Who We Are

Build a School in Burma is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that raises funds to build schools in underserved communities in Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. We seek to increase access to education for poor Myanmar children. A three-person Executive Committee makes final decisions with overall activities supported by a volunteer Advisory Board and a paid in-country director.

According to the United Nations, Myanmar (Burma) is among the poorest and least educated countries in Asia. Myanmar ranks 145th out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. The average adult has only about four years of formal education.

Rural Burmese villages typically do not have running water or electricity, and are often linked by roads not passable in the rainy season. Food is cooked over wood or charcoal fires.  In the countryside, almost everyone is a farmer and farming is a subsistence occupation. Formalized health care is difficult to access, and where available, not affordable.

Many villages do not have schools, or only have schools through the 4th grade, so children have limited or no access to education. Farm families often have 3 to 7 children. Lacking literacy and numeracy, they have scant prospects in the 21st Century and are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Bob Cornwell hadn’t read these stark statistics when he was trekking through Southern Shan State in January 2010; instead, he saw first hand how they manifested in the lives of real people. With two young guides he passed through many ethnically and linguistically diverse rural villages, stopping to chat with monks, villagers and children along the way. Although all of the villages had many children, Bob was struck by the fact that most had no school.

In the market town of Kalaw, Bob connected with the Rural Development Society (RDS), a local NGO. Persevering since 1990 in spite of political and economic challenges, RDS had built schools in several surrounding villages and had two more sites that were “school ready.”  This meant that the village had a donated school site, a commitment for government teachers, a school committee, a school design and budget, a strong desire from parents to see their children educated and a commitment from villagers to carry-out unskilled labor to build a school. They just needed money to execute the vision.

Returning to San Francisco, Bob asked his friend Andrew Lederer if he would help raise money to build a village school with RDS. They created Build a School in Burma (BSB) and started raising funds. Bob and Andrew wrote the first checks and started a campaign for donations.  To the surprise of both, enough money to build a school was soon in-hand.

The result of that initial effort is Nan Auw Primary School and the inspiration to continue working to provide access to education to the children of Myanmar.

To learn more about current events in Myanmar, use these links:


Times Topics: Myanmar

To read articles and interviews with BSB, click any of the following links:

One School at a Time: How to Build 40 Schools in Myanmar for Less than a Million Dollars (National Peace Corps Association)

"To Build a School in Burma" - Myanmar Times

"Hiking Inspires School-Building Mission" - Voice of America