Fund a Student Loan in Southeast Asia
How It Works
Zomia SPC is a social purpose corporation launched in 2014 to increase access to higher education among students in marginalized communities. We do so principally by facilitating affordable student loans, engaging a community in a peer-to-peer lending process that connects students in need with individual lenders.
Registered in Washington State, Zomia SPC is a for-profit corporation with a social mission. In 2018, Zomia amended its bylaws to allow interest earned on student loans to be used in covering loan administration costs.
Peer-to-peer lending (often abbreviated “P2P”) occurs when one or more individuals lend money to another without the involvement of a traditional financial institution such as a bank. Zomia employs a peer-to-peer lending model tailored for higher education, in which individuals can contribute a small loan towards financing a student’s education. Learn about P2P lending on Wikipedia.
Currently, Southeast Asia. Zomia was launched to address the unusual disparity of opportunity that exists in the region, particularly among the Myanmar immigrant population in Thailand. While high-quality universities exist in Southeast Asia, the lack of traditional financing available to students from marginalized communities makes them prohibitively expensive.
Visitors to zomia.org register as lenders and fund student loans using a credit card or PayPal account. Over the course of a student’s education, lenders and borrowers can interact virtually through updates and messages to each other. After graduation, a borrower’s financial situation is assessed; if appropriate, Zomia begins collecting income-based repayments, which are then distributed to lenders proportionally via their lending accounts. Lenders can then withdraw their funds or re-use them to support other students.
It depends. If a loan is marked “pre-funded,” the student has already received funding from Zomia and lender funding is replacing Zomia funding. This allows Zomia to identify and support other students for future funding. Backfilling is critical to the Zomia model, giving students confidence they will be funded for a full term even before funding is secured on the website.
Loans marked “partially pre-funded” have not been pre-funded or disbursed in full. Zomia must secure additional lender contributions to meet the total funding need. In either case, loan funding provided by lenders can only be used to support student loans, and lenders are linked to the students they support for loan repayment. Lenders can search for pre-funded and partially pre-funded loans from Zomia’s student roster.
No. Although lenders receive repayment up to the amount they lend, without adjustment for inflation, the act of lending to a Zomia student is philanthropic in nature.
Forfeiting profit enables students to borrow with peace of mind at an affordable rate. Neither Zomia nor its lenders profit from a student’s financial need.
No. Although the act of funding a Zomia loan is philanthropic in nature, it is not tax-deductible because lenders receive repayments after a student finishes school. While full repayment is not guaranteed, Zomia employs a rigorous underwriting process and repayment pooling (among other mechanisms) to reduce the risk of loss to individual lenders.
Zomia strives to ensure that every lender is repaid in full, but full repayment is not guaranteed. Mechanisms such as repayment pooling and incentives during repayment are used to encourage repayment and reduce risk, but Zomia’s loans are unsecured. (No homes or land can be seized in the event of loan default.)
Repayment typically takes at least two years, with larger loans taking a decade or longer. Loans are listed with a target repayment start date and contract duration. Contracts range from ten to twenty years depending upon the amount borrowed and may be extended via deferments. If the contract period elapses before a loan is repaid and all contract requirements have been met, the remaining debt is forgiven.
Our History & Progress
Zomia Mobile App Released
Fiscal Sponsorship Established
Lender Portfolio Launched
Vanderes Signs on as Funder
Student Repayments Expand
Wave Money Registration
"Not Just a Student" Launch
Our First Student Lender
Zomia Platform Launch
Lending Platform Development
Student Services Expand
Inaugural Class is Formed
Student Applications Begin
A Name is Chosen
A decision is made to formalize our efforts and move forward with creation of a legitimate organization. After receiving feedback from 99 survey respondents, the name “Zomia” is selected from a pool of 10 potential names. On January 1, 2014, the first zomia.org email accounts are created and e-mail messages sent. “Hello, World!”What Does Zomia Mean? | Why Did We Choose the Name?
