Writing for the People
Wai Phyo Myint’s ’11 career as an activist began early: In elementary school, her father would slip messages into her lunch box to deliver to fellow farmers disgruntled with the military dictatorship in her home country of Burma.
In middle school, she graduated from unwitting collaborator to activist in her own right when she began writing anonymous letters to the BBC. In high school, she left her village and moved to the capital with dreams of writing for a newspaper. She landed her first job after walking into an editor’s office with nothing more than her vibrant personality and can-do attitude. Wai’s passion won him over, and a career was launched.
“I really love my profession,” she says. “As a journalist, you can tell others ‘this is what’s going on here.’ I want to write for the people.” At 18 years-old, she found herself in the thick of what for the average American teenager would be the plot of a Hollywood action film. She’s been threatened and interrogated, and has more than once feared for her life. The government regularly censored her work and the work of fellow reporters, yet she persevered with stories on government-run forced labor programs, corruption and bribery.
“My main motivation is my family,” she says. “My father would say: if you give up then you are making the government happy.”
It was volunteer work teaching disadvantaged children that led Wai to Green Mountain College. Her mentor met Prof. Dick Weis, then GMC’s Director of International Programs, and sociology Prof. Vangie Blust at a conference, and put Wai in touch with them. She was drawn to GMC’s curriculum and environmental mission, and has taken full advantage of the college’s interdisciplinary focus: She designed a major to combine her interests in political journalism, history, women’s studies and economics.
Since coming to GMC she has been active in organizations including the International Awareness Club and The Mountaineer, GMC’s student newspaper. She also recently gave an interview on Voice of America radio regarding her transition from life in Burma to life in Vermont.
“I am quite close to the professors...and conversation outside of the classroom is always lively and interesting,” she said during the interview, which aired October 13.
Eventually, Wai would like to return to Burma to continue her journalism career. “I have resources now,” she says, “and I can put those resources into my work and my writing.”