The Community Service Council’s Burmese Community Peer Educator Program, Sia Mah Nu, is part of our Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-Oklahoma initiative designed 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 county. 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 navigate U.S. systems and services. Bilingual Burmese women are trained by a 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 Zopau (a dialect spoken by many Burmese families).
While 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 lead 12 weeks of health classes in Zopau, 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.
The Healthy Women Healthy Futures program opened our minds and eyes to what we, as women and mothers can do. We would like to thank this program and all the teachers. We are healthier and more confident. You helped us physically and emotionally. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
– Dim Nuam, Program Participant, Sia Mah Nu Program
Note: due to COVID-19, both of these programs are currently on hold.
There are currently 1,301 Zomi/Burmese students enrolled in Jenks Public Schools, which makes up 10% of the district’s total population.
Beginning in 2019, our Burmese Community Peer Educator Program, with Community Service Council’s Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-Oklahoma program, provides language and culture classes teaching English speaking children the Zopau language and the customs of the Burmese culture. These classes are conducted at Jenks East Elementary in the afterschool program and promote cultural understanding.
Our Burmese Community Peer Educator Program team will train Jenks High School student volunteers from the Multicultural Club and Honor Society in the importance of early literacy, as well as trained to demonstrate how to read to infants and toddlers to promote pre-reading skills during infancy, toddlerhood and pre-school years. The students will then lead interactive groups with Burmese mothers and their infants. Each family will receive a children’s book to take home.
Getting the information through the Sia Mah Nu classes was life changing for me and the information was so important that I wrote it all down to have and share with other people!
– Awi, Program Participant, Sia Mah Nu Program