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The power of data: improving education in Myanmar

16 January 2019


In 2019, three more Octopus colleagues are preparing to travel overseas, thanks to Octopus Giving’s volunteering partnership with The International Exchange (TIE). We spoke to Felicia Kodderitzsch, Business & Operations Manager at Octopus Cash, about her upcoming project in Myanmar.

Sometimes the perfect opportunity takes a while to come along. Just ask Felicia Kodderitzsch, Business and Operations Manager for Octopus Cash.

Felicia has long aspired to use her private sector experience to make a social impact. Now, through the volunteering programme created by TIE, she’s found the perfect opportunity to realise her ambition.

Next year, Felicia will spend a month in Myanmar, also known as Burma, volunteering with Prospect Burma, an education charity.  

“They started almost 30 years ago, setting up schools in marginalised communities,’ she said. “Now, they’re focused on getting students into high school education and university. They also have a big scholarship programme.”

Graduation in Burma

Building a community

Felicia will spend a month helping to develop Prospect Burma’s alumni network, from mapping it out, to locating past students, to reconnecting with them. She hopes her efforts will open up new fundraising opportunities for the charity.

“Skills-wise, I really like working with data and people, and bringing structure into chaos, so this project sounds like a good match,” she explained. “I’ve always wanted to make a social impact with my career. This is the first opportunity I’ve had – it’s almost too good to be true!”

A welcome return

For Felicia, volunteering in Myanmar is the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with an area she knows and loves – and make a real difference.

“I have a massive love for South East Asia. I spent my high school years in Hanoi, Vietnam. And I visited Burma in 2010, when it had just opened up to tourism. So much has happened there since. To get immersed in daily life will be amazing,” she said.

“But I also saw a huge scope for impact through an education charity that empowers people to learn. Prospect Burma is a small charity, with five to ten people in the Myanmar office, but the reach they have is incredible.”

Of course, there’s a big difference between holidaying in a country and actually living there. That’s where my international development training has been especially helpful.

“I’ve never worked somewhere where I haven’t spoken the language. The working culture in Myanmar – and things like going to the pub with a colleague – is very different,” Felicia said.  “We worked on the tools and skills we need to engage people, and get into productive conversations. It was really useful.”

Diving in

Felicia’s leave date is still to be confirmed, but she expects it to be in March. In the meantime, she’s carefully avoiding too much forward planning.

“My charity has a London office, which I’d like to visit in January. But there’ll be minimal contact with the charity in Burma beforehand. The idea is to throw yourself in the cold water and not have any preconceptions,” she explains.

What does Felicia hope to gain from her time away? “I often jump to conclusions really quickly. So that’s something I really want to take out of this – to just pay attention and listen.”

She has one more goal, too: “I want to learn some Burmese jokes!”