The Burmese Immersion Project works directly with refugees from Southeast Asia who reside in Milwaukee, WI. Committed to educational and social enhancement, the Burmese Immersion Project empowers refugees to navigate American society, access resources, and become community leaders.
History of Burmese Immersion Project
The Burmese Immersion Project (BIP) was founded in 2011 by Bob Heffernan and Becca Schultz in response to the need for academic tutoring and cultural mentorship of refugee children from Burma, also called Myanmar, who now reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The refugee families fled their country to save their lives, escaping ethnic conflict which has existed for decades. Over 1,000 refugees live in the Milwaukee area. Most of them are ethnic minorities in Burma. BIP began when Bob, a landlord, noticed his refugee tenants were largely isolated from the larger Milwaukee community, the children’s school grades were woefully inadequate, and their English proficiency was not progressing. Captivated by the Burmese families’ humble, grateful nature and their indomitable spirit, Bob was compelled to help.
Becca joined Bob in his mission to help the Burmese refugees shortly after he recognized the need. Having been raised by parents that emphasized social justice, she was seeking a volunteer opportunity to fulfill a deep desire in her life to help others, especially marginalized populations.
Becca and Bob found they make a great team and were humbled and honored to co-accept the 2012 “Inspire By Example” Award for Best Team from the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee.
BIP began as a handful of individuals helping a group of 10 refugee kids with their homework and giving impromptu English lessons. Today, BIP serves 50 students with homework help, advanced tutoring, and whole-language based ESL projects. BIP has more than 35 volunteers, including UWM students and members of local faith communities.