Craig Pollard [00:00:03]:
Hello, and welcome to this latest edition of the Fundraising Radicals Podcast. I'm your host, Craig Pollard. Today's conversation is with Dr Kyaw Moe Tun, the president of Parami University, Myanmar's first and only Liberal Arts And Sciences University in Myanmar. Kyaw Moe Tun raised $5,000,000 to make Parami a reality almost entirely from donors within Myanmar. This is a master class in how to raise funding wherever you are and what it takes to turn your vision into reality even when the odds are completely stacked against you. Welcome.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:00:43]:
How are you today?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun
I'm doing well. Thank you very much.
Where are you today?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun
I'm currently based in New York City.
So how long have you been in New York?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun
I've been here for almost 2 years. I came here in April 2021. Just after the coup. Just 2 months after the coup.
Craig Pollard [00:01:04]:
And your family's back in Myanmar?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:01:05]:
Yeah. Well, they they have always been there. You know, after the coup, I had to figure out what I'm gonna do next for Parami and the safety of myself and of also my family. to ensure that everyone is safe. I had to leave the country to make sure that Parami has a future.
Craig Pollard [00:01:28]:
Okay. That's a lot in the first forty seconds of this conversation. So I want to rewind a little to give you some more context on Kyaw Moe Tun's situation. In April 2021, during the coup in Myanmar, and soon after losing his father to COVID, Dr Kyaw Moe Tun was denounced by the military government on national TV, with a full 45 seconds dedicated just to him. Alongside, Dol Aung San Suu Kyi and many others. Imagine that for a moment. In one minute, having everyone and everything you care about being publicly threatened by the government of your nation and faced with arrest in the notorious insane prison on the outskirts of Yangon. So for his own safety, for the safety of his family and to preserve Parami University, Kyaw Moe Tun left his home, trekked through the jungle, was smuggled across borders and eventually gained asylum in the US where he is continuing his work in exile. Oh, and one more thing before we go back to the conversation. Following Kyaw Moe Tun's lead, we flip between using Myanmar and Burma throughout, using both names of the country interchangeably. And now back to Kyaw Moe Tun.
Craig Pollard [00:02:46]:
Tell us a bit more about Parami, about the idea, the vision, the ambition, the hope.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:02:55]:
You know, I've always understood and experienced the importance of liberal arts education in my life. When I was young, I went through a government high school system all of it in which road memorisation is is the norm, and literal road memorisation is the norm. So going through that, when I went to the US, to study their experience firsthand, what critical thinking is what student centred learning is and why my opinions matter in classrooms where my peers and my instructor looked for opinions from me as well as a peer. And I that that experience really shaped me to become who I am And I believe that that kind of education is really important for the development of the country. So after I finished my PhD in 2014, I went back to Burma to start a liberal arts college. And and so, you know, with that, We have fundraising campaigns and all those stuff that we did to elicit a public interest. We demonstrated it through a pilot school called Parami Institute, a postgraduate certificate program school in Burrma, in Yangon. That was very successful and then we launched a fundraising campaign in 2020.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:04:21]:
And with that mechanism, we raised nearly $5,000,000 for the 1st phase of construction of the university. But, you know, the plan was to open a residential laboratory in 2022, but we couldn't start the construction in March 2021 just because, you know, we had the the military goal a month, the for, and that just all disrupted the plans.
Craig Pollard [00:04:48]:
So you've had to flex what Parami University is and how it operates. And and I see from sort of your LinkedIn feed that I'm seeing sort of adverts for for these roles at Parami. So it seems like you've you're you're still growing and you're you're you've adopted a a sort of online model for your programs.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:05:10]:
Yes. Absolutely. Currently, there are some institutions inside the country that are still offering in person, but We believe that to maintain the academic integrity and academic freedom of the university, it is literally impossible, to be honest, to operate out of firm at the moment when the military regime will restrict any kind of academic discussion that we can have in classrooms. There is gonna be a lot of restriction in terms of what we can say, what cannot say what we can teach, what we cannot teach, what subjects we can teach and or not, what faculty can say, all this really dictatorial, you know, machine is gonna really kill us all. So we unless you're providing kind of like a management courses, business administration, you know, very non political even in those things. I don't sometimes I don't even know how you know, these schools can operate when you have to talk about, you know, inflation, you know, unemployment, You know? Even in management of business schools, like, you have to talk about it. But, you know, when it comes to Parami related at these issues that you cannot talk about it. Right? So So we believe that it's it's literally impossible to operate inside Burma when our academic freedom integrity, everything is gonna be violated. Right? So we what we decided to do was to incorporate Parami in Washington DC under the Washington DC government So we operated it we incorporated it as as a private nonprofit corporation licensed within the District of Columbia in Washington DC.
