Our 28-day project in Myanmar would not have been a success if it weren't for the genuine help from the Thabyay Education Foundation's Kant Kaw Education Center. Kant Kaw is a school that sources students from the various disenfranchised ethnic groups around the country and provides them a full scholarship to the English language school. The school helps to further these students’ education, careers, and lives. Students are chosen based on their level of English and their passion to give back to their community and society. Our translators came from this pool.

The first time we visited the school we met our translators, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Win The. I was in awe of their passion to contribute to their home communities in the future. They all have such big dreams; they're eager to study aboard and return home to lead their communities.

Kant Kaw's program director, Sam, is a Korean-American who used to work in the US in higher education and has devoted himself to this organization for the past eight months. He told us that outside of Yangon there are so many students who want to pursue continuing education, and all of them want to return to their communities and give back. Sam travels to states across Myanmar to recruit the most qualified students. He told us that choosing one student from the hundreds of devoted and passionate applicants is extremely difficult.

During our last week in Myanmar, Taka and I went to Mandalay. Through Thabyay’s network we were able to find a translator based in Mandalay named Mon Mon Phyo. She is now an online student at a university in Australia and is pursuing a degree in English at the University of Mandalay. She used to study engineering but had to quit school when her father passed away and her family ran into financial difficulty. Despite these challenges, she told us that her dream was to help a grassroots organization that gives women access to better education so that they can provide their children with basic education. In addition to these dreams and pursuing her education, Mon Mon still finds time to help her brother who works with farmers to protect their rights from merchants that take advantage of them. As she told me her story, I became more and more impressed because her dreams were so big and she still wanted to continue her brother’s farming project! In fact, since her brother's project runs with little financial support, she also works part time as a private tutor to help fund his work. I was truly moved by the generosity and devotion with which she serves her community.

Finally, two days before we left Myanmar, the students at Kant Kaw gave us presentations on each of their ethnic groups. I felt so honored that the six of us had the opportunity to listen to presentations from over 50 students. The color of their presentations and feeling in their hearts was overwhelming. All of them shared their optimism for Myanmar's future and saw their education as a means to give back to their country. After the presentation, some students came to talk to us to ask for advice and about our experience in the US. They saw us as role models. But to be honest, I felt a little embarrassed. I'm not a role model. I just have more opportunity. I exert less effort, have less motivation, and think more about myself than my community.

In reality, all of the Kant Kaw students are my role models. They work so hard, are extremely motivated, and are driven to study. They taught me valuable lessons. They made me realize how lucky I am and taught me the value in my opportunity to be able to study in the US. In short, this experience taught me to persevere in my studies now that I know that others do not have access to this opportunity. Most importantly, I now know that I should not think about myself but rather about what I can contribute to my community and society.

Author: Chaninat (Ann) Imerbsin