By Adam Kraus
As we continue our Individual Giving season, GlobeMed at Dartmouth would like to share with you a story of empowerment that exemplifies the work that we support through the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand. As you read Mai’s story, please think about donating to our project to help KWAT staff like Mai continue their amazing work. We’ve created a new project page on GlobalGiving to reflect the new programs we’ll be supporting for KWAT, and you can find that page here: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/globemed-at-dartmouth/.
Mai is originally from Myitkyina (pronounced MIH-chee-nuh), the capital of Kachin State, where she saw first hand the oppression of her people, the Kachin. As a part of the community, she went to university to get a degree, but saw the importance of taking action within her community. After completing her university degree, she was recruited by KWAT to attend their annual Intern Capacity Building Program in 2006. This program educates youth on basic ideas of democracy, human rights, English, Thai, and many other topics (and our GROW team had the pleasure of teaching conversational English to the Interns). As she learned about these topics and interacted with the women running KWAT, she felt a passion to make a change for the good of the Kachin people as a whole. Upon completion of the program, she decided to stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand, instead of returning home, to continue working for the organization.
When starting with the organization, Mai did not speak Thai or English at all and worked in many positions to support the programs KWAT implements. Through her time as an intern, she began to understand basic ideas about democratic structures and the injustices that the Burmese government was committing against the Kachin people. As she continued to learn, she felt a stronger moral imperative to change the situation that has developed. Now, besides being fluent in Thai and English, Mai is also one of the leaders of the organization. She currently holds one of the two General Secretary positions, and has overseen all of KWAT’s major programs. Further, she travels back to Kachin State a few times a year to engage in advocacy action and help with the on-the-ground work of KWAT in any way that she can. Besides being one of the most senior members of KWAT, she is GlobeMed at Dartmouth’s main contact. Not only a source of inspiration to us, but also a force that pushes us to do all that we can, Mai has become a close friend to the Dartmouth students who have participated on the GROW (Grass Roots On-site Work) Internship in the summers. As Mai has told us many times “I am here to help my people. Kachin State needs change and we must be the ones to bring it.”