When I was given the assignment to interview a woman activist in my community, a special writer-activist appeared in my mind immediately. Several of her writings make me cry for the various struggling people she describes. She is Than Myint Aung who is in her fifties and has two married daughters whom she raised on her own after she lost her husband in 1986. Now her daughters have been helping in her community development projects. One is helping in environmental training and the other one is providing technological support. I would like to share with World Pulse many of the interesting things I heard from this very special Burmese woman.
This remarkable woman entered into the world of journalism in 1987 with the name of Than Myint Aung. She wrote her first short story, “Television Suffering,” in Tine Yin May magazine (a woman's magazine). She mostly writes stories based on real life, as well as articles about vulnerable people in societies in magazines and journals. After reading her writings many people from the community become volunteers and donors to aid financial, medical, educational and other supports for vulnerable communities. So far, Than Myint Aung has written three novels, eleven short stories books, ten longer stories and a book titled Fields of Social and Charity together with other writers. One of her novels was translated and published in Japan.
Than Myint Aung is very well-known for her commitments in the communities. She supports the needs of the students at some monastic and nan schools and is also providing students courses in ethics and morals. And she established and has been running a fees free school for ten years. Another big initiative was setting up an HIV/AIDS positive orphanage with her friends and some donors. The isolated community of people with leprosy and their families was made known to the public by her writing and now they have lots of psychological and medical support and assistance for their livelihood from local and oversea sources. The involvement of the very famous monk Ashin Zawana and other writers has been very effective in making sure the projects are carried out efficiently.
In 2000 Than Myint Aung travelled to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia to study environmental protection of food and general consumer production protection. She also learned about natural fertilizer and organic plantation, micro finance and other community development studies. When she arrived back in Myanmar, she established the Green Love Team with other two trainees from the courses and other enthusiasts. Goals of the project are to generate income from the creation of safer, healthier and cheaper products made from fruits, plants and vegetables rather than from chemical products. Than Myint Aung said, “One of our achievements from this project is at the monastic charity center with over six hundred children of different ethnic groups. Their products are become widely used in the community and they are going to extend their markets.” She went on to explain that another goal is for the children to avoid being dependent on donations and to be independent with their income. This can also lead to reducing the unemployment. The Green Love Team is also teaching how to produce chemical free products like shampoo, facial cleansing and laundry soaps which are made from fruits and is providing the courses, especially to charity centers and organizations, unemployed people from Nargis cyclone affected regions and other NGOs.
Another important achievement of Than Myint Aung was doing research of modern therapy for mental health care at the Hospital of Mental Health Care with other activists. She and some of her friends set up a center for the elderly called Sizar Yeik (Shelter of the Dawn) to provide medical assistance and special care which is more caring than some other places. She also assists Chairman U Kyaw Thu from Free Funeral Service Society as a Secretary.”
According to Than Myint Aung “collaborating” plays the crucial role in doing charity works for society. The first example is the teachers in her free school, Aung Myay ( Victory Land). They are vital elements for the future of the students. More than three hundred students have become high school graduates from that school. The collaboration among professional and other activists increased the care of two HIV/AIDS orphans to reach sixty orphans at the orphanage. All children are provided parental love and care that is the same as a real family life. They also have complete children’s rights. Generally, collaboration among local and oversea donors, medical professionals, and volunteers play main roles for health care and free funeral services for the community.
It is easy to see why Than Myint Aung is one of my role models for playing a leading and participatory role with her power of writing, power of caring and various projects. She was able to overcome many challenges to solve the most vulnerable issues in communities. I am so delighted to write this article as a gift of honor.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard from corners of the world.