This fall, Community Service Council’s (CSC) Sia Mah Nu Burmese Peer Educator Program began a new installment of 12-week classes for Tulsa’s Burmese women to help them learn to navigate U.S. systems and services.
The program was designed by CSC staff to support Burmese women living in Tulsa. The majority of Burmese women and families residing in Tulsa are refugees from Myanmar (Burma) who have experienced persecution in that country. Many families spent years in refugee camps waiting for United Nations’ clearance to be brought to the United States.
The program uses a Community Peer Educator model in which lay peer advisors receive specialized training to engage with families to help them learn how to live healthy and well in Tulsa. Bilingual Burmese women are trained by a Community Service Council/Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-OK registered nurse (RN) to become Community Peer Educators, which our program calls Sia Mah Nu, meaning Woman Who Teaches in Zomi (a dialect spoken by many Burmese families).
While in the 12-week training with our Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-OK nurse, Sia Mah Nu learn about health promotion, disease prevention and available community resources. Once trained, Sia Mah Nu then teach health classes of their own in their native language (Zomi), disseminating this important information to many other Burmese women in Tulsa. Sia Mah Nu teach class participants how to enhance their health and that of their families, while creating communal opportunities for women that can lessen isolation and strengthen social networks. Additionlly, Sia Mah Nu educate participants on topics such as childhood development, parenting, disaster preparedness and how to navigate Tulsa’s health and education systems.
The Sia Mah Nu program benefits all women involved – the Sia Mah Nu, Hostesses (who help with the program), and the women attending classes. Sia Mah Nu and Hostesses receive valuable work experience to help with future employment and are recognized as community connectors and leaders, while those attending classes learn how to keep their families strong and healthy within the Tulsa community.