Impact / Blog


July 13, 2021

United World Schools

5 mins

Burmese-born illustrator Ohn Mar Win is just one of the talented artists who has created unique illustrations for our Happily Ever Smarter Secret Sale. Read her story, in her own words, of how she has overcome adversity, cultivated creativity and why she’s determined to give children the education and opportunities they deserve.

“If you don’t know part of my early history, I emigrated from Burma with my family when I was five. I can only imagine it was a tough decision as we left almost all of our family behind; the many aunts, cousins and both sets of grandparents. But we also left behind a ruling dictatorship which couldn’t understand the harsh economic realities of normal people, with little investment in healthcare or education (instead, spending most of their revenue on arming the military). If my father hadn’t made that decision all those years ago my life would be very different. 

One of my first Skillshare classes I created was around creative goals and if you have also seen my recent Skillshare class, Transition Into Illustration: Breaking into the Industry, you will know that I am a firm believer in having a vision of how I wanted my illustration career to look like in order to shape it. Way back in 2012 even before I picked up a brush or pen, I created a goals book of how I wanted my ideal life, with a thriving illustration business, including the types of clients I’d attract. 

Coming from a disadvantaged background, I knew I wanted to work with charities in order to help others less fortunate than myself. I knew how incredibly lucky and privileged I was to have had access to good healthcare and education as an immigrant to the UK. If I had stayed in Burma I would not have had such opportunities or security. Over the years I have supported many charities to help with sanitation, the fight against malaria, and bringing clean water to remote communities. From my position today I wish for all children to have enough to eat, an education, and their own hopes and goals for the future which is not blighted by poverty.

This July, I am delighted to be teaming up with United World Schools (UWS) to help the world’s most remote and marginalised regions to give every child access to free education. They partner with local communities in Myanmar, Nepal and Cambodia, to build, equip and resource primary schools. The charity aims to break the cycle of illiteracy in one generation across Asia, empowering children to realise their full potential and build a better future – for them and their families. 

I first met the team from UWS at a charity fundraising event for Burma and I was immediately taken by their commitment to bring education to remote communities including those in Burma. I talked to them about a slip of paper I’d placed in my ‘magic jam jar’ with my wish to work with children’s charities.

I’m honoured to join other amazing illustrators such as Axel SchefflerJackie MorrisEmily GravettDebi Gliori and more to take part in UWS Happily Ever Smarter Secret Sale, by sharing an illustration based on a real life story of one of the incredible children they are working to support, high in the Himalayas in Nepal.  

This is the piece I created based on an 11 year old girl called Soneeya (pictured above with her sister, Heena) who wishes she didn’t have to carry loads of grass every morning and would love to be at school instead of looking after the cattle all day. She deserves a chance to become a teacher and help her village when she’s older.

For me, or my children or Soneeya, goals even in their simplest form can provide us with a strong motivation that can keep you going for months and years, and can be transformative.”

Thank you to Ohn Mar Win for writing this inspiring blog and illustrating a beautiful piece inspired by Soneeya’s story as part of our Happily Ever Smarter Secret Sale

Running until 29 July, our Secret Sale offers an exciting opportunity to win an original artwork by one of the UK’s most treasured illustrators – and help more children to live ‘Happily Ever Smarter’. 

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