Sandar

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How would your friends describe you?

Smart, reliable, organized, humorous and sociable.

What the biggest challenge you have overcome to get to this point?

We left Yangon, Burma, when our family situation became too difficult. Once in Thailand, after eight months of struggles in Umphiem camp, I was able to continue my education in the camp. I attended in camp school from Grade 8 to Grade 12. The learning curriculums at our camp school were in Karen language and resentment towards us Burmese from Karen students made it difficult for me to focus on my studies. However, I didn’t give up. I participated in school activities and helped my friends. Because of my persistence and strong-mindedness, I achieved the highest rank in the 12th grade among all seven refugee camp schools in Thailand. I could speak Karen and my communication skills had improved.

After I finished high school education I worked for one year in the American Refugee Committee (ARC) as a Community Health Educator. I provided health education to pregnant women and young children. I carried out campaigns on vaccination, hygiene awareness, and food distribution for malnourished children. But because I still felt that my English was quite limited, I took the entrance exam to be able to study English Immersion Program. During the two-year program, which trains youth to work with community-based organizations, I learned English speaking, listening, reading, writing, translation and interpretation, community development, and received teacher training. I became confident to speak in English and organize workshops at my school and surrounding villages. As my friends and teachers believe in my ability, I was elected as a project manager. I organized a water pond construction project for Kaw Lah village that provides 300 villagers. This position helped me learn how to work for a common goal with others.

Who inspires you and why?

My family members inspire me. First, my father, who is 74 years old now. As he is the eldest of nine siblings, he was not able to study. He had to work hard for his younger brothers and sisters. Therefore, he really wants us to be educated people. He taught us to learn a lesson from his tired life without education. He always reminds us to value education. He says all his efforts are for his children. No matter how tired he gets, he feels happy and satisfied when he sees his children are trying to reach their potentials. He always teaches me not to give up, not to be depressed, and to try hard everything I do.

Secondly, my sisters inspire me. In 2008, my father retired and my mother passed away due to lack of money to treat her diabetes. Then, we moved to Umphiem refugee camp. Only my younger brother and I could attend school. Two of my sisters sold vegetables besides the road early morning so that we could study well and took care of my father’s health. All my family members always encourage me to be strong-minded, ambitious and reliable. Because of them, I want to try my best in the future.

What do you love most about studying in Thailand?

I love studying multiple disciplinary and cultural perspectives of race, class, gender, and belief systems. Moreover, I would like to study justice in society and organization management.

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If you won the lottery, what would you do with your money?

If I won the lottery, I would like to support my family first. I would buy a home and land for planting. Since I was young, we never had our own house. When my father worked as a gate security worker in the government railway sector, we lived in the home that was given to us by the government. When my father retired, the house was returned to the government. Now all my family members are living in a small shelter in the camp which was provided by UNHCR.

I’d buy high quality rice and good curry for my father. He is old now and has lost his teeth already. He can’t chew hard food or eat much as he wants. I’d pay some money to my father to offer donation to poor people and for religious ceremonies. I would open a small sewing or hair dressing shop for my sisters in order to make money monthly, and encourage them to attend vocational training, like computer training. I would support my younger brother so that he could pursue a university education in an international university. Then, I would contact charity groups and go to Kachin state, Chin state, and Arakhine state to support the education of children who are victims of war. I would provide food to orphanages and disable people, and also support students who are having financial problems to study in universities.

How do you think your Daughters rising sponsorship has impacted your future?

My Daughters Rising sponsorship highly impacted my life in university because I was really worried when I heard about information from senior students and received a packing list from the university. Although I was offered full scholarship for my undergraduate studies, it just covers tuition fee, food and housing without providing academic tools and personal needs. Without help from Daughter raising, I wouldn’t be able to focus on my studies because I’d be overwhelmed with working out how to pay for my monthly needs. My family members are living in a refugee camp so they are not able to provide financially to me. I was so happy and excited when I heard Daughter raising will support me. Thank you so much to all the members from Daughter Rising because your financial aid took away my stress and let me study peacefully.

What is your proudest achievement?

I felt so proud when I could help a woman from my refugee camp, who’d got married at 17 and had two children. She was physically assaulted by her unemployed alcoholic husband during my internship. She washed neighbors’ clothes to cover basic expenses of the family. Her husband violently took money from her for alcohol and gambling, then abandoned the family.

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After working for four months, I was endowed with SGBV Trainer Position. As she knew I was working in Sexual and Gender based Violence committee, she told me about her situation. I suggested she got help from organizations. I empowered her not to stay silent if a crime is committed, to look her children’s future, and to rehabilitate herself by attending vocational training which would allow her to earn an income. As she agreed with my suggestions, I brought my team to have a home visit with her and referred her to related organizations.

When I returned to Umphiem refugee camp during my school holidays, she came to see me and presented me with a shirt which she had sewed. During our conversation, she expressed how grateful she was for organizations that help women and children like her family. She also felt protected; in the case her husband tried to come back and abuse her, she knew exactly which measures to take to report him and protect her children.

What is one thing you would change to make the world a better place?

Domestic violence, rape, harassment, using sexual violence as a war weapon in conflict zones such as Kachin and Arakan states, and drop out school rates are increasing year by year. The growing level of crimes committed is a strong indicator that the government needs to take action with laws and protection. Inadequate legal punishments to perpetrators, lack of women’s participation, and limited resources to provide support make women and children vulnerable. This issue make me realize that Myanmar’s government has failed to enforce the laws of protection and support to its women and children. For those reasons, I would like to ensure women’s rights to development, protection and participation to make the world peaceful. Myanmar women and girls need inspiration to fight for their own rights. I believe if one voice is strong enough to hear, we can develop our community even though we are minority.

What’s your favorite movie?

My favorite movie title is To Kill a Mocking bird. It was based on the novel written by Nelle Hyper Lee, published in 1960. After I studied the book, I was willing to watch the movie. The movie describes the author’s family life, her childhood, and the unfair treatment of the white community to the black community during civil rights movement. It focuses on the discrimination against races and colors in the small, rural town of Maycomb, Alabama. I like Atticus Finch who is a lawyer, white man, a good father who defends a black man who was unjustly accused of raping a white woman. He earns the town people’s criticism for making effort for a black man.  I admire him because of his attitude, integrity, and conscience. I like this movie so much because it is included the way of talking between defenders, lawyers, and complainant in the courtroom.