Once upon a time there was a small English class held at Thone Htet Kyaung (Third Story Monastic School). The class was made up of youth who were interested in making a difference in their communities. There were journalists, teachers, community leaders, university students and storytellers. One of these students, Swe Zin, wanted to start a library in her small village in Sagaing Division. She needed books to fill the shelves but there were very few colorful children's books in Burmese. Luckily classmates from the Benevolent Youth Association and Myanmar Storytellers were excited to create books for kids with the least access.
The class then came together to start the Third Story Project, named after the monastic school where it was founded and signifying a third way of looking at difficult issues. The team decided that the theme of the books should revolve around peace, tolerance and diversity, key issues the country was dealing with. Thantzin Soe, co-founder of the Myanmar Storytellers, wrote the first book, Everyone is Valuable, and it was illustrated by Thiha (Sa Kan Thit), a famous Myanmar cartoonist. The team got startup funding from friends to create the book and a generous grant from International Media Support (IMS) to produce 3,000 free copies to distribute. Wa Lone from the Benevolent Youth Association, worked with his organization and other volunteers to distribute the books throughout the country.
The initial book was so successful and children loved it so much, we kept creating books. And the only way we could do that was to make sure we hired a strong project director to lead the team. Ei Pwint Rhi Zan (Rhi Rhi), an engineer by profession, had been a die-hard volunteer from the moment we launched the first book. A natural born networker and major fan of helping her community, she came on board in late 2014 to become our first and only staff. Rhi Rhi took care of everything from book development, business development, operations, business registration and distribution. Now in our third year, she still serves as the Project Director but now she gets to share the load with our other lovely staff and volunteers who help to grow our beautiful organization.
In order for teachers and community volunteers to understand how best to use our books in their work, we started to hold storyteller trainings in collaboration with the Myanmar Storytellers. We have conducted over 50 trainings since 2015 and you can see more information on the trainings we offer under the Trainings tab.
We are now on our 34th original book and counting! All the books are written originally in Burmese and they have been translated into many Myanmar ethnic languages, including:
- Pwo Karen
- Sagaw Karen
Our goal was to provide books for children all over Myanmar in their own languages but there was a demand for English books from teachers so we created simple English versions so that kids in Myanmar could practice their English. It also allowed fans from all over the world to read the books.
Wondering what happened to Swe Zin's idea to have a library in her village? Well, in March 2016 the small but beautiful library was officially opened. The entire community of Sethar came together to build the library in the middle of the village and everyone turned out for the opening. It is full of every Third Story book and thousands more. There are hundreds more small libraries like this one that allow children to access Third Story books in every area of Myanmar.
Our donors have included:
- Friends and family in Myanmar and US
- International Media Support (IMS)
- Myanmar Children's Foundation
- Richardson Center for Global Engagement
- Australian Embassy
- US Embassy
- Swiss Embassy
- Asia Foundation
- YSEALI Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund
- Christ Lutheran Church in Spring Green, Wisconsin
- Finnish Church Aid
- Child's Dream
- ICCO Foundation
- KBZ Literacy Grant