Community Service Council’s Health Women Healthy Futures-Oklahoma and Center for Community School Strategies is working with Tulsa’s growing Burmese population to create a community empowered to access available community resources, understand child development, navigate public education and make important health decisions for themselves and their families through the generations.
In early 2018, the Community Service Council received funding for a three-year program to train Burmese Community Peer Educators, called Sia Mah Nuh in the Zomi language, which literally translates as “woman who teaches.”
Bilingual (English and Zomi) women from the Burmese refugee community are currently being recruited to receive more than 70 hours of education about the Sia Mah Nu peer educator role and responsibilities. The women are also learning health promotion, including healthy lifestyles, emotional wellness, protection from domestic violence, financial management and literacy, child development and parenting practices. Once the initial peer educators are trained, they will begin to form small groups of about eight women each and will lead 16 weeks of classes.
“Once our first group of Sia Mah Nu are trained, we expect other women will become peer educators and the program will grow,” said Barbara Cargill, RN, peer educator coordinator, Healthy Women Healthy Futures-Oklahoma.
“Helping mothers learn to be as healthy as they can pays dividends in the health of their families,” said Su Phipps, RN, PhD., program director, Healthy Women Healthy Futures-Oklahoma. “Mothers are generally the backbone of the family, having a keen impact on their children’s well-being. If we can help those mothers, we know their families will be healthier, too.”
“Research shows that children who have access to early children education programs have more success throughout their school experiences, especially children who don’t speak English in the home,” said Erin Velez, education team lead, Center for Community School Strategies. “Native language peer educators make navigating their new land that much less intimidating and leads to more equitable early childhood experiences.”
The health education aspects of the program is modeled on Healthy Women Healthy Families-Oklahoma which provides education, skills and support to create behavior changes that improve the physical, emotional, financial and social health of non-pregnant women, their families, and future generations. Teaching familiarity with the public education system is modeled on a program of the Center for Community School Strategies which uses a peer education system to help families learn to navigate the school system.