Equipping Marginalized Youth with the Skills to be Agents for Change
August 13th, 2018 | Stories
August 13th, 2018 | Stories
Tired of the oppression and lack of opportunities available to young people in Burma, Aung Than left his home in 2011 and found himself in Mae Sot, Thailand. Mae Sot is home to hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrants and refugees, who like Aung Than, are seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.
Unaware of the opportunities available in the border town, Aung Than began volunteering for the Arakan Human Rights and Environmental Movement (AHREM). Through his work at AHREM, Aung Than slowly began to learn of higher education programs available in Mae Sot, including the highly competitive Wide Horizons (WH) program, a two-year leadership development program dedicated to building the capacity of young adults from Burma to work effectively in civil society organizations.
Convinced that WH was the next step in helping him achieve his professional goals, he applied and was accepted. The program consists of a 10-month intensive academic program in which students are required to speak English 24 hours a day. They build new skills in community development, computers, and critical thinking. Then students must put theory into practice by completing a 10-month internship with a community-based organization. After Aung Than graduated from WH, he was hired by the school as an administrative assistant to help new cohorts of young changemakers successfully navigate the program.
To help youth like Aung Than, World Education, through the support of the Project for Local Empowerment (PLE), works with local partner organizations to deliver higher education programs along the Thai-Burma border and within Burma. PLE-supported youth leadership programs include the Global Border Studies program, the English Immersion Program, and Wide Horizons, which bring together youth from diverse backgrounds to learn new skills and tackle difficult problems facing their communities. At the end of their coursework, each program helps to place their students in year-long internships in which the students can apply their learning in real-life settings.
Seeing the success of the program, many higher education programs are in discussions of moving back into Burma to ensure that youth like Aung Than no longer have to cross borders to seek higher educational opportunities. Like many graduates before them, these new graduates will take up positions in local, national, and international organizations in Thailand or Burma. They’ll use the leadership skills they developed to improve healthcare systems, advocate for education, develop innovative ways to help people with small businesses, or help youth like themselves become agents for change. No matter the jobs they take, these youth, as a result of these programs, will be well equipped to resolve problems and bring about creative ways to improve their communities and countries.