In the summer of 2011, Edward Tsoi and Rose Tsui, two university students from Hong Kong, embarked on a voluntary teaching trip to Mae Sot, a city located in Thailand’s Tak province that shares a border with Myanmar. Despite the plight facing the young Myanmar refugees displaced by repression and conflict, all the students at the class were so eager to learn, Tsui recalled. After coming back to Hong Kong, the two decided to start an organization in 2012 — Connecting Myanmar that could connect youth in Myanmar and Hong Kong. The organization has since benefited 7,000 students in Myanmar.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): How was Myanmar when you first visited and how has it changed?
Edward Tsoi (ET): My first visit to Myanmar was in 2012, when the political reform was underway. There was a lot of censorship, and mobile phones were inaccessible to the less privileged. While there wasn’t much development economically, they were culturally rich.
Kr: What made you set up a youth-oriented organization in Myanmar?
ET: My first encounter with Myanmar people when I was teaching English on the Thai-Burma border inside Thailand. It made me realize that they were in need of a lot of financial support. But they were also some of the most generous people I’ve ever met.
Rose Tsui (RT): For two-and-a-half months I joined an English teaching program at the same Thai-Burma border town called Mae Sot, teaching kids from three to five and nine to twelve years old. They were all such hard-working kids, and they really try to make a change to their lives through education. The teachers also left a strong impression on me, because a lot of them taught for free due to funding issues.
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