as well as relaying educational information regarding hand hygiene and proper hydration (two major points contributing to ongoing health issues within this community).
Sue took us to an orphanage to provide medical and dental services to the kids and their caregivers, some of the team was also able to pass around toys and play with the little ones. It was truly special to see so many destitute, dirty, shoeless orphans grinning bigger than their cheeks should’ve allowed because of one little yo-yo, or coloring book, or ball, or even just a hug. Sue blessed all of us by bringing us to this monastery orphanage, despite her intent of blessing the sweet little boys (which I think was also a success!).
The neighborhood children who attend Sue’s English language school were all around during our visit too – practicing their English with us, playing pranks, helping translate, serving us food and even throwing water all around since we were in town during Thingyan Festival (basically a nation wide water fight, more on this here). It is inspiring to see the passion that they have for learning, and so encouraging to see their school space and library grow as Sue walked us through the additions they’ve been able to make to the learning space just within the past year.
Sue and her husband led us through their cooking class demonstration one night and we had so much fun learning how to make Burmese cuisine inspired by the Shan region where Inle is located. We each signed up for two dishes then shared everything family-style so that we could try it all – there was peanut-pumpkin curry, spiced green beans, tomato salad, beef curry, dumplings, tea leaf salad, and more; all of the recipes can be found on their website. If you find yourself in Myanmar, definitely reserve a spot in a Bamboo Delight cooking class; you will make lifelong memories while supporting a great cause. If you are a college aged student looking for an inexpensive and life-changing adventure, seriously consider heading to Inle for a month or two where you will have a home and delicious food provided to you while you mentor to and teach the Burmese youth and adventure around a country that you might otherwise have never seen!