I am Hein Thura Htet, an SoP 2018 alumnus from Myanmar. I joined the School of Peace in 2018 organized by the Interfaith Cooperation Forum of Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs hosted by Duta Wacana Christian University Faculty of Theology in Yogyakarta, Indonesia for two months. My experience with SoP 2018 provided me a good platform to work with diverse people and further my learning about Peace studies and advocacy. It raised me to expose newer experiences and expand networking for change not only in the local context but also abroad. Additionally and especially, I was encouraged and strongly recommended by the ICF Coordinator to get selected for the competitive YSEALI application process. I applied what I have learned in the SoP2018 in some sharing and discussions during the YSEALI. By participating in these programs, I improved my skills like communication, adaptability, leadership, and collaboration with others that perfectly contribute to my academic and professional development. My training in both the School of Peace and YSEALI has improved my self-esteem and self-confidence to work on crucial issues with my community towards a constructive and sustainable social change. I am now sharing my experiences and learning with my community and I will also participate in ICF Alumni activities.
I want to share my experience with YSEALI Academic Fellowship during Fall 2019. Launched in 2013, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is a U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, including U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges, and seed funding, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region. It also seeks to strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia and nurture an ASEAN community. YSEALI focuses on critical topics identified by youth in the region: civic engagement, sustainable development, education, and economic growth.
As a YSEALI Fellow, I went to Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Kennesaw, Georgia. I belonged to the fifth cohort of YSEALI Academic Fellowship on civic engagement with participants from 10 different Asian countries. Even though the theme of the Academic Fellowship at KSU was “International Civil and Human Rights”, it covered many interesting subjects. Among them were on International Peace Studies, Conflict Management, International Civil and Human Rights Studies, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Social Entrepreneurship and Project Proposal Development. The teaching strategies included lectures, team-building, service activities, class observations, and discussions. It perfectly included study trips to some places related to the US Civil Rights Movements. The sessions had excellent speakers from different fields of educational and social studies. Although we did not have a homestay experience like what we had in the School of Peace, KSU offered faculty small group family dinners that made us, the participants, feel at home and had informal discussions. KSU’s student mentors were helpful and friendly. During the last week, all the YSEALI fellows from UNO University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and KSU came together and enjoyed the educational tours to Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. In Washington, D.C., we presented our project proposals to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S Department of States, and then enjoyed graduation and debriefing with the Program Officer.
The School of Peace 2018 provided me basic knowledge about peace and human rights studies. YSEALI offered me in-depth studies on the U.S. Civil Rights Movements and the African-Americans’ struggles, especially from Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta, and other sites. I had comparative thoughts on the United States Civil Rights Movements with Myanmar National and Student Strikes. The SDGs provided me with a deeper understanding, especially on how it could be implemented for community development and social change in Myanmar. The social entrepreneurship and project development course brought me very new insights on how we can productively initiate, process, and sustain community-based projects within non-profit organizations.
At present, I work as a freelancer and volunteer facilitator for some workshops and trainings. I also joined the Research Methods and Analysis for Advocates courses at the Institute for Political and Civic Engagement in Mandalay, Myanmar. I am so especially grateful to Ma’am Muriel for very strong recommendations that made me fulfill one of my application requirements. Thanks to ICF for giving me a chance to share my experiences, and for keeping me in the ICF loop.-Hein Thura Htet, Myanmar, SoP 2018