Craig Pollard [00:06:56]:
And and how are how are students accessing the work? Do do you still have students across Burma? Accessing the courses?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:07:04]:
Yes. Absolutely. We use state of the art education technologies for students We use Canvas Learning Management System, Zoom, all of these things so that that they can have access to all the course materials all the courses at Parami are still synchronous teaching. Right? That's really important. And our class sizes are very small. Only sixteen students in each Zoom class and no more than that. So all students have a very intimate classroom dynamics and classroom discussion and interaction.
Craig Pollard [00:07:36]:
And is is engaging with Parami, a risk for these students?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:07:43]:
It can be a risk for the students. Many of the students actually study. Some of them are actually studying at the border. Many of them are still inside the country. However, we take our students' identity very seriously, and it's not something that, you know, without the consent of students' permission to release any kind of information on Facebook, anything advertised We don't do that. Only when the students are completely safe. We do that. Okay.
Craig Pollard [00:08:11]:
I, I just wanna take you sort of back because, because I remember when we were in Nay Pyi Taw in when was that 2018, you told me a sort of story. You sort of about your early education experience, and I know you've touched on it. But I just wanna take you back And because I remember this sort of the inspiration behind Parami as being really formative. Can you share that?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:08:39]:
Yeah. So I I had some embarrassing stories when I was young growing up in my 8th grade or 10th grade. Actually, it was in in my 8th grade, but then all the way through to the 10th grade. We we don't we don't have 12 years of formal education. Right? in Burma. Even now, we it's it's only 11 years of formal education, like, some twisted version that we we do in formal education in Burma. But back then, we only had 10 years of formal education. And in my 8th grade, we kind of had to you know, memorise these essays, right, where our teacher would force us to write down the s these essays that she has written she she wrote down on on the blackboards, and we're supposed to memorise. And know, and and one of the essays was a visit to my favourite place. And she wrote it down, and but then she said last summer, she wrote down last summer, I went to Napoli or. And then I was like, it's very interesting why she was using you know, the I don't know if if this is conjunction. But or, right, or whether or is the conjunction or not. I think it's conjunction. But but the grammar thing, so I don't remember anymore. But I was like, last or some I must remember Where I went or, you know, I can't I don't think that I can use or because these are two places. And so I asked a question and I was like, why why are you using Tun? And and and she said, you know, don't worry don't worry about it. Just just just write it as I've written on the blackboard. And and I I was not satisfied with that answer, of course. So I asked again, and then she said, or can be used in place of end sometimes. And I got so confused because I've never heard Ora being, you know, synonymously used as end. So so I asked again, and by that time she got super mad, She asked me to come in at the front of the class, she, you know, pulled out my pants in front of the entire class, and, you know, she killed me on my products. And that really humiliated me, of course, I was fourteen years old, and I was so embarrassed, and that's silenced me for 3 years. I became a very quiet person they typically call it a very obedient student, very quiet, non questioning student for the next three years, 8 grade, 9 grade, 10 grade. Right? And only when I went to college, then I realised the first time I felt liberated, and my teachers asked me, what do you think? And I got confused. And and that was that was you. You you got the scholarship to go to Bard College. Right? Absolutely. I I I got a scholarship to go to Bard College. for 4 years 3 years at at Bard, and then 1 year in at at at Oxford in England. So, yeah, that was the first time I I I got asked, what do you think Joe was on? What's your opinion? And I I will be like, why are you asking me? You're the teacher. You you are supposed to tell me what I'm supposed to think. You know, that that was kind of that was that was very uncomfortable at first being asked what I thought. Right? Growing up with, you know, what I'm supposed to think, So those formative years were really important for me, really, in shaping me who I am.
