Win Kyaw Oo sees the future of his country through the plight of the children
Since he was 10 years old, Win Kyaw Oo (31) has volunteered for the Red Cross in Myanmar, following the path of his mother and uncle, who were both volunteers as well. After university, at the age of 25, this transitioned to a job with the organization, a position that he describes as "My Heart."
His job has led him into the field working with former child soldiers. There is a law in Myanmar that prohibits those under the age of 18 from joining the military. Since the military has faced more scrutiny in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of child soldiers released. Win Kyaw Oo has been tasked with reintegrating them into society, particularly in Rakhine State.
His task is not as simple as taking away their weapons and sending them home. These child soldiers have been earning an income from the military, and he must help them find a job and reunite with their family after fighting in wars for years. He acknowledges that it's a difficult and often frustrating job.
This concern for child welfare has extended elsewhere in his life. Tea shops, which are often staffed by children between the ages of 8 and 14, are a big problem he hopes to help solve. As they serve him in the shop, he'll ask them how old they are and why they aren't in school. More often than not, he'll hear that they are helping their mother make ends meet.
Missing out on an education means that these children will inevitably be stuck in this way of life, with few opportunities. Occasionally, he feels compelled to intervene. In one incident, he witnessed a shop owner step on the fingers of a young girl she employed. He had an altercation with the owner, and the police were called, but he knows little will have changed afterward.
"It's hard for change, with the gap between wealth. These kids are like slaves, not people"
Win Kyaw Oo hopes to set an example by opening up his own tea shop after hours. He wants it to be a place that is clean and pays fair wages, and where the employees are called “team members”, instead of “staff”, and have a say in the business.