Life is shaped by challenges. I am the kind of person who has matured and grown up with such challenges. My name is Aye Phoo. I was born in Hpa-an, Karen State, Myanmar as the youngest member of an ordinary family. Both of my parents retired from their jobs as accountants when I was in middle school.
My parents’ monthly pension amounts were very small and they could not support my school fees. As a result, my eldest sister, a primary school teacher, took care of my family and my school expenses. My sister told me to finish high school in Myanmar and study to be a teacher like her. However, I didn’t want to be a teacher. At that time, I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
Nevertheless, I knew that by staying in Myanmar my opportunities would be limited, because I couldn’t study what I was interested in and my family could not afford to send me to school.
After I passed ninth grade, my sister could not afford my school fees anymore, so I made the tough decision to come to Thailand. No one in my family told me or forced me to go since I am the youngest and they still thought of me as a child. But I did not want to be a burden on my family.
I decided to attend school in Mae Sot to pursue better education opportunities and face challenges in a new environment. One of my brothers also came to work. He told me about migrant schools in Mae Sot which provide free education and better chances for students to continue their education. I came to Thailand in 2007 and studied at the Hsa Thoo Lei Learning Center until I passed tenth grade in 2011.
I had always been hardworking and took up leadership roles within student bodies when I was in Hsa Thoo Lei. In 2012, I joined Minmahaw Higher Education Program (MHEP), which prepares students for the GED exam applying for scholarships. I put forth my best effort and studied with all my heart because I really wanted to get a scholarship.
About Aye Phoo
- Age: 31
- Ethnicity: Burmese, Mon
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Chiang Mai University
- Bachelor’s, Social Science
Goals & Dreams
- Establish a home for the elderly in my hometown
- Promote migrant laborers’ rights
- Loan Amount: $1,125
- Amount Left To Fund: $0
- Contract Duration: 10 years
- Status: Repaid in Full
What Others Are Saying About Aye Phoo
I saw many of my friends and classmates in Mae Sot drop out of school to work. Some of them got married and had kids. I was really afraid that I might end up working in a factory too, or get lost deciding what do in the future. Everything was uncertain to me. I did not have a legal document except for the student ID card from my learning center. Studying in a university was like an impossible dream to me since I hadn’t passed high school in Myanmar and the certificates I gained in Mae Sot were illegal. I was always in doubt as I was deciding between working and continuing to study without any guarantee that I would go to a university. But I never gave up.
After I finished MHEP, I received my GED certificate. Then I applied for a scholarship and was accepted to Chiang Mai University to study social sciences. Now I am going to be a final year student, and I am starting to prepare for my career. As I have always been passionate about migrant workers’ rights, I am currently doing an internship with the Migrant Assistant Program Foundation (MAP) during the summer to learn more about their work and issues related to migrant workers’ rights. I enjoy fieldwork, meeting with the workers’ communities and listening to them. In the future, I will be working near the Thai-Myanmar border to promote migrant laborers’ rights and be their voice.
For me, my life has been like that of a migrating bird. I’ve had to travel from one place to another in order to pursue better opportunities for my life. However, I am not the only one who has moved and changed. Like migrating birds, society as a whole has also moved and changed. Every one of us is dependent upon on one another. By working to benefit each other, I believe that we can build a better society.
Written by Aye Phoo with editing assistance from Carolyn, one of Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“When I am assigned a task, I want to do it perfectly and expect the best result. This is my weakness. My strength is being patient with strangers and having a bit of curiosity.”
“Studying in a university was like an impossible dream to me since I hadn’t passed high school in Myanmar and the certificates I gained in Mae Sot were illegal. I was always in doubt as I was deciding between working and continuing to study without any guarantee that I would go to a university. But I never gave up. ”