“Now I just want to empower the community. Now I can’t be in the parliament, but I can train the people who can. Wherever I work, I am thinking about the community.”
Hearn got her bachelor degree in 2004 in Shan State, Burma. After that she started working with SWAN, the Shan Women Action Network. Two years later she attended a foreign affair training where she became an intern for the Netherlands and Denmark. During a visit to the Netherlands, she met Ursula from We Women foundation and she learned about the possibilities of applying for a scholarship. She still feels very lucky that she got a scholarship for two years. However, this was only for stationery and fees. She was able to pay for her living expenses herself because she kept working during her studies. This enabled her to get her Masters degree in Public Health.
Before starting her Masters, she joined the pre-university training provided by We Women. For her, this was very helpful, not only for her studies, but also for her work with SWAN. During her studies she was able to teach Shan language on her Thai university, for public health students who may work with migrants. Hearn is very grateful for the support by We Women: “I want to thank We Women very much and the supporters of We Women who are helping us. Without the scholarship I wouldn’t be able to study, it is too expensive.”
Now she is still working with SWAN where she holds a position as program director and board member. SWAN is focused on empowering women for a better life and for social and political change in Burma. Hearn is tasked with writing reports, editing proposals and managing the programs and checking the finances of the organization. She manages everything that falls under the women well-being program and she is very interested in working on health issues. She developed her skills in university and she was offered the Directors position, but she refused. “I want to think about the organization, but I did not want to hire people and those things.”
SWAN has several programs in Thailand where they focus on migrant communities. They work with Burmese children in the refugee camps in Thailand for whom they provide scholarships and dormitory. Also they cover transportation costs to let them attend the Thai school. Another area of focus is on HIV prevention. Their program provides awareness on HIV and support for the patients. In the border province, most patients are Shan. SWAN provides counselling and they also support the medical staff. Another department is called women crisis support. Here they support women who have faced domestic violence, rape or received no salary. They provide assistance for them, like counselling, shelter or hospital treatment and translations. Besides empowering the Burmese communities in Thailand, they also have programs in Burma. In Shan State they have a reproductive health project where they focus on awareness raising and prevention. They train house workers on raising awareness on reproductive health and modern child health care. During her studies Hearn met a professor who is now helping the organization with its reproductive health trainings and who educates their trainers.
“I just want to empower the community. I cannot be in the Burmese parliament. But I can train the people who can. I am always thinking about the community. Thank you very much for supporting higher education for women. Women are always behind. This is a good chance for women to get higher education. Not only for themselves, but also for the communities.”