Craig Pollard [00:12:24]:
And I remember I remember you also saying that the systemic element of it in that in that your teacher you you had a sense of understanding about your teacher not being equipped to do or think in a different way. So are you sort of both trapped in that system? Yes. Yes. And looking back, you know that that shift from that experience in in Burma Tun then moving to the US, it it, you know, must be mind blowing. And completely transformative. Yes. And then after that experience, you went to Yale. You did your doctor at Yale. Why what motivated you and drove you to return to Myanmar?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:13:08]:
Yeah. Thank you very much for that question. One thing that I like to highlight is about Bard here, and it you know, this has a lot to do with Bard. Bard College, I would say, is one of the most daring colleges or universities in the United States period. Tun if I I might even say the the the most daring, actually, you know, they go to very difficult to operate areas throughout the world. Right? They're not afraid to go to these areas. Many of the well known you know, very prestigious universities in the United States would go to what I would call safe havens. Right? safe havens when they have complete kind of, like, you know, approval from, you know, their the the respective governments and, you know, like, when they they have kind of, like, a a lot of money, you know, given out or by, you know, wealthy individuals or from those countries, that's not how Bard operates. Barb would go to places where it is difficult to operate. right, authoritarian regions, dictatorial places, and they will figure out ways to operate in these areas. Let me give you a few examples. Bard had partnership with Saint Petersburg State University of Russia. They operated a college called small college where students receive dual degrees. 1 from bar College and 1 from St. Petersburg State University. A few years ago, Bard was kicked out of Russia, unsurprisingly by Putin. Yeah. describing Bard as an undesirable organization. And Bard also has partnerships with American University of Central Asia and Tun, right, where students receive dual degrees as well. They they operate in partnership with El Cuts University in East Jerusalem, where students receive dual degrees. Again, like these are not, you know, your typical easy to operate places where you can find safekeeping. Right? a very challenging. And in 2012, around 1012, I would say, 10 to 12, 2010 to 12, Bard was exploring possibility to establish a branch campus in Burma. Burma was just opening up still very dictatorial as it is now. You know, we were still only we're just coming up. We're just opening up. Really opening up. 2010 is just opening up. remember from 2010 to 2015 Tun from 2015 to 2025, we still have 25% of the parliamentarian seats reserved for the military, right, reserved, right, not not contested, reserved, for the military. And so it's still quite a pseudo pseudo dictatorial military militarized the country. And even then, Bard was thinking of operating a a branch campus inside the country to offer Liberal's education to improve to to promote critical thinking lines, citizens of Burma. And, you know, Bard has historically educated a lot of Hermes people. on their campus. And so while I was doing my PhD at Yale from 2010 to 2000, 2009 to 2014, 2015,
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:16:39]:
Bard asked if I wanted to come back after my PhD in 2014, and to be a professor of chemistry at their planned college, and I agreed. I was elated. I was so happy because I would get a job immediately after my PhD. I was super happy. But then in 2012, they said that it was not gonna happen. Maybe, you know, it was it was a bit untimely in terms of, you know, the country was just opening up, and there were no regulatory framework to to at all to to be able to operate. Right? So but then I didn't wanna give up you know, after I finished my PhD in 2014. So I was like, oh, you know, I'll I'll come back to Burma to see what's, you know, what's there that I can do. So I you know, taught in a in a nonprofit school for 2 years, then I started my own initiative, Parami Institute. And then Bard was very, again, happy to partner with me to reinitiate the project.
Craig Pollard [00:17:36]:
It's a big step. How how did it how did it feel for you being back home after that experience in in the US and the sort of freedom you'd enjoyed to to return.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:17:47]:
You know, the thing is I've never thought of what freedom I would lose or what kind of a living standard or whatever, like, I would lose out. Those were not the things that I thought about or that I had in mind. All I wanted to do was maybe this is shaped by my father's values as well as a board's values of civic engagement, you know, civic responsibility. But my father has also shifted me to be who I am in that he is always asking me to think about what I can do for the country. Tun then so, you know, right after my PhD. Actually, even before I finished my PhD, I knew I'll take us back to grade 10. Right? My biology teacher once asked me, Jamoto, what do you wanna become when you grew up? And I said, Well, I don't know what I will become, but I like to empower people. I like to help the country. I like to be part of that. So that's what I said. But I I also told her, however, before I could become such a high impact person, I have to empower myself. So I will educate myself to the highest level, and after that, I'll go back. So when I went to Bard, you know, I know that I'll go for PhD. And then after PhD, I'll go back to Burma in what whatever ways that I could do in Burma. So It has never been a question of, like, whether I'll lose the, you know, the the the style of living that I will have or, you know, things like that. Those were never part of my equation. I've always wanted to go back. And so, in fact, 2 weeks after I defended my dissertation, I went back to Burma.
Craig Pollard [00:19:31]:
We met I'm just thinking when we met, it must have been 2018. And I I remember so so we were we were working on really sort of shaping your your fundraising because that was seen as, you know, the the next step. And you you'd built this board and you'd built an incredible network, you'd navigated really difficult political economy. And, and I I remember coming over and there was this real sense of of optimism about the future for for the country, for Parami University as well. And we we had some conversations about fundraising, and we sort of -- Yeah. -- shaped that. And that was that that was a that felt exciting. And and then you went out and and did this amazing because, you know, the resources you needed to to to build the university. How did you go about the fundraising? How what what what made you feel that it was possible to to raise the funding you needed and and how did you go about that?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:20:38]:
Yeah. Well, so, you know, sometimes it's funny. Like, if you actually had known how difficult it would be, you wouldn't have started it. So only, like, truthfully, I was a bit naive maybe. You know? Like, I was like, oh, I'll just do it. You know? I I have a Tun way ticket, and I'll just fly. That's all. You know? Like, I I didn't have backup plan b, plan c, options, and things like that. I would just, like, make it I'll make it happen. And it was very challenging. You know, first of all, we didn't have any kind of we still don't have any kind of, like, you know, regulatory framework at all. Right? From 2015 to 2020, there were some policy progress. right, regulatory progress. And this is in terms of charity law? Absolutely. Charity law, charity law, higher education law.
