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    Some told Mway she should quit school and work to support her family. She is now close to graduating with a bachelor's in nursing, and well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a gynecology nurse.

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    The son of a high school teacher and education worker, Jonathan aspires to become an education administrator in Myanmar who works to increase students' access to education.

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    Having worked with international social enterprises before, Andrew wants to use his degree in business to found a social enterprise that helps improve society.

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    Lin Kham

    On partial scholarships from Brackett Foundation and the Euro-Burma Office, Lin Kham wants to use her degree in social science to work on women empowerment issues and human trafficking.

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    Maintaining a nearly flawless GPA, Peter has a passion for business. He wants to work with a Thai company after graduation to gain experience before starting his own business in Myanmar.

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    Smart, charismatic, and a natural leader, Mimi was Zomia's first loan recipient and first full team member. He is a relentless activist who dreams of leading Myanmar's Ministry of Health.

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Fund a Student Loan in Southeast Asia

How It Works

How Zomia Works: Fund a Student Loan

What is Zomia SPC?

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.

What is peer-to-peer lending?

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.

Where does Zomia work?

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.

How does lending work on zomia.org?

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.

Do my loans go directly to 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.

Do I receive interest on the loans I fund?

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.

Are my loan contributions tax-deductible?

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.

Will I get repaid? If so, when?

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 Timeline

Zomia Mobile App

Zomia Mobile App Released

To help students better manage their loans, a mobile app is developed for usage on both Android and iOS devices. Features are refined and final versions released on the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store. Zomia graduates begin receiving reminders and reporting payments from the app.
Partners Asia logo

Fiscal Sponsorship Established

Partners Asia signs an agreement to become Zomia SPC's fiscal sponsor, enabling tax-deductible gifts to be given in support of Zomia students. Donations made to Zomia via Partners Asia are earmarked for a general student support fund, to be "recycled" after loan repayment to fund future students in perpetuity.
Zomia Lender Portfolio

Lender Portfolio Launched

After several months of requirements gathering and development (with design help from lender and super supporter Luci L.💕), the lender portfolio is launched, enabling better portfolio management for individual and institutional lenders on the Zomia website. Automatic repayment recycling and monthly lending features are rolled out, and balance withdrawals enabled via PayPal.
Vanderes Logo

Vanderes Signs on as Funder

The Netherlands-based Vanderes Foundation signs an agreement to become Zomia's first institutional lender. By August, Vanderes has partially funded 60 Zomia students, helping the 2018-19 class become the largest in Zomia's four-year history (77 students supported).

Student Repayments Expand

Working for an architecture firm in Phnom Penh, Udom submits a payment via Wing, marking the 100th student payment received by Zomia. Throughout 2017, with more students from our first two classes graduating and finding jobs, student payments kick in with greater frequency and consistency. Incomes are higher than anticipated, giving us confidence in the viability of our model.

Wave Money Registration

Just in time to begin collecting repayments from graduates returning to Myanmar, Zomia becomes the first U.S. entity to establish a business account with Wave Money, Myanmar's first mobile payment service provider. In May, CMU graduate Ei Lin becomes the first Zomia student to submit a payment using the Wave mobile app.
Not Just a Student Video Still

"Not Just a Student" Launch

We hire a small team to shoot a promotional video in Northern Thailand to capture the life of a typical Zomia student and communicate the nature of a Zomia loan. Public health student Mwe Leng stars in the film, which also features other Zomia students and their families.

Our First Student Lender

Having paid off her $1,600 loan within a year of graduation, Mokawn becomes the first Zomia student to fulfill her contract and become a lender. She is given 10% of the amount borrowed as an "earned deposit" and funds four Zomia loans. Once those loans are repaid, she can withdraw the funds or redistribute to other students.

Zomia Platform Launch

Amidst much fanfare and excitement, Zomia's online lending platform is launched! The first random lender to support a student on the Zomia website is a doctor from Yangon.

Lending Platform Development

Zomia builds the first version of its online lending platform, allowing external lenders (both individuals and organizations) to contribute directly to the financing of student loans. Relationships between students and lenders are fostered, fulfilling the first stage of Zomia's long-term vision to create a rich, dynamic community of students and supporters.

Student Services Expand

The Zomia team visits students in Southeast Asia and conducts needs assessment to identify additional student services to be provided beyond education loans. Development of the student community begins in earnest, and design of the online lending platform takes shape.

Inaugural Class is Formed

After applications are submitted and reviewed over the summer, 30 students are offered loans from Zomia. Loan agreements are finalized, and student meetings are held in Cambodia and Thailand. Zomia's inaugural class is formed.

SPC Incorporation

Zomia SPC is officially incorporated, becoming one of the first 125 social purpose corporations registered in Washington State and among the very first with an international focus. Zomia's stated social purpose is to increase access to higher education and skills training among marginalized students worldwide.

Student Applications Begin

The first version of Zomia's online loan application is created and students begin applying online. In addition, a partnership is established with BEAM Education Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to assist migrant students from Burma.

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?

Experimentation Expands

Sitha borrows $500 to study banking in Phnom Penh, becoming our first student in Cambodia and serving as the impetus to begin formalizing our loan model and lending process. Terms of her agreement allow for small, seasonably adjusted payments to be made by Sitha's family while she is still in school.

Experimentation Begins

Jom, a Shan student from Myanmar, borrows $2,000 to pursue a public health degree in Chiang Rai, Thailand, becoming our first loan recipient. Although terms are rough, the agreement calls for income-based repayments to begin after he completes his program and is earning a reasonable salary.

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.


After years of interest and activity in Southeast Asia, we identify higher education among marginalized communities as a critical factor affecting the region's development. In the hills of Shan State, Myanmar, a pact is made to begin experimenting with ways to sustainably increase access to higher education in the region.

Lending Snapshot

Statistics & Sample Student Profiles


Number of Students


Female Students


Funds Provided to Date


Average Loan Amount


Number of Loans Repaid


Students in Repayment


Student Repayments to Date


Number of Student Payments

Our Conviction

Talent and intelligence are universal—access to resources and opportunity is not.

Our Team

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.

Kirk Acevedo

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.

Ryker Labbee

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.

Wouter Kneepkens

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.

Ken Prayogo

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.

Be Kalyan

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.

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