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.

Why Burma?
How we work
The Team
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:

"To Build a School in Burma" - Myanmar Times

"Hiking Inspires School-Building Mission" - Voice of America
Build a School in Burma (BSB) works with several Myanmar partner organizations, typically non-governmental organizations or religious groups, with knowledge of communities in need of schools. With these organizations, we identify candidate communities, create a partnership with them, raise the needed funds, and build the school with the local partner organization and the community. The community, usually through a school committee, is also a partner in this effort, typically contributing land and unskilled labor.

With our local partner organization, BSB visits the community to meet community leaders and survey the existing school or school site.  We evaluate the community, document the need for the school and assess the community’s ability to contribute to and sustain the school. This vetting process includes gathering information about the community, the need for the school, how the school project will be carried out, how it will be sustained once built, and information for a budget and a timetable.

Partners are asked to prepare formal proposals including a construction budget. Once BSB approves a project proposal, an agreement is signed with the local partner and the school committee. After funding is secured and government approval received, construction commences. From start to school opening, the process typically takes a few months to a year or more.


* Click here for biographies of Advisory Board members

  • Robert Cornwell, Founder/Executive Director
  • Andrew Lederer, Co-Founder/Director
  • Dan Kipp, Director
  • Jennifer Chan
  • Rose Cornwell, Social Media
  • Frank DeRosa, Solar Energy
  • Naing Naing Lin, Country Director
  • Aye Moah/Liaison to Technology & Burmese Communities
  • Willis Phua
  • Cathryn Thurow, Development/Marketing
  • Kenneth Wong, Communications/Social Media/Burmese Community Outreach
BSB is proud to work with the following Burma-based organizations in its school projects.


HEART OF YOUTH Colorful Flowers Preschool Heart of Youth is a youth community devoted to disaster relief and volunteerism. http://www.facebook.com/Heart-of-Youth-390494427706687/

KAREN WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT GROUP In Ta Lu School Htone Gyi Schools Mu Doo School Founded on International Women’s Day in March 2003, the KWEG continues to advocate for women’s rights and empowerment. http://www.kweg.org http://www.facebook.com/karenwomen.actiongroup


MEIKSWE MYANMAR (FRIENDSHIP MYANMAR) Ohn Chaung School Pain Sar School Lwae Ngu School Don Khamar Chaung School Based in Lashio, Shan State, Meikswe Myanmar provides long-term training and support to local organizations and works with them in health, education, and community development projects. http://www.facebook.com/Meikswe-Myanmar-1542310259384070/

MERCY CENTER THAILAND Ko Lao Mogen School www.mercycentre.org

MONG PING CATHOLIC PARISH Pon Khet School Pane Morn School

MYANMAR UNION ADVENTIST SEMINARY San Chaung Lay Secondary School http://www.adventist.asia/information/institutions/myanmar-union-mission/myanmar-union-adventist-seminary/



PHAUNG DAW OO MONASTIC EDUCATION HIGH SCHOOL Targwa School Sathila School Based in Mandalay, Phaung Daw Oo provides free education for all children, regardless of their religion. https://www.facebook.com/phaungdawoomonasticeducation/




Phara Gyi School