Empowering young refugees to create their futures

Kayin State has been part of Myanmar’s ongoing civil war for over six decades. It was also once the home of 19-year-old Yo Pyu Ei and her family—until they were driven out by a raid on their village. With nowhere else to turn to, they had to leave their home behind and seek refuge in Thailand.

Decades of conflict have led over two million Burmese impoverished and needing to seek refuge in or migrate to Thailand. Displacement as such often results in disruption to their previous lives, leading to the loss of homes and livelihoods.

Global nonprofit International Rescue Committee (IRC) works along the Thailand-Myanmar border to support displaced Burmese in rebuilding their lives. In addition to providing humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, healthcare, IRC holds training for Burmese refugees and migrants to help them find new sustainable employment, and achieve financial independence.

YouthSpark programs go beyond training youth in IT, they also hone the soft skills demanded by employers today

To support IRC’s efforts, Microsoft has partnered with the nonprofit to offer basic digital literacy training and build up Information Communication Technology (ICT) capacity across three refugee camps: the Mae La, Mae Sot, and Tham-Hin camps. Other than imparting IT know-how, the YouthSpark programs also develop the creativity, analytical and problem solving skills of young refugees, enhancing their employability and chances of securing a job when they leave the camps.

Yo Pyu Ei, who now lives at the Mae La camp, participated in an IT training event jointly organized by Microsoft and IRC. The three-day YouthSpark workshop covered the basics of coding and computer science, and taught participants how to format reports, produce communications materials, and do basic accounting using the Microsoft Office suite of tools.

The 19-year-old, now working as a community-based assistant for IRC’s Women’s Protection and Empowerment program, finds these skills useful not only at her current job, but also to support her future ambitions.

“I’m immensely glad that I had the chance to learn how to use the computer and pick up these skills,” said Yo Pyu Ei. “My dream is to go to university and eventually work for an organization that empowers women, children and underserved youth. Thanks to the training, I believe that I now have the right skills and tools to help me pursue my dreams.”

In addition to the basic digital literacy training, Microsoft and IRC are working together to develop an “Invest to Excel” program, which will further supplement current programs by providing greater upskilling opportunities. The training activities will have a strong focus on IT and English, two skill areas found to be most in demand by potential employers in Thailand and Myanmar. The program also aims to provide greater access to job opportunities, created through partnerships with private sector companies in Thailand and the region.

“Our current YouthSpark programs have already trained 5,000 young refugees across the three camps, and we hope to be able to empower more through programs such as ‘Invest to Excel’,” said Mr. Dhanawat Suthumpun, Microsoft Thailand. “By working closely with IRC to equip young refugees with new skills and opportunities, we believe that they will be able to achieve their dreams and create a brighter future for themselves.”

June 20 is World Refugee Day. Microsoft is proud to stand #WithRefugees and empower them with the resources they need to rebuild their lives. Read stories of other young refugees and find out how you can get involved here.

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