SPCs are Born
Washington State (USA) establishes a legal framework allowing businesses to register as “social purpose corporations,” or SPCs.
What is a social purpose corporation? You can think of it as the nexus where the for-profit and charity worlds meet. Learn about SPCs at spcwa.com or explore the broader benefit corporation movement at benefitcorp.net.
Statistics & Sample Student Profiles
Number of Students
Funds Provided to Date
Average Loan Amount
Number of Loans Repaid
Students in Repayment
Student Repayments to Date
Number of Student Payments
Friendly and earnest, Leakhena took a loan from Zomia to help defray the costs of attending school for her family. She hopes someday to learn Japanese, work in Japan, and start businesses in Cambodia.
Pan is the first high school graduate from her hometown in northern Myanmar, and the first to study abroad. She dreams of someday going back to build a school for students there.
School kept NP away from drugs, but he lost many friends to drug abuse. After college, he plans to open a learning center in his hometown to keep at-risk youth away from drugs by giving them learning opportunities.
Talent and intelligence are universal—access to resources and opportunity is not.
Members of the Zomia SPC Team
Poe Ei Phyu
Poe Ei Phyu, a Zomia alumna, serves as our Student Services Coordinator. Born in Myanmar, she has been living in Thailand for over 12 years, where she earned a BA in English Communications from Payap University and a M.Ed in Educational Administration from Assumption University. As the bridge between Zomia's students and our team, she plays a crucial role in ensuring student success and shaping the services we provide. She is excited about getting to know students old and new, as well as working with our partners and schools in the region.
Southeast Asia has captivated Kirk since he joined a college study trip to the Thai-Burma border. As an undergraduate, he led the American University Student Campaign for Burma, interned with the US Campaign for Burma, and launched Scholarships for Burma, a capital campaign of the Human Rights Action Center, to raise funds to send a Shan woman to college in Thailand. From 2012 to 2014, Kirk served as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Cambodia. He holds a BA in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC.
Before shifting to Zomia full-time in 2014, Ryker served as the Myanmar Country Director for Cascade Asia Advisors. He has volunteered in various capacities in Southeast Asia after first visiting the region more than a decade ago. Prior to catching the international affairs bug, he spent seven years as a consultant and technical architect with a systems integration firm then known as Equarius, Inc. Ryker holds an MA in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in Computer Science from Pacific Lutheran University.
Following university, Wouter spent several years in finance as an investment banker, at a hedge fund, and in private equity. During his MBA, he moved into the tech startup space and tried his hand at various ventures. He later moved to Singapore with his wife, Mirte, to get involved in impact while continuing his work in financial markets. At Zomia, Wouter is able to combine impact, entrepreneurship, and finance. He holds an MBA from INSEAD, an LLM in Financial Law from Erasmus University Rotterdam, and both an MSc and BSc in Business Administration from RSM Erasmus University.
Born and raised in Indonesia, Ken continued his studies in the United States, where he earned a BA in Information Systems and Operations Management from the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business. His experience ranges from serving as a UNICEF chapter co-president to teaching high school students. Leveraging his newfound passion for technology, Ken serves as a technologist for Zomia, where he enjoys using his skills to help others gain access to quality education.
In addition to serving as Zomia's student representative in Cambodia, Be Kalyan works as a conservator for the National Museum of Cambodia and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. She earned a BA in Archaeology in 2004 from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh and completed an MBA in 2012 at the National University of Management. Kalyan has also volunteered with Apsara Arts Association, a nongovernmental organization working to train Cambodian youth in classical Khmer music and dance.
Sai Hseing Pha
Sai Hseing Pha is a health professional who recently earned a master's degree in Biomedical and Health Informatics at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. He also works as a freelance mobile health trainer with Shan State Development Foundation along the Thai-Burma border. In addition to serving as a student representative for Zomia, he became the organization's first loan recipient while studying at Mae Fah Luang University, where he earned a Bachelor of Public Health degree in 2014.