A woman pulled the sliding door open, and I drove inside. I parked my motorbike, left my shoes at the door and stepped into the classroom, where everyone was seated in a large circle. This would be my ﬁrst time meeting the students, a young group who had arrived in Thailand two weeks prior and had just completed their seven day orientation. They came from six different Myanmar states to join the EarthRights School Myanmar, an intensive training in campaigning and advocacy for human rights and the environment, focused on the most urgent issues in their own communities.
I’d been hearing about this group all week, having arrived in Chiang Mai just four days earlier to start my new position as ERI’s Human Rights Storyteller. I’d spent the week in meetings, learning about ERI's programs from the legal, campaigns, and training teams. Each team had briefed me on their current projects supporting the human rights and environmental movements in Myanmar and the Mekong region.
Hour by hour, I’d learned about the devastating realities that communities in these areas are facing. Wading through pages upon pages of assorted notes, scribbled diagrams, memos and legal briefs, the message was clear: there is a lot of work to be done.
So I was excited to meet this group of students who were here to expand their role in this work. Having heard all week about the corrupt governments and massive corporations they will be up against, I was impressed by the enthusiasm and optimism that flowed through the room that night.
After Billy and Nyein Tun, from the school staff, welcomed their students and our fellow colleagues to the celebration, the evening commenced with music and dances performed by the students, drawing from their own traditions but emphasizing a sense of togetherness.
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