Craig Pollard [00:21:33]:
So there's no because there's no charity law in Myanmar.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:21:40]:
Exactly. Charity law, higher educational I mean, all laws. Right? and only in 2020, July 2020. Right? The Ministry of Planning Finance Industry released it's not really a law. It it's a directive saying, you know, like, they will start recognising charitable organisations, like charitable status. That was in late 2020. And organisations wouldn't be able to start applying for it until October of 2020. Right? And I remember we had the coup in in February 2021, so it's like, 3 months later, we just had a coup. So, you know, not much -- -- small window. But but Parami was able to secure the terrible status even after that, you know, within that those 3 months, we applied immediately, and then we had to wait for, like, a year and a half to to get that charitable status. But, yeah, in terms of the law itself, you know, charitable recognition, nothing like that. When we fundraised in early 2020, there was no charity law at at all. Right? So we were just, like, you know, like, doing this and then, you know, like, you know, like, it was I think I think a lot of the wealthy individuals that I have recruited or I have, like, you know, cultivated were not really motivated by you know, tax incentives or anything like that. They were really they were all with us in terms of how we wanna move this country forward. They know that we need visionary, responsible, competent leaders. Those are next generation leaders. who can have a conversation at a global platform peer to peer with world leaders, and they know that they need to they need to be part of the movement to create these individuals. So they became part of it, but there were a lot of challenges to get to that point. because in Burma, you know, a lot of I mean, like, probably everywhere as well, but particularly significant in Burma, is that I would say 99% of the donations in Burma actually go to religious purposes. Right? Not to schools, not to other charitable activities much, but only to religious purposes. people would donate, like gold rings and gold necklaces and everything, gold diamonds, or rubies, all of it are duplagotas, you know, temples, crazy and that they would just bury them in here and things like that. And, you know, that's what they would do. And what was the motivation behind that? because I remember having that really interesting conversation about what why people donate to temples and for business organiwations. Yeah. Well, both ways, I guess, like, you know, maybe it's it's you know, there there is this social recognition that they like to get, you know, as there is a term in Birmingham called, meaning, you know, you are the the the patrons of the Buddha, something like that. And then you wanna be part of that club kind of thing, so you donate a lot of money. But, also, you know, there is this interest to gain karma good karma. right, that if you donate to these great causes, you will generate a lot of good karma Tun and then so there is that. But I believe that the this this you know, they they they were definitely this generation of wealthy people from, like, thirty to forty five years old, that age. Right? They they become millionaires and all all that, and they were they have a different mindset. I mean, they they their parents are still, like, very much, like, religion pro. Right? Pro religion donating only to religion. But these people from 30 to 45 years old have, like, oh, you know, we see that the country also needs these areas in improvement. Right? So why don't we channel the resources into these areas as well, and this is where we click. And I can have the conversations with that segment of wealthy individual donors in Burma?
Craig Pollard [00:26:03]:
It's a phenomenal achievement to raise $5,000,000. in Burma. It it's hard enough raising $5,000,000 in the US, but raising $5,000,000 in Burma and really without charity law, with an environment that's so against or or sort of doesn't really understand or or promote or help in any way. How long did it take you to raise that money? Where? What sorts of people? I mean, you've explained described some of them, but, you know, where is their wealth coming from? And and and how did you how did you approach them? And how long did it take?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:26:41]:
Right. Right. So a lot of donor cultivation takes, I would say, 3, 4 years for sure, you know, with these individuals, high network individuals. I I mean, like, that's how that's why we started a Parami Institute in 2017, you know, well early before we started really you know, closing in and, you know, making actual returns from them in 2020. And it took 3 years to cultivate. And I would say all the donors that I have engaged within those, like, segments, you know, age segments are 32. 45, not more than 50, for sure, those those individuals. Yeah. And, you know, on top of it, like, of course, are there also other challenges of, like, the higher education sector is mostly looked at as as the government sector. Right? This is where you don't go in and do anything. Like, you just let the government do that, and which is, I guess, like, typical, I would say, a lot also in Europe as well where higher education is almost the the the field of the government. But I would say in this field in Burma, at least. I would say, you know, Burma has historical socio economical ethnic features, right, that call for not just a very centralised, you know, top down approach, but really from, like, private citizens approach. Right? Because these people have their own identities, their their languages, their their value system, our country has a 135 officially recognised ethnic groups and all that. So it's it's a very diverse country. And and so in that in that sense, if you look at the US model of 50 states with the different laws and different, you know, structures, it's more synonymous in that way.
