Doh Eain: Preserving Yangon

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Prettily drawn and painted, the charming little figures in that little stretch of alleyway off 27th street stands as a crowning achievement to what can be achieved when everyone- the locals, expats and the authorities work together to create as well as preserve something that could be lost in the blink of an eye.

“Doh Eain is a social enterprise aimed at heritage conservation and urban renewal”, said the founder of Doh Eain, Ms Emilie Röell. “We started informally, helping friends in November 2015 and have been picking up pace ever since”

The tall Dutch woman has been living in Myanmar for over 4 years to date now, and had founded Doh Eain in response to Myanmar’s rapid development and the fear of losing Yangon’s historical treasures in the modernizing process. And as I asked her on whether Doh Eain’s work entailed making money for profit, wherein Emilie replied that Doh Eain had two sides, “separate yet complimenting each other”

“Doh Eain renovates those heritage buildings and/or apartments whose owners want them to be renovated and rented out”. “This provides homeowners with an income and the means to look after their buildings, and also provides Doh Eain with the money to carry out non-revenue generating public space upgrading projects. , said Ms. Röell, has shared about her project at TEDxTalk Yangon this year.

The other sides, the non-profit side, are projects such as the “alley garden project” – renovating and refurbishing Yangon’s ramshackle alleys to expand community and public space. The project was supplemented with funds through a crowd funding campaign, including the support of several embassies (to date Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, the EU and the Netherlands), companies and personal donations.

The local government is supporting with material and moral support such as cleaning up the alleys, and repairing things that normal citizens would normally not be able to, such as gray and black water pipes and growth of trees and plants in the walls.

“The Yangon City mayor has come visited us, and we’re working hand in hand with YCDC, they’ve been a great help in getting the cooperation of the local authorities and the help of the residents here,” added Ms. Röell.

For the first phase of expansion; another whole kilometer of alley gardens spread out over 4-5 different locations in downtown; Doh Eain needed $50,000. The organization managed to collect every cent they needed.

Their next locations include the alleyway in between Seikkantha and 39 street middle blocks, and 31-32 street middle blocks.

“With the 1 km expansion in different locations, we hope to firmly plant the idea that back alleys – rather than waste space – can be valuable community or public space. We hope to start a broad discussion. We’re very happy more and more neighborhoods are starting to come to us or are starting to do the same by themselves in their back alleys. We don’t think the idea will be accepted everywhere overnight, but with some persistence we hope we can slowly make a real shift” she concluded.

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