My name is Doh Soe. I was born in Htee Gue Thaw Village in Karen State, Myanmar. I am currently a fourth-year student at Chiang Mai University. In my family, I am the only one who’s had an opportunity to access higher education.
My parents are farmers and generate very little income—not enough to cover household expenses. I have four siblings, including three brothers and a sister. Because of our financial problems, my brothers and sister had to stop their education before completing high school to help my parents on the farm.
When I studied in my village, I had to walk for one hour to get to school because my parents could not afford to buy a bicycle. I was never able to wear a nice uniform, as I had to wear the same uniform every day for two years. At times, I was criticized and underestimated by some of my classmates because my parents could not afford to support me sufficiently.
I felt depressed, but it also led me to focus on my studies in order to improve myself personally and academically. Year by year, I had to endure these circumstances until I completed grade 8 in my village.
After that, my parents wanted me to continue at a school in another village. But I had difficulty continuing my education in Myanmar because it seemed that it wasn’t helping me improve myself and I was unable to speak Burmese. I felt that if I continued my education in Myanmar, it would not be helpful for my future.
In addition, it would be challenging to continue my studies in another part of Myanmar because even when studying in my own village, my parents could not afford to support my basic needs. I debated whether I should cross into Thailand to continue my education or quit education entirely.
Fortunately, I found a way to continue my studies by following a cousin who was working at Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, in 2012. I learned about Love and Care Migrant Learning Center in Mae Sot, where free education is available to migrants like me.
About Doh Soe
- Age: 24
- Ethnicity: Karen
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Chiang Mai University
- Bachelor’s, Social Science
Goals & Dreams
- Become a social worker
- Increase access to quality healthcare and education among the Karen people
- Loan Amount: $1,000
- Amount Left To Fund: $1,000
- Contract Duration: 10 years
- Status: In Deferment
What Others Are Saying About Doh Soe
I studied at Love and Care Learning Center for three years until I finished high school. By the time I finished, I was able to speak, read, and write basic English. I had great learning experiences alongside people from different ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, I acquired basic computer skills, Myanmar language skills, and knowledge about the diverse ethnic groups of Myanmar.
Later, I applied for a one-year program at Brighter Futures, which trains migrant students to become teachers. I gained practical skills through hands-on observation and experience. I received theoretical knowledge and practical teaching for five months each. I was then assigned to the Kwe K’Baw Migrant School, which is situated on the Thai-Myanmar border, as an intern teacher.
At the same time, I had an opportunity to study for the General Educational Development (GED) exam. After finishing my internship, I returned to Brighter Futures to prepare for the GED. I was also given responsibility to teach new students and conduct observations during their practical teaching periods. It helped me gain new experiences and boost my confidence.
Finally, I was able to complete my GED exam. I was accepted into a 4-year bachelor’s program in social science at Chiang Mai University (CMU). Even though I was accepted by CMU, I was hesitant to join the program because I had a partial scholarship which wasn’t enough to cover all of my expenses. I worried that I would become a burden on my family, but in the end I decided that I had to seize the opportunity to get a university education.
At CMU, I got to take various courses related to politics, economics, environment, and so on. Through different courses, I have been able to develop analytical skills and better understand how to make positive changes in society. On the other hand, I have faced so many difficulties and obstacles due to my insufficient finances. I often have to borrow money from my relatives to cover my school and living expenses.
I have only one year left until I graduate. This summer, I was able to do an internship at the Burma Children’s Medical Fund as an administrative assistant. I gained new experiences and increased my understanding of the education and health challenges in my community.
People in my community have limited access to proper education and health care. Due to insufficient family income, many parents are unable to pay for school fees or provide their children with the necessary school supplies. Moreover, it is almost impossible to access quality health care in some remote areas. I want to increase access to quality education and healthcare for my Karen people one day, but I first need to complete my degree to gain more knowledge and a wider perspective. I strongly believe that completing my study program will not only be beneficial for me but also for people in my community.
Written by Doh Soe with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“I want to increase access to quality education and healthcare for my Karen people one day, but I first need to complete my degree to gain more knowledge and a wider perspective.”