Meipaw is one of 47 young Burmese men and women currently completing higher education thanks to Health and Hope's Freedom to Education (FEP) programme. He is 22 years old and comes from Chin State, Burma (Myanmar).
Growing up, Meipaw and his friends faced many challenges in their attempts to access education, including natural disasters; food insecurity; teaching in non-ethnic languages and a lack of qualified teachers.
These challenges, combined with the highest levels of household poverty (73%) in Burma, mean that, by the age of eleven, 18% of Chin children have already dropped out of school and, even among those who stay on, only 8% manage to pass their grade 10 exams in rural areas, where poverty is greatest.
Despite these difficulties, Meipaw was determined to train as a doctor, spurred on by the lack of medical care and facilities in his community that had led to the unnecessary death of his grandmother from easily treatable diarrhoea.
Meipaw worked hard at school and passed his grade 10 exams, but unfortunately his parents just weren't able to afford to send him to college. On average, a family in Chin State can only afford $40 per month to support their children through education, however it costs $250 per month to study at university and $500 per month in medical college, pushing university education out of reach for most rural families.
Fortunately for Meipaw, Health & Hope were able to help. Our Freedom to Education Project (FEP) provided financial and peer support for Meipaw. After completing an internship he was able to attend college in India and, following the successful completion of his grade 12 exams, was able to secure a scholarship with Prospect Burma to study medicine in China.
On his first visit back home in four years, Meipaw sat down with us to tell his story. The interview is shown here on YouTube.
The impact of our education project is much wider than the individual stories of our students. Health and Hope believes that education is crucial in building long-term sustainable development in Myanmar, raising levels of social awareness, critical thinking and preparing future leaders to be catalysts of a fair and equitable society.
Our first four FEP graduates returned home in 2017 and many more will follow over the coming years. Their desire is to use what they have learnt to support the next generation of young people in their home communities.
We are harnessing this passion to launch a new education project in 2018. Later this year, our returning graduates will provide teaching and mentoring to younger students in Chin State and will also begin the task of translating textbooks into local languages, making it possible for young people to read and learn the necessary material to pass their own exams.
Since we launched our FEP programme, we have offered 85 students the opportunity to pursue higher education. Through our new project we hope to provide many more with the gift of education, preparing them to take an active part in the social and economic transformation of their home communities.
Meipaw is grateful for your support, and so are the many other students that we are partnering with through your support to this project.