• Meet


    Udom received a full tuition scholarship to study architecture at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. He wants to build a resort in his hometown and improve Cambodia's cities through urban architecture.

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  • Meet

    Say K'Bleet

    Raised in refugee camps, Say K'Bleet will be the first person in her family to graduate from college. She wants to assist refugees living along the Thai-Burma border after graduation.

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  • Meet


    One of seven raised by her mother, May worked eight years after high school before starting college. She hopes someday to start a non-profit that provides students with the skillsets needed for employment.

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  • Meet

    Mu Sel

    A social activist, Mu Sel speaks six languages and identifies with the Kayaw, a small ethnic group of Myanmar. She dreams of becoming a member of parliament and continuing to promote the Kayaw people.

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  • Meet


    Thukha became fascinated with development after observing aid workers in the field. He hopes to use his degree to increase literacy, respect of human rights, and protect the environment.

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    Ei Poke

    Due to her father’s involvement in political activities in Myanmar, Ei Poke and her family ended up in a refugee camp in Thailand. Passionate about helping others, she is committed to serving her community as a social worker.

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Fund a Student Loan in Southeast Asia

How It Works

How Zomia Works: Fund a Student Loan

What is Zomia SPC?

Zomia SPC is a social purpose corporation launched in 2014 to increase access to higher education among students from marginalized communities. We do so by providing students from marginalized communities affordable education loans that are funded by philanthropic individuals and institutions from around the world.

What is peer-to-peer lending?

Peer-to-peer lending (often abbreviated “P2P”) occurs when one or more individuals lend money to another without the involvement of a traditional financial institution such as a bank. Zomia employs a peer-to-peer lending model tailored for higher education, in which individuals can contribute a small loan towards financing a student’s education. Learn about P2P lending on Wikipedia.

How can I support a Zomia student?

Supporting students is done with a credit card or PayPal account. To get started, either create an account or find a student to support via our Student Roster. If you choose this latter option then you’ll create your account at checkout. Creating an account is necessary to receive repayments and updates from students.

Where does Zomia work?

Currently, Southeast Asia. Zomia was launched to address the unusual disparity of opportunity that exists in the region, particularly among the Myanmar immigrant population in Thailand. While high-quality universities exist in Southeast Asia, the lack of traditional financing available to students from marginalized communities makes them prohibitively expensive.

Do my loans go directly to students?

It depends. If a loan is marked “pre-funded,” the student has already received funding from Zomia and lender funding is replacing Zomia funding. This allows Zomia to identify and support other students for future funding. Backfilling is critical to the Zomia model, giving students confidence they will be funded for a full term even before funding is secured on the website.

Loans marked “partially pre-funded” have not been pre-funded or disbursed in full. Zomia must secure additional lender contributions to meet the total funding need. In either case, loan funding provided by lenders can only be used to support student loans, and lenders are linked to the students they support for loan repayment. Lenders can search for pre-funded and partially pre-funded loans from Zomia’s student roster.

Do I receive interest on the loans I fund?

No. Although students repay you after they graduate, the act of lending to a Zomia student is still philanthropic in nature, especially if you adjust for inflation over time. Forfeiting profit enables students to borrow with peace of mind at an affordable rate. Neither Zomia nor our lenders profit from a student’s financial need.

Are my loan contributions tax-deductible?

No. Although the act of funding a Zomia loan is philanthropic in nature, it is not tax-deductible because you receive repayments after a student finishes school. If you are willing to forego future student repayments and would prefer a tax benefit, you may donate to Zomia via our fiscal sponsor, Partners Asia.

Will I get repaid? If so, when?

We strive to ensure that every lender is repaid in full, but we cannot guarantee anyone full repayment. Student loans are inherently risky, so you should never lend more than you can afford to lose. You can view our repayment stats on Zomia’s homepage “Lending Snapshot.”

