Ryan is one of four youth campaigners currently in Myanmar with World Vision to learn more about child protection and trafficking issues. Once back in Australia, they’ll plan a campaign to pass on what they’ve learnt to other young Australians.
Mingala bar from marvellous Myanmar!
We arrived in Yangon exhausted from a night of travel, yet excited about what was beyond the airport exit.
A group of youth activists from here in Myanmar were eagerly awaiting our arrival, and they’ll be joining us for the rest of the trip.
We were greeted with smiles and giggles, a presentation about Myanmar’s ethnic groups and cultures – and lots of delicious snacks. By the end of the day, you could’ve rolled a few of us out of the office. In turn we told them a bit about our country, including AFL, indigenous history and Vegemite!
Together, we started learning about child protection and trafficking issues in the country. I was deeply inspired by the work of World Vision’s End Trafficking in Persons (ETIP) program, a joint organisational effort to tackle human trafficking across South-East Asia.
I was also encouraged by the Myanmar youths’ eagerness to use the knowledge in their home communities, to help their peers understand the issue – just like we’ll be doing when we get home.
The prospect of a 12-hour bus ride to Inle Lake the next day was daunting, but we were soon having heaps of fun. We played Noughts and Crosses, Scissors, Paper, Rock, and a local variation called Tiger, General and Guns. I managed to teach our new friends Uno via one of the translators. For the Australians, it had been a long time since we’d played games on paper! But it emphasised for me that laughter is a universal language.
Reflecting back on the last few days, travelling and learning alongside the Myanmar youth has been an altogether different and rewarding experience.
As I learn more, I realise they are not all that different from us. Many of them have aspirations to be journalists or engineers or doctors, and we share a passion for social justice. We’ve also been able to sing Taylor Swift songs together and learn secret handshakes, tell jokes and dance. It might seem like Myanmar and Australia are worlds apart – culturally, socially and economically – yet the more I spend time with these incredible new brothers and sisters of mine, I realise a lot of those barriers only exist in the mind. We’re not merely people from Australia or Myanmar, but citizens of the world, and the borders which seemingly divide the world only exist on a map.
We are all excited to learn from each other and work together to raise awareness of the issues this beautiful country faces. I am sure it will continue to be an amazing experience.