From education to employment

Northampton graduate overcomes persecution to win international award for social good

3 people stood at awards

When Hein (Ray) Oo was forced into hiding in Burma, international accolades for his actions to improve society would have seemed a distant dream.

Hein (Ray) Oo (centre) with Sherry M. Knowles (right) the founder of Knowles Educational and Charitable Trust for International Leadership, and Josephine Young (left) who have been hosting Hein during his time in the USA.

His story begins in 2018 when Hein co-founded the Myanmar Youth Digital Literacy Project to equip young people in the isolated and civil-war-ravaged country with the skills necessary to succeed in a modern, global world.

The project was spotted in 2019 by the US-based Knowles Educational and Charitable Trust for International Leadership which made him a regional coordinator and he was later employed by Equitable Education Fund (EEF) of Thailand to help put thousands of migrant children into school.

And via the partnership between the Myanmar Imperial University and the University of Northampton he enrolled to study a BA in Business Management remotely at UON.

But his contributions to society and appearances on television put a target on his head, he was placed on an arrest list following the 2021 military coup and was forced to flee to the countryside.

In 2022 he was given a lifeline by the US Department of State and successfully applied for asylum in America where he was able to complete his BA with UON.

Of UON, Hein said:

“Firstly, the university’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity created an atmosphere where I felt welcomed and valued as an international student, even online, helping me bridge the gap in my English language and digital skills.

“This support extended beyond the classroom, where I found a strong sense of community that encouraged me to pursue my passion for humanitarian work.

“The international outlook in every assignment at UON exposed me to diverse perspectives and global issues which has been invaluable in my professional work.

He added:

“My experiences at the university instilled in me a deep sense of purpose, a commitment to humanitarian causes, and the skills necessary to address complex global issues.

“The University of Northampton played a crucial role in my journey, equipping me with the tools and knowledge to overcome adversity and achieve success on the global stage.

“My story is a testament to the transformative power of education, and my UK education is at the core of it.”

Currently Hein is a data specialist for the YMCA in New York helping thousands of migrant families every year.

Last month he was invited to the British Embassy in Washington DC for the British Council’s Study UK Alumni Awards 2023/24 and was the winner of the Social Action Award. 

Following 1,200 submissions representing 129 UK Universities and 98 countries, the winners were chosen for demonstrating leadership in their field and using their experience of studying at a UK university to make a positive contribution to their communities and professions.

To find out more about UON’s global partnerships and how they are increasing access to higher education, visit the UON website.

Related Articles