Major in International Business, Major in International Studies
Rewarding grassroots work on the Thai/Burma border
B.E.S.T. recipient William Bryson took a keen interest in human rights when he participated in the Mae Sot Education Project during his time at Champlain College Lennoxville and at Bishop’s University. This volunteer project provides assistance to Burmese refugees and migrant children on the Thai-Burmese border. The Knowlton, Quebec native is set to graduate with a double major in International Business and International Studies in Winter 2018. He will begin his final year at Bishop’s with a six-month stay in Thailand, working alongside former political prisoners whose lives have been turned upside down simply because they spoke their minds.
For William, receiving funds to work for a human rights organization provides him with an opportunity to extend the work he’s been involved with for years.
“As a research and documentation intern at the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP), I’ll be helping compile a monthly record of abuses of authority happening in Burma,” explains William. “I’ll be recording the number of people who are imprisoned for speaking out against the Burmese government. I’ll be working in the AAPP’s office in Mae Sot, Thailand, where they keep an ear to the ground about human rights abuses in Burma.”
The data that William will collect will be compiled in a report that the AAPP will distribute to governments and other human rights organizations. It’s this kind of grassroots work that William finds truly rewarding, and he hopes that his internship will confirm his desire for a career in international development helping to defend peoples’ human rights.
“Having already worked on the Thai/Burma border as part of the Mae Sot Education Project, I’ve come to realize just how much the Burmese people deserve a true, democratic government and society,” says the 22 year old. “That’s why I’m motivated to work for the AAPP: I want to help sow the seeds for the creation of a democratic society in Burma, and I don’t think that can happen without the right to freedom of expression and speech. We need to stand up for the people who, after so many years of oppression, are still struggling to improve their country.”
William is well acquainted with the leadership at the AAPP, having already met its director. He will be working alongside other staff members, some of them former political prisoners in Burma. Indeed, the organization was founded by two Burmese political prisoners who fled the country for Thailand, where the AAPP is headquartered.
On the cusp of finishing his academic career at Bishop’s, William’s values and passion are converging thanks to the B.E.S.T. Project Fund. “We need to stand up for political prisoners who remain persecuted for unjust reasons and we need to continue to put pressure on the government to truly transition into a democracy since the country is still controlled by the military to a certain extent. I feel very passionate about a cause that allows me to better somebody else’s life.”