Craig Pollard [00:28:33]:
Yeah. Interesting. because one of the other principles and values behind Parami is is around equity and access for everyone. So, traditionally, education's only been open to certain groups. And I I remember your sort of aim was for representation from every area. Absolutely.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:28:54]:
Absolutely. And how have you managed to achieve that? Yeah. Within a part of me, even now, yes, we have public universities in Burma do offer, I would say okay. So equitable education when it comes to money. So public high education institutions are pretty good at even though it's of really questionable quality, pretty good at opening up doors. for all students regardless of whether they're wealthy or poor. Right? So that's fine. But then they have problems when it comes to ethnic representation. There are several ethnic minorities that are not officially recognised by the government. And if you turn on to be in those groups, then you are not you have a very limited mobility within the country you cannot go to this university or that university. Or, in fact, you cannot study at all because if you're not, you know, part of that ethnic group or a citizen of the country, that you're not allowed to study in these universities. So that's that. But when it comes to private universities in Burma, I mean, like, we call them private universities, but then I typically say they're all glorified tuition centres because they don't award. These are private universities, actually, don't award their own degrees, they're not allowed to award their own degrees. They partner with the UK universities, which award the degree through these teaching institutions in Burma. So private universities, for profit universities, are particularly good at opening up access to a variety of students, ethnic, you know, doesn't matter as long as you are wealthy. Right? So within Parami, we particularly we focus on both. Whether you are rich or poor, it doesn't matter what ethnic group you are, it doesn't matter. we actively promote diversity in both areas.
Craig Pollard [00:30:49]:
You know, every part of what Parami does from the critical thinking through to accessing education is is deeply challenging in the current political economy. Mhmm. How how have you navigated getting Parami to this point because you've had to walk a tightrope over the last decades.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:31:07]:
Absolutely. Yeah. I would say Yeah. I I guess, like, there are different types of challenges. Before the coup, it was a different type of challenge. There there were a different sort of challenges, I would say. But then after the coup, it was a different sort of challenges. Before the coup, it was really about, like, you know, there were, like, lack of regulatory framework So those were big challenges. You know? The philanthropic mindset within the country, those were challenges. You know, I was very young. I was still only twenty seven years old. when I went back to Burma, and when I started, Parami me, I was 29, 28, 29.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:31:45]:
Yeah. Twenty nine years old. So I was still kind of, like, regarded as, like, a young guy. You wanna set up a university. What are you thinking kind of you know, look. But I was able to navigate because I I I actually do a lot of my homework to to be able to, you know, navigate the landscape there to be able to have a serious conversation with the policymakers, parliamentarians, and, you know, regulatory regulators. though they're just starting up as well. So I was able to manage all of that, but those were the challenges that we had before. But after the coup, because of the atrocious nature of the military regime, they could just arrest anyone within a country you know, even our students. So we just have to be very politically sensitive in terms of what we can and we cannot do, what we can let our students go through so as not to endanger them and all that. So that's a different set of challenges. Right? What we say on Facebook, what we say on website, what we say in the public arena, we all have to be very careful. And, Joe, and the staff that are that are in country, how how do they manage that? Yes. So they're all working from home. They don't have to come to office at all. We're still, you know, kind of, like, during COVID era right now. So they all work from home. Some of the staff are based in Thailand type from a border, yeah, just everywhere throughout the country. So Yeah. Because because we don't have a fixed location right now within Yangon where we operate out of. Right? That really decentralizes how we operate, and and so it really significantly reduces the risk.
Craig Pollard [00:33:30]:
It's a it's an incredible flex and and pivot. You you started the build because you'd raise the cash and started to build the university. Right? What stage did that get to?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:33:44]:
Yeah. We actually finished drawing out all the, you know, the architectural master plan detail of civil engineering, all the, you know, like, engineering works that we have done all of it, quantity survey, everything. And we are we're just about to release tender documents for, you know, construction companies that that was we're supposed to release them in mid February 2021. And on February 1 2021, we had a military good. So we had to postpone everything, really figure out, okay, what are we gonna do with all the money? What are we gonna do with, you know, all these pledges? And then my yeah. And then you know, a lot of family problems, family issues as well. My father got sick in the middle of February with COVID. My mother got sick as well. you know, the country was in short of actual cash because everyone was just going to to banks to withdraw cash. And so you know, all, you know, services inside the country can only be paid with cash. No, you know, electronic transfers accepted anymore. So, yeah, it was a it was a quite a messy time inside the country.
