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ALUMNI MAKING MOVESAngelica Cheng '19SUSTAINED SERVICE When Angelica Cheng ’19 went on Interim during her junior year, she had no inkling of the profound effect the trip would have on her. Led by Mrs. Shawn Krause and Mr. Johnny Hogan, the Thailand: Life on the Margins Interim brought HKIS students to the Mae Ra Moe refugee camp and Mae Ra Moe Junior College (MRMJC), which support people from the Karen ethnic group. The connection Angelica forged with the students has led to a continued link with the region and a sustained effort to support the students.You seem to have made a deep connection very quickly with the students in Mae Ra Moe. How did that come about? We got to listen to the stories and aspirations of the students. So many of them talked about wanting to make a difference and finding their place in the world. I began to realize the tremendous power education carries – not only as a tool to change the world but also as a source of dignity and purpose.
What inspired you to stay connected? We found out the school was no longer going to be sponsored by their donor after 2019, and they would have to close if they couldn’t find another source of funding. When I returned to Hong Kong, I couldn’t imagine the students’ burning desires for change dying out, so I emailed the principal and asked him what we could to support them.
How have you stayed connected? Among my family and friends, I started talking about the people we met, the stories we heard, and the urgent need to take action. Two friends of mine stepped up, and together for our senior project we raised around HK$90,000 for the MRMJC and founded Karing Frontiers, a registered NGO in Hong Kong.
Have there been any student stories that you can share with us? Tha Dah, our host during my third visit to the camp, was born in Mae Ra Moe since the Myanmar military burned down her village. She had never been to the Karen state, until a service trip with the MRMJC staff would change that. One day, she called me, exclaiming she was finally home! My heart felt full listening to all the ways she was reconnecting with her roots – meeting family she didn’t know she had, having the chance to directly give back to her community, and immersing herself in the beauty of her homeland. She spent the next couple of months in the Karen state, redefining herself as someone who is more than a refugee. Tha Dah’s story is a story of hope. Even when we are lost, we can find ourselves again and define our own lives.
What are your future plans with this project? This year, we’re expanding our support to a total of five higher education institutions along the Thai-Myanmar border! Our goal is to raise HK$302,000!
Were other HKIS students/alumni involved with this work? None of this would have been possible without the help of my senior project partners Ekisha Basu ’19 and Cosima Lesca ’19. Since then, Benny Berkenkotter ’19, Laura Na ’21, April Leong ’22, Aujin Kim ’22, Keilyn Tai ’20, and Janice Shen ’23 have joined the team!
To find out more about Angelica’s work, visit karingfrontiers.com. They are launching a fundraising campaign for the 2021-2022 academic year in May!