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Third Story Project

Describe Third Story Project

Third Story Project is a non-profit social enterprise. We create children's storybooks with positive messages which reflect every child in Myanmar. We mainly produce Myanmar, English, Bilingual, and other Ethnic Myanmar Languages. These stories are for 4 to 11 years old kids.

We are going to produce storybooks for adolescents in the near future as our audiences since 2014 are getting older.  Now we have 67 storybooks with a teacher guidebook and activities book. We do a lot of training related to Storytelling, Story Writing, Doing Activities with kids, Children's Rights Training, and Peace Training for adolescents, teachers, librarians, and youth volunteers.

Why does the world need Third Story Project ?

Especially in Myanmar, we need to learn more about the beauty of diversity because we have been living with people from different backgrounds and have a lot of conflicts based on diversity. Since we have had bad experiences of civil war, we have to learn how to live harmoniously with different people or people with different opinions.

We are trying to solve socio-economic problems in the simplest way by using a story because everyone likes a story that is immensely powerful. While we are using a story, we need to use simple words and only deal with a single problem. That is why it is extremely easy to understand not only for adults but also for children.

Furthermore, we share how to use stories to teach positive messages in order for people to use them in their daily lives. One-time storytelling or without practicing in daily lives cannot achieve our goal which is towards a peaceful society through the art of storytelling. Therefore, we have to encourage the practice of positive messaging to create a platform that is a safe zone to share our feelings, learn from each other, and practice empathy. The platform can be anywhere or at any time, but we start with a story and have a conversation about it.

We do not know what kind of problems we are going to face in the future but we do know that we need to have humanity, empathy, critical thinking, kindness, problem-solving skills, hopes, and other adaptable capabilities to face all kinds of challenges. We are creating a world that is full of people who can be understanding and help each with their hearts, despite living in an increasingly technological age.

What inspired you to start?

I have been volunteering since 2007 and visited a lot of Monastics Education establishments that provide educational supplies with food and clothes for children who are less fortunate. I had to work hard for the opportunity to read a storybook or comic when I was young. Even though our family could afford to buy a book, I would like to give a chance to kids from the monastery or orphanage to enjoy reading. That is why I bought some books and made a small library for them. We realised that there were no new books for children or that most books were only related to children from majority areas, about Buddhism or they came from foreign countries which do not reflect our culture and traditions. Besides, a lot of children from Myanmar never had a chance to own a storybook in their own language.

Another reason is I had a bad experience with conflicts based on religion. In 2012, unfortunately, we had religious conflict in the western part of Myanmar, and we had a civil war in the northern part of Myanmar.  Even though I live in Capital City, Yangon, I did feel unsafe since I come from another ethnic group. I do understand that we need to solve our problems. Since then, we have been doing fundraising and donating some money to Kids and Elders from IDP (internally displaced person) camps. But we know that donations alone cannot solve real problems such as misunderstanding of diversity.

We decided to create a storybook for children which can address those issues in a positive and simple way so both children and adults can learn.

What have you achieved so far?

We won the best social enterprise award in 2016. We created over seventy children’s storybooks and printed 1,040,374 books by August 2020 which were distributed all over Myanmar. We translated books into 18 different Myanmar Ethnic Languages over a period of six years.

We provided a lot of training in storytelling, story creating, information, and Digital literacy for teachers, librarians, parents, and young adults.

We hosted our very first Myanmar Storytelling Forum in 2019 where 300 storytellers joined, and 200 visitors participated.

What do you wish you'd known at the beginning?

There are countless things that I wish I knew at the beginning. I have been facing a lot of challenges each and every step of this project. I did not know how to manage - even though I know policies are important, I paid less attention because I had to earn more money to achieve the social mission we created and to sustain our project.

It is hard to explain how we run a social enterprise as a small registered company to the group of people who do not understand anything about social enterprise, but we are still trying to educate.

However, our group is kept going and still trying because we know that we are doing our best and the effort we are making has a great impact on our society. Every time we create a new story, we are excited about it and so we get a new illustration. Every time we receive feedback from children who love our books, and teachers tell us how good it is to teach children about positive messages, our tiredness fades away.

What's the one piece of advice you'd give an aspiring change maker?

I would like to suggest that creating something new is important, at the same time we have to plan, recheck, rethink, and communicate with the team. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them, forgive yourself, and be a better person in the future.

How can people get involved in your project?

Read our books, Endorse us. Buy more books for children from less unfortunate areas.

What are your plans for the future?

We have been facing difficulties because of the pandemic. We are trying to survive. Most of our future plans have had to be revised. What is certain is that we are going to create more books for adolescents. We are going to survive. We are going to change the world as we agreed to. We are going to create more books with more new positive messages, and we are going to train more storytellers to become trainers for children’s rights.

Anything else you'd like to share?

There is a small project called Pass It On (Hla Day) which was created a long time ago and we are trying to promote it again. An exclusive program at Pass It On is where you can choose to pass on a book yourself, we pass it on for you or you pass it on to a library. We have donated dozens to libraries and many books since it started. Thanks to those who spread fun and learning!

By Ei Piwnt Rhi Zan
Although Rhi Zan has a Masters in Electronics Engineering and started her career out in the engineering field, her passion for peace and helping her community led her to do something completely outside of her field. She started working a projects as a Managing Director on a project called The Third Story Project and turned […]
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