Our History & Progress

Zomia Timeline

Zomia Mobile App

Zomia Mobile App Released

To help students better manage their loans, a mobile app is developed for use on both Android and iOS devices. Features are refined and final versions released on the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store. Zomia graduates begin receiving reminders and reporting payments from the app.
Partners Asia logo

Fiscal Sponsorship Established

Partners Asia signs an agreement to become Zomia SPC's fiscal sponsor, enabling tax-deductible gifts to be given in support of Zomia students. Donations made to Zomia via Partners Asia are earmarked for a general student support fund, to be "recycled" after loan repayment to fund future students in perpetuity.
Lender Portfolio Graphic

Lender Portfolio Launched

After several months of development (with design help from lender and super supporter Luci L.💕), the lender portfolio is launched on Zomia's website, enabling better portfolio management for individual and institutional lenders. Automatic repayment recycling and monthly lending features are rolled out, and balance withdrawals enabled via PayPal.
Vanderes Foundation logo

Vanderes Signs on as Funder

The Netherlands-based Vanderes Foundation signs an agreement to become Zomia's first institutional lender. By August, Vanderes has partially funded 60 Zomia students, helping the 2018-19 class become the largest in Zomia's four-year history (77 students supported).

Student Repayments Expand

Working for an architecture firm in Phnom Penh, Udom submits a payment via Wing, marking the 100th student payment received by Zomia. Throughout 2017, with more students from our first two classes graduating and finding jobs, student payments kick in with greater frequency and consistency. Incomes are higher than anticipated, increasing our confidence in the viability of our model.
Wave Money

Wave Money Registration

Just in time to begin collecting repayments from graduates returning to Myanmar, Zomia becomes the first U.S. entity to establish a business account with Wave Money, Myanmar's first mobile payment service provider. In May, Chiang Mai University graduate Ei Lin becomes the first Zomia student to submit a payment using Wave.
Not Just a Student Frame

"Not Just a Student" Launch

We hire a small team to shoot a promotional video in Northern Thailand to capture the life of a typical Zomia student and communicate the nature of a Zomia loan. Public health student Mwe Leng stars in the film, which also features other Zomia students and their families.
Mokawn, Zomia's first student lender

Our First Student Lender

Having paid off her $1,600 loan within a year of graduation, Mokawn becomes the first Zomia student to fulfill her contract and become a lender. She is given 10% of the amount borrowed as an "earned deposit" and funds four Zomia loans. Once those loans are repaid, she can withdraw the funds or redistribute to other students.
Zomia on the Moon

Zomia Platform Launch

Amidst much fanfare and excitement, Zomia's online lending platform is launched! The first random lender to support a student on the Zomia website is a doctor from Yangon.
Zomia Platform code text

Lending Platform Development

Zomia builds the first version of its online lending platform, allowing external lenders (both individuals and organizations) to contribute directly to the financing of student loans. Relationships between students and lenders are fostered, fulfilling the first stage of Zomia's long-term vision to create a rich, dynamic community of students and supporters.
Zomia team member conducting a needs assessment

Student Services Expand

The Zomia team visits students in Southeast Asia and conducts needs assessment to identify additional student services to be provided beyond education loans. Development of the student community begins in earnest, and design of the online lending platform takes shape.
Photo of Zomia's first class at BEAM's education center

Inaugural Class is Formed

After applications are submitted and reviewed over the summer, 30 students are offered loans from Zomia. Loan agreements are finalized, and student meetings are held in Cambodia and Thailand. Zomia's inaugural class is formed.
Photo of the Washington State Seal

SPC Incorporation

Zomia SPC is officially incorporated, becoming one of the first 125 social purpose corporations registered in Washington State and among the very first with an international focus. Zomia's stated social purpose is to increase access to higher education and skills training among marginalized students worldwide.
Screenshot of webpage: apply.zomia.org

Student Applications Begin

The first version of Zomia's online loan application is created and students begin applying online. In addition, a partnership is established with BEAM Education Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to assist migrant students from Burma.
Photo of part of the Zomia Logo

A Name is Chosen

A decision is made to formalize our efforts and move forward with creation of a legitimate organization. After receiving feedback from 99 survey respondents, the name “Zomia” is selected from a pool of 10 potential names. On January 1, 2014, the first zomia.org email accounts are created and e-mail messages sent. “Hello, World!” What Does Zomia Mean?  |  Why Did We Choose the Name?
Portrait of Sitha, Zomia's first student from Cambodia

Experimentation Expands

Sitha borrows $500 to study banking in Phnom Penh, becoming our first student in Cambodia and serving as the impetus to begin formalizing our loan model and lending process. Terms of her agreement allow for small, seasonably adjusted payments to be made by Sitha's family while she is still in school.
Portrait of Jom, Zomia's first student