Craig Pollard [00:34:59]:
And within all of those logistics then, and how did you and the challenges that you're that the donors are facing as well in terms of their restrictions on their businesses, etcetera. How did you take them along with you and keep them engaged. Are they still engaged? Are they were they able to donate? Were the pledges realised?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:35:20]:
Yeah. Many of them were still engaged. Of course, we had to since some of the donations are restricted for buildings, we just said, okay. Look. We cannot accept these donations anymore because, you know, these are supposed to go for buildings, and now we cannot build. the buildings anymore. So whether the i either they repurpose the donation to academic programming in this online format or temporarily pause their transfer right now. So that's where we are at the moment.
Craig Pollard [00:35:51]:
So you have sort of a a series of of donors who are for the capital, for the for the building on pause, and you have others who have -- Yes. re allowed you to repurpose those donations and and have invested in the online -- Yes. -- model. Yes. And with what sort of proportion or or impose and what proportion came with you to to the new model?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:36:17]:
I would say 40% of them have been repurposed. 60% have been kind of, like, postponed or like on pause?
Craig Pollard [00:36:25]:
And and what I I guess what's your what's your hope and, you know, so much of it is beyond your control. Right. What are your hopes and fears? And does does the ambition do you still have that ambition to have the building? or has has that changed? But what are your hopes and fears, I guess, for the next sort of 5, 10 years? Yeah. I guess, like, it's it's really intertwined with the country's political situation.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:36:53]:
Right? Most of it is it really the almost all of it is it beyond my control. But you know, if the country goes back to to a Democratic government, right, we would like to rebuild the residential campus again. of course. That will be our goal. Right now, our students need to be educated, whatever mode that we can educate them in, The military government, the military regime, is particularly interested in isolating students, putting them in the dark. That's what they like to do. but we must not allow that to happen.
Craig Pollard [00:37:31]:
Are you still fundraising now? Are you still Is that a part of your role -- Yes. -- still as as the president of the university? And -- Yes. Absolutely. And how how are you doing it now?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:37:45]:
This is a very important question because right now, Parami is registered in Washington DC. We are just starting on the graduate programs. And then so my 1st year 2022, 2023
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:37:58]:
I focus a lot on making sure that Parami is in compliance with everything that we need it to be. So I am quite directly involved in implementation of a lot of programs. Right? as well as well, it's it's really setting the culture of the institution in the 1st year. And my major responsibilities of Tun raising are going to really pick up near the end of this fiscal year, which is end of June 2023. So I will have to start to pick up fundraising again, now that one academic year, you know, end of is gonna end in May 2023.
Craig Pollard [00:38:37]:
And you you said that fundraising has, that you went into it sort of naively, not really, you know, that one way ticket you said, and and surprised at how much time and effort it took What would you say to somebody who was who who had a a a vision, an idea, a passion that they wanted turn into reality and required funding to do it? What sort of advice would you would you give them?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:39:06]:
Well, I would say, you know, they should really focus on the passion and draw energy and inspiration from their passion rather than, you know, being afraid constantly to to be able to raise funds. Because I believe that if you have the passion, of course, that you have to do your homework as well. I mean, you can have the passion, but if you actually don't do work, and just wishing that's not gonna work. Right? So you need to have the drive. You need to have the passion, but you also actually have to do homework. When I say homework, you have to read up on what motivates donors to give, right, what incentives that they have, what motivations, what are the strategies that you will have to use in a very unique context that you're operating. Right? and what are the challenges that you're gonna be facing and how you're gonna address them, you have to do all that homework first. Right? and prepare yourself and constantly hone your skills. But rather than just fixated by this fear of not being able to raise funds, draw your inspiration from your passion.
Craig Pollard [00:40:11]:
That's really good advice. I think it's that that solid foundation to build to build on. you touched there about sort of unique context. And I I think it's your sort of fundraising journey is is is unique has unique challenges. But I think that's probably true of everybody's fundraising journey. Right? It's -- Yes. -- it's it's not putting too much weight on other people's experience, but sort of bringing it into yourself, what do you want to do, what do what do you want to achieve, and and who are the people you sort of gather around you because I remember you having when we when we were doing our our sessions about guiding, fundraising, and planning, the next steps just before you went out and and did the fundraising. You had this really passionate group of people who wanted the same things, your values, you were aligned, your ambitions were aligned, and it felt like an exciting moment. How important is it to gather sort of wealthy, well connected people who have the same passion as you around you. How, how did you do that then?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:41:08]:
Yeah. It's it's really everything, and that's really part of the homework that I you know, one has to do. Right? And you know, before you go out and build or before you go out to be able to connect with high network individual donors. You have to have middle people connectors everywhere, and you build that sphere of, you know, high potential connectors very closely around you whom you can inspire, whom whom you can convince to to be on board with you throughout. you know, the journey. So I was able to do that. And and, again, like, these people are those who are you know, who are supposed to go out and influence and inspire people that are between 30 30 to, you know, 45, 50. Right? But then the connectors are those who are, like, 25 to 35, right, that age range.
