My name is Sandar. I was born in Yangon, Myanmar. My father was a gate security worker for the government railway sector and survived on a small salary. It was not enough to cover our basic needs. After my father’s retirement, his salary was reduced and our home was returned to the government. Due to lack of money for treatment, my mother was unable to cure her diabetes and eventually died.
The living and education struggles in Myanmar forced us to move to Umphiem Refugee Camp in Thailand. I have been living in the camp for 10 years. Being among the unregistered refugees in the camp for three months was the most terrible time for us. My father is 70 years old and a chronic patient. My sisters managed to earn limited income by selling vegetables on the roadside.
After eight months of struggles, I was able to continue my education in the camp. I attended a camp school from grades 8 through 12. The curricula at our school were in the Karen language, and hatred towards the Burmese negatively affected my motivation to study. However, I refused to give up. I worked hard and achieved the highest rank in the 12th grade among all seven refugee camp schools in Thailand. I learned to speak Karen, and my communication skills improved.
After high school, I worked with the American Refugee Committee (ARC) as a Community Health Educator. I provided health education to pregnant women and children. After working for one year with ARC, I began an English Immersion Program (EIP), a two-year program that trains youth to work with community-based organizations, teaches English, and provides teacher training. In my second trimester at EIP, I organized a water pond construction project for Kaw Lah village, providing water to 300 villagers.
- Age: 25
- Ethnicity: Burmese
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Asian University for Women
- Bachelor’s, Science/Arts
- 1st Year in Program
Goals & Dreams
- Become a women and children protection specialist
- Raise awareness of gender-based violence in Myanmar
- Loan Amount: $1,500
- Amount Left To Fund: $1,400
- Contract Duration: 10 years
- Status: Prefunded by Zomia
What Others Are Saying About Sandar
After EIP, I interned for the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Committee (SGBV), where I organized workshops for the refugee community. This motivated me to become a women and children protection specialist. After interning for four months with the SGBV Committee, I was promoted to the SGBV Trainer position. I collaborated with community-based organizations and referred abuse survivors so they could obtain appropriate care.
In 2016, I wrote a changemaker idea for the Changemaker Ball Competition and sent it to American Refugee Committee in the United States as a representative of our organization. My article entitled “Environmental sustainability and building for repatriating refugees” was ranked among the top ten of 1,400 ideas submitted from 11 countries. This was a great achievement for me.
In 2018, I completed the General Educational Development (GED) prep course at Minmahaw Higher Education Program in Mae Sot. To implement my goals, I intend to study in the faculty of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the Asian University for Women (AUW).
After graduation, I plan to work with CBOs and NGOs that provide support to women and children. I will encourage women and children to seek justice for crimes committed against them and contribute their abilities to economic development. I aim to organize workshops on SGBV prevention, human rights, sex education for teenagers, awareness-raising campaigns such as seminars at schools, and systematic survivor referral systems.
After working with local organizations, I will work with global organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, and UN WOMEN to provide psycho-social and legal support to abuse survivors. I will advocate for the establishment of safe houses so survivors can gain skills through vocational training. This also will protect survivors in danger of being hurt, and will reduce discrimination and suicide.
I believe the capacities derived from my university education, including the experience of working with people from diverse ethnic groups, will allow me to improve the standard of living for women and children and promote positive changes in my community. As a women and children protection specialist, I will give back power to victims of abuse and reduce the number of cases by raising SGBV awareness in Myanmar communities.
Written by Sandar with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“My internship at the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Committee, where I organized workshops for the refugee community, motivated me to become a women and children protection specialist.”