Experimentation Begins

Jom, a Shan student from Myanmar, borrows $2,000 to pursue a public health degree in Chiang Rai, Thailand, becoming our first loan recipient. Although terms are rough, the agreement calls for income-based repayments to begin after he completes his program and is earning a reasonable salary.
Logo of SPCs (Washington State)

SPCs are Born

Washington State (USA) establishes a legal framework allowing businesses to register as “social purpose corporations,” or SPCs. What is a social purpose corporation? You can think of it as the nexus where the for-profit and charity worlds meet. Learn about SPCs at spcwa.com or explore the broader benefit corporation movement at benefitcorp.net.
Photo of fog settling in the hills of Shan State


After years of interest and activity in Southeast Asia, we identify higher education among marginalized communities as a critical factor affecting the region's development. In the hills of Shan State, Myanmar, a pact is made to begin experimenting with ways to sustainably increase access to higher education in the region.

Lending Snapshot

Statistics & Sample Student Profiles


Number of Students


Female Students


Funds Provided to Date


Average Loan Amount


Number of Loans Repaid


Students in Repayment


Student Repayments to Date


Number of Student Payments

Our Conviction

Talent and intelligence are universal—access to resources and opportunity is not.

Our Team

Members of the Zomia SPC Team

Poe Ei Phyu

Poe Ei Phyu, a Zomia alumna, serves as our Student Services Coordinator. Born in Myanmar, she has been living in Thailand for over 12 years, where she earned a BA in English Communications from Payap University and a M.Ed in Educational Administration from Assumption University. As the bridge between Zomia's students and our team, she plays a crucial role in ensuring student success and shaping the services we provide. She is excited about getting to know students old and new, as well as working with our partners and schools in the region.

Kirk Acevedo

Southeast Asia has captivated Kirk since he joined a college study trip to the Thai-Burma border. As an undergraduate, he led the American University Student Campaign for Burma, interned with the US Campaign for Burma, and launched Scholarships for Burma, a capital campaign of the Human Rights Action Center, to raise funds to send a Shan woman to college in Thailand. From 2012 to 2014, Kirk served as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Cambodia. He holds a BA in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.

Ryker Labbee

Before shifting to Zomia full-time in 2014, Ryker served as the Myanmar Country Director for Cascade Asia Advisors. He has volunteered in various capacities in Southeast Asia after first visiting the region more than a decade ago. Prior to catching the international affairs bug, he spent seven years as a consultant and technical architect with a systems integration firm then known as Equarius, Inc. Ryker holds an MA in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in Computer Science from Pacific Lutheran University.

Wouter Kneepkens

Following university, Wouter spent several years in finance as an investment banker, at a hedge fund, and in private equity. During his MBA, he moved into the tech startup space and tried his hand at various ventures. He later moved to Singapore with his wife, Mirte, to get involved in impact while continuing his work in financial markets. At Zomia, Wouter is able to combine impact, entrepreneurship, and finance. He holds an MBA from INSEAD, an LLM in Financial Law from Erasmus University Rotterdam, and both an MSc and BSc in Business Administration from RSM Erasmus University.

Be Kalyan

In addition to serving as Zomia's student representative in Cambodia, Be Kalyan works as a conservator for the National Museum of Cambodia and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. She earned a BA in Archaeology in 2004 from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and completed an MBA in 2012 at the National University of Management. Kalyan has also volunteered with Apsara Arts Association, a nongovernmental organization working to train Cambodian youth in classical Khmer music and dance.

Ken Prayogo

Born and raised in Indonesia, Ken continued his studies in the United States, where he earned a BA in Information Systems and Operations Management from the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business. His experience ranges from serving as a UNICEF chapter co-president to teaching high school students. Leveraging his newfound passion for technology, Ken serves as a technologist for Zomia, where he enjoys using his skills to help others gain access to quality education.

Sai Hseing Pha

Sai Hseing Pha is a health professional who recently earned a master's degree in Biomedical and Health Informatics at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. He also works as a freelance mobile health trainer with Shan State Development Foundation along the Thai-Burma border. In addition to serving as a student representative for Zomia, he became the organization's first loan recipient while studying at Mae Fah Luang University, where he earned a Bachelor of Public Health degree in 2014.

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