Craig Pollard [00:42:13]:
And then they are connected to the to the to to the actual high level individual donors. Tun and you did a great job, I think, of of inspiring those people. And and I remember sort of the conversations about about how excited deeply they they felt, but it It feels like often when you gather a group of sort of wealthy, connected, passionate people, and they are ex inspired, funding is just one of the things they can deliver. Right? That's one of the things that comes downstream from having that group of engaged people. what what other things in in what other ways did this group help Parami University become what it is?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:42:51]:
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, like, these connectors I guess, like, the connectors isn't that they they connect me with a high net network infrastructure donors, but then they also you know, challenge me to think outside of the box in my strategies. Right? Not not just for fundraising, even in implementation of the programs, you know, I I am someone who doesn't like to go out much, go out as in, like, go out and be, like, well known, and, you know, like, I don't like to do that. that's not who I am. I don't wanna, you know, be on Facebook too much either in in Burma. That's that's everything. But, you know, They are the ones who will be like, you know, which are more done. You need to be out there. You need to be promoting yourself. You need to be making yourself more famous. You need to be talking more about yourself, or you need to get other people to be talking more about yourself publicly and all these things. So, you know, like, it has to be viral Tun all these I mean, like, all these, you know, like, suggestions helped me a lot, and then they themselves became part of that movement to make Parami well known as well.
Craig Pollard [00:43:53]:
And how how did that feel? because I I guess being challenged and, and when you open when you open your idea and your project to to to the involvement and engagement of others, inevitably use lose an element of control. Yeah. What offsets that?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:44:13]:
You know, losing the -- I I I I I'm never afraid of losing control. I I don't yeah. I I'm never afraid of losing control. I'm I'm afraid of not getting things done. You know, like, my my my mentality is that even if it is done badly, at least it's done. We can learn the lesson from it and then improve. what I'm afraid is it's getting, like, not done because nobody cares about it, and nobody has done it. Right? I'm not I'm not afraid of losing control. I'm I'm I'm completely okay. If they challenge me and if they, like, think about, okay. Control, why don't you think about trying this out? Tun I'll be like, okay. Let's just try this out because I may have a particular opinion, but, you know, you challenge me, and I think that it's a great idea. So we try it out together. If it fails, well, we learned on the lesson and that will improve. You know? Rather than not trying it out and not doing anything and not going anywhere, I think that that that's that's that will be the greatest fear.
Craig Pollard [00:45:16]:
Yeah. Mate, yeah, and I I think it's it's such a that's a fantastic lesson for for people to hear around the sort of not being afraid to lose control. I think inevitably when if you want your idea to become to be realised. You you need all of these people around you. But and part of that is sharing and and and helping them to to own it as well because people don't feel passionate about things that they're not deeply involved with. There's a sort of you know, very clear link between those two things. Absolutely. You know, I I I'm having these these conversations Tun there are, you know, common features, but I think this sort of grit and determination of which you are exemplar is is a real feature of people who are delivering and getting funding for these incredible projects. Would you agree? You know, tell me about your determination, your grit, what fuels it?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:46:03]:
You know, I in my family, I don't describe myself as the most intelligent, that's the smartest person in my family. I would consider my sister male doctor. You know, like, I think there there are different types of intelligence, I would say. Right? And, you know, I'm yeah, academically in maybe intellectually smart and all that. But my my eldest brother and my sister and, you know, like, that they they are smart other in other ways. And and, you know, like, sometimes I will be like, you know, my eldest brother is actually smarter than I am. You know? Like, when we have a conversation, he gets certain things. You know? He gets some things so so quickly, and I'm like, how did you get that? Right? So so I know they but but what I am really good at is oppressive hearings. I am you know, like, if I have my heart set on it, I'll get it done until it's done. Right? So that's that's who I am. And, you know, like, you know, like, you are you know, I mean, I guess, like, this is something that you will see in typical PhD pursuers. Right? I mean, like, you you know, sometimes when you do it when you do a PhD, you'll be like, who in the whole wide world cares about your project? Your tiny project. Right? maybe, like, 1 out of a million people may have heard of the term or the a title of your project or maybe maybe maybe it's, like, Tun out of a 1,000,000 is relevant. Oh oh, you know, like but but we for severe and we do things even when the when we know that probably nobody cares about it. You know? We're doing it because we are passionate about it, and that's why we do it. Right? So for me, like, I have that perseverance and, you know, like, I I keep doing it. And I would say here, I I you know, where I get my energy, I I I have to do it pre Tun and post coup. Right? Pre coup because