CKAA tribute to a MIT alum

In honor of friend & CK alum Yo-Yo

Camp Kesem is far more than just a weeklong summer camp; it’s a magical lifelong community of camper families, counselors, donors, advisors, and other supporters who help each other through good times and bad.


On December 27 2011, the Camp Kesem MIT community lost an incredibly dedicated, motivated, and thoughtful counselor, Phyo “Yo-Yo” Nyi Nyi Kyaw, in a tragic bicycle accident. Yo-Yo helped out with the first-ever CK MIT fundraiser in fall 2006, stirring up Spanish rice for a taco benefit dinner, and became a counselor after his junior year in summer 2009. In his senior year, he served as an Admin and Camp Programming Co-Coordinator and a member of the admin team at camp, and also engaged with the wider CK community during the 3rd CK National Leadership Development Conference in Los Angeles. In preparation for graduation, he even carefully hand-sewed caterpillars of green and blue pompoms for all CK MIT seniors to wear on top of their mortarboards.


The CKAA would like to honor Yo-Yo’s contributions to CK MIT, and the broader CK community, by sharing some thoughts from his brother and fellow counselors. If you would like to honor Yo-Yo’s wonderful spirit and love for Camp Kesem, please consider making a donation to the Yo-Yo Camper Scholarship (; all donations will go toward bringing the magic that Yo-Yo embodied to more MIT camper families.


“I knew Ko Nyi was in Camp Kesem, but I never got the chance to ask the meaning of the word Kesem. Thanks to you, I get it now. Now I understand the magical feeling he gave us while we watched him grew and transformed. While Phyo was helping to change the lives of others, Camp Kesem helped change himself into a better man, a greater son and the best brother one could ever wish for.”

Phyo Hein Kyaw, Yo-Yo’s brother


“I will always remember painting camp welcome posters with Yo-Yo, getting a comforting pep talk about empowerment from him the first summer I was a counselor, and making him a CK name tag that had quite off-looking yoyos, but he said he loved it anyway. And always, the cheerful wave and smile that was quintessentially him. He once made caterpillars to wear on his cap for himself and his fellow graduating counselors. This coming June, I'm going to try and do his caterpillars justice, and no matter how lopsided mine turns out to be, I will wear it on my cap proudly in his memory.”

Yun “Rain” Xue, CK MIT Co-Chair


“It always felt like camp when Yo-Yo was around.”

Devin “Blastoise” Cela, CK MIT Coordinator


“Yo-Yo was always amazing with the youngest kids, as if he was one of them. I just remember the joy of a kickball game when a 7-year-old pitched Yo-Yo the ball; Yo-Yo forgot the disparity in his age and gave it his hardest kick. The ball soared through the air as one of the kids, Saturn, exclaimed - that kick was EPIC, deciding instantly to make a song and dance out of it. I can still hear it and remember all of us laughing: Yo-Yo's Epic Kick, na na na na na, na na na. Yo-Yo's Epic Kick...

I served on our Coordinator Board with him in 2009-2010 and I can't recall a time when he wasn't smiling at our board meetings. He had a heart for Camp Kesem. He really cherished spending time with the kids and working to make their time a little bit more joyous. We will all miss him dearly.”

Kevin “Mango” Rustagi, CK MIT Coordinator & CKAA Coordinator


“Yo-Yo and I would always discuss potential ways to bother and poke fun at our co-chair before and after our meetings. Even after a year, he was still there to listen to any of my problems. He reflected a unique combination of enjoyment with sincerity.”

Ambar “Aladdin” Mehta, CK MIT Coordinator


I met Yo-Yo on the first day of counselor training in the spring of 2009. Standing in a circle with a room full of people I had never met before, I was very nervous about what CK would be like. We started doing camp name introductions, and when it was his turn, he loudly proclaimed, ‘I'm yo-YO!’ with some sort of 'gangsta' yo-yo hand motion. That's when I knew I would be alright. At camp, Yo-Yo worked so hard to make sure everyone was having a great time, and it was always obvious that the kids adored him (and his EPIC kickball skills). Yo-Yo was an amazing friend and a caring soul, and someone who I miss greatly.”

Vidya “Comet” Eswaran, CK MIT Co-Chair


“One of the things I love most about Camp Kesem is its effortless ability to bring together the most compassionate and fun-loving people on any college campus. It's like an invisible force that filters through students, envelopes the most altruistic, kind and loving ones that exist, and whispers, ‘Apply to be a Camp Kesem counselor!’ in their ears. The group of students that forms as a result of this force is phenomenal.

Yo-Yo bubbled to the top of this collection of people. He changed the life of every camper and counselor he came in contact with in a wonderful way. At camp, his enthusiasm was unprecedented; he was never too tired to make a camper or counselor laugh and ensure everyone was having as much fun as possible. Outside of camp, he was a dedicated coordinator, always ready and willing to participate in any fundraising activity or task that needed doing. His sensitivity and generosity rendered him an unforgettable counselor at CK MIT, not to mention an incredible friend, and one of my favorite people to spend time with after we graduated. I will miss his friendship immensely, but I will always be indebted to CK for bringing him into my life.”

Christina “Babby” Bognet, CK MIT Coordinator