I was first introduced to Prospect Burma in October 2016 when my parents invited me to a dinner that they had won in a charity auction a few months before. They had attended an event for the charity and, inspired by a recent trip to Burma and the charity’s work, were supporting them in their fundraising.
Prospect Burma was set up in 1989 following a period of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations which were violently quashed by the Burmese military regime, often with large numbers of people killed. Universities and schools were closed and martial law was imposed and young Burmese people fled in thousands.
Supporters from all over the world started to send provisions and Prospect Burma was born, initially raising funds for books and classes in refugee schools and awarding one annual scholarship for an exiled Burmese student to attend university. It’s scholarship programme was started in 1992 with support from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize funds, and the charity has since awarded over 1300 scholarships to students studying all over the world.
The dinner was to be cooked by Min Min, an asylum seeker from Burma, now studying Politics with International Relations at York University. My parents knew I was getting involved in Burmese pop ups with Cordelia and Lucy and thought I might like to come along and meet Min Min and Robert Gordon, Chairman of the Prospect Burma and previous British Ambassador to Burma, 1995 - 1999.
As plans progressed for my trip to Hampshire for the dinner, I was asked if I could go and help Min Min prep during the day. I think everyone involved in the dinner was worried that Min Min would be stuck with the ‘oldies’ all day and someone his own age might be a bit of welcome relief.
I was more than happy to get involved - cooking is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn some authentic Burmese recipes.
Min Min turned out not only to be a total dude who had me creasing up all afternoon, but also one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. As we cooked (and when I say ‘we’, I really mean ‘he’ as he had everything completely under control, so my job was, er, stirring) he told me how he had learned to cook and how he ended up in the UK.