it was my motivations were intellectually kind of, like, flowed. You know? I always reason with myself, you know, I have a privilege of life in in you know, like, I mean, I mean, not that I, you know, I I was able to go to expensive or private international schools in Burma, But at least my my parents, you know, were not too poor. Right? So poor that, you know, I was not able to be even in government education schools. Right? So I I would say I was privileged in that sense, And, you know, when I wanted to take English tuition classes, you know, they would like, okay. Yeah. You can do that. And, you know, I had the privilege to be able to take these English tuition lessons and all that. So I I I believe that I am privileged in that sense. And then so, you know, when I went to board and, you know, through throughout what my father has said about, like, okay, you know, contribute back to the society. Mostly, it was, like, intellectual, you know, reasoning. Right? I I've been privileged I should do that, and that really drove me to be determined. But after my father passed away, it is transcended from that intellectual, you know, motivation to personal motivation. If You know what I mean? My father, my my dad, I would say, would have been more proud of Parami than I am. You know? I for me, it was it was more like intellectual, you know, civic engagement, responsibility. I should do it. I'm doing it. Right? But for my father, it was like, my son is doing it, and I'm so proud of him. Right? And he was on the ground driving, you know, in yangon, throughout yangon, to get, you know, land licenses, you know, things that I really, really hate to deal with Tun, like bureaucratic stuff, including bribery, like pocket money, tea money, all these crazy things. I hated to do it. And and my father would be like, Don't worry about it. I'll do it. So he would put his part out. doing all these things on the ground that I hated to do. And he was very proud of Parley, and all of it And apart from his own personal satisfaction of being able to help me, being able to help pore me, being able to, in his mind, help contribute to the development of the country that he loves. You know? He didn't take any credit whatsoever. And in February 2021, 2 weeks after the coup, my father was diagnosed with COVID. And with the the the cash flow issues inside the country, you know, not being able to withdraw cash from banks, you know, because of all these limitations of cash availability Tun you know, hospitals would not accept the patients unless you give them, like, you know, $10,000 cash, something like that. you know, my father was quite late and being admitted to the hospital 4 days late. And so he was admitted on February 22nd, and he passed away on February 26th. I was in the same hospital room. know, because he was COVID, and and they can only be one family member inside the room. So I was there. I was the only person who was available to to be with my father, so I was there. And I had to watch my father die. And, you know, in the back of my mind, I I was like, so this military regime destroyed all our lives, really dismantled all the hopes, you know, removed kind of destroyed all our hopes and, you know, promises and, you know, all the fruits of the younger generation. And now we're going back into the dark age, and for what, for whom, you know, for a few Tun of those, like, the military people up in the eschalon. You know? And for that, we all had to suffer. And now, you know, my father also had to die. Right? And all the people inside the country are also suffering and you know, it became more of a personal mission for me. Like, you know, I need to make Parami me happen. Right? My father give life to it. Right? Tun it's not just for me an intellectually reasoned, you know, motivation anymore. It's it's a it's a personal motivation. My father give life to it and I have to make it happen.
Craig Pollard [00:52:31]:
Please forgive this last interruption from me. If you are an experienced fundraiser based in North America or Europe and have a deep connection or deep interest in Myanmar or Liberal Arts And Sciences education and if you've been inspired by the vision and determination, and if you want to volunteer your time and fundraising skills, for free, to help make this happen for Parami University, please do get in touch with me at [email protected]. and we will share your details with the Parami team. And now back to the final moments of this conversation with Kyaw Moe Tun. What does Parami mean?
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:53:11]:
It means fulfilment of potential. Yeah. So Burma has a lot of potential. And the young people of Burma have a lot of potential. They just need the opportunities, and I believe the Parami would be just that.
Craig Pollard [00:53:25]:
It feels very much like your work is far from done.
Dr Kyaw Moe Tun [00:53:31]:
So still very far. So far.
Craig Pollard [00:53:36]:
Knowing you and your determination there's a lot work to do. But if anyone can do it, it's you. Thank you so much, Kyaw Moe Tun. I really appreciate this, and it's yeah. We really appreciate it, and thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you. It's my pleasure.
Craig Pollard [00:53:54]:
Some conversations just stand by themselves and really don't need me to add anything else to them. This puts my own existence and effort into stark relief. I know that my fundraising will always be relatively easy. But this also gives me hope, that there are thousands of people like Kyaw Moe Tun all over the world dedicating their lives to causes that really deeply matter, even in the face of an overwhelming personal cost. I hope you enjoyed meeting the brilliant, incredible Dr Kyaw Moe Tun today. If you did enjoy this episode, please do subscribe on your preferred podcast platform. And if you do want to find out more about our work, please do visit fundraisingradicals.com.