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Parami students’ Multicultural Awareness workshops ignite social transformation


Multicultural Awareness workshop at Integrated Development Institute (IDI) in Taunggyi

Despite the university’s online nature, Parami students, individually and collectively as project teams and student-led clubs, have been conducting both online and in-person initiatives where they could apply lessons and theories from class to real-life situations. Among many dynamic student-led clubs is the Social Issues Club (SIC) led by a Parami student, The The Zuu Zin (Nick), a participant in the Get Engaged Conference in Budapest, Hungary last year, secured a microgrant, allowing the club to conduct a series of workshops focused on multiculturalism. 


The inspiration behind these transformative workshops was ignited during their classes at Parami University, particularly seminar sessions and race and ethnicity classes. Nick, struck by the glaring gap between societal and scientific understanding, felt compelled to contribute to bridging this disparity. Motivated by a vision of fostering unity and diversity, the workshop aimed to create spaces where participants could explore commonalities and shared humanity, recognizing the importance of transcending differences in many attributes, including race, ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic background. 

 

Led by Nick, the team of Parami students with diverse expertise, including Pone Nyet Aung, Zarli Htet, Nyan Htet Htay Win as volunteer organizers and facilitators, and Chan Haymarn Thaw as a volunteer logistics coordinator collaborated to bring the vision to life.



The workshops, titled “Raising Awareness of Multiculturalism in Myanmar and Beyond,” were conducted at Parami University and community-based educational institutions such as Cherry Myay Academy and Integrated Development Institute (IDI) in Taunggyi, Shan State, Myanmar, early this year. The workshops’ objectives were multifaceted, aiming to resolve past grievances through dialogue, promote cultural exchange among ethnically diverse youths, bring attention to the vertical nature of ethnic conflicts in Myanmar, and question the credibility of historical narratives. The Social Issues Club (SIC) invited two distinguished guest speakers who had their fieldwork done on issues surrounding ethnicity in Myanmar: Dr. Elliott Prasse-Freeman, Dr. Jangai Jap, and Dr. Frances O’ Morchoe, to share their knowledge with the participants.


Nick also reflects on the invaluable opportunity of having managed to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life situations, “During the Socratic seminar and discussions, we learned more from the participants. We were so grateful to hear the discussions of the participants in person because the issues and concepts we have been learning in our classrooms are the realities for them.” 




As part of the inaugural workshop held at Parami University, the team conducted a meticulous test run, which was intended to double-check if the team’s activities were sensitive enough in a multicultural environment and to ensure the workshop evolved into a valuable learning experience for both the team members and the beneficiaries.


Through a meticulous process of workshop development, the team navigated the challenge of guiding participants’ thinking, translating research findings into digestible activities, and facilitating engaging discussions. As Parami University students conduct their student-led initiatives, the Social Issues Club’s multiculturalism workshops stand as a testament to the transformative power of education, fostering understanding and building connections that transcend borders. The success of the workshops was evident in the feedback received from participants, encouraging the team to expand their initiatives and impact to more areas with additional resources and time. 





The volunteer organizers and facilitators of the workshop also shared their experiences interacting with their teammates and participants and how they found the experience useful in their lives. 


“Collaborating with my teammates over four months provided an in-depth understanding of project management - from planning to execution….Managing such a diverse group for the first time presented challenges that turned into valuable learning experiences. The project enhanced my adaptability and facilitation skills, boosting my confidence in both professional and community settings. Overall, it wasn't just a project; it was a journey of personal growth, teamwork, and building connections with the communities.” — Pone Nyet 


“Through this project, I have gained invaluable insights from both my colleagues and the student community. I have come to appreciate the profound love students exhibit towards their ethical identities, culture, and traditions, as well as witness their efforts to transform and challenge the stereotypes and social norms of the ethnic minorities in their community or within themselves. Furthermore, this project has provided me with an opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to real-life scenarios, thereby deepening my understanding of diverse ethical perspectives. Collaborating with my colleagues throughout the brainstorming and implementation has been an enriching experience, fostering effective teamwork and the exchange of innovative ideas.” — Zarli


“As a Bamar ethnic raised in the predominantly Bamar region of Myanmar, I haven't had much exposure to the perspectives and feelings of the country's diverse ethnic groups regarding their identities, cultures, and traditions. This workshop provided a valuable opportunity to learn about what I was previously unaware of or misunderstood about the experiences of ethnic communities. This newfound understanding has prompted me to re-evaluate and reflect on the stances I've held for years as a Bamar individual. Through my experience facilitating this workshop, I've also witnessed the transformative power of dialogue and cultural exchange among youths as a potential pathway towards conflict resolution.” — Nyan Htet 


Parami University, committed to creating positive social change and nurturing student leadership, supports a range of student-led grassroots community projects through initiatives like the Community Solution Awards and support for its student-led clubs. These kinds of support provided Parami students with avenues to address challenges faced by underserved communities. 


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