Page 6 - Scene Magazine 45-05 May 2020
P. 6

  Did You Know?
     Director of the Burma Center. Martha Thawnghmung officially began the Bur- ma Center in 2011 and retired a couple years ago. After a search the board was unable to find anyone qualified. Tha
was on that search committee and had recently left a position at the Center for Diversity and Innovation at KCC. She was doing consulting for The Truth and Titus Collective part time and decided she could take the position as an interim Executive Director if it was approved by the board. After doing the job for several months, “I realized how much I enjoyed the work and the board said I was doing a good job with the programs I brought,” Tha said, “They asked me to take on the Executive Director position permanent- ly... so I did.”
to provide virtual learning support,
and working with not just the students, but their families as well. There is also the issue of privilege when it comes to technology. The Burma Center wants to explore the idea of accessibility to the internet and if accessibility, although
a given for many, may not be easily available to others, causes the economic gap to widen.
During the COVID-19 pandemic we are learning about what is ‘essential.’
Is the work of the Burma Center truly essential? In answering that Tha goes back to the center’s mission, which
from their website reads, “We empower Burmese Americans through advocacy, community engagement, and education.” If you take education as a starting point, Tha tells me about the program they are currently developing with the public schools to assist students in online learn- ing through finding ways to help them become more technologically savvy,
The Burma Center is assisting community members who’ve temporar- ily lost their jobs due to the pandemic crisis apply for unemployment benefits through the State of Michigan. The Burma Center has collaborated with physicians to create videos to help fam- ily members learn how to provide care, and they solicit questions, and provide answers that caregivers ask. In addition to those programs, The Burma Center is looking at developing programs to
be more mindful of mental health and what to pay attention to in times like
T. R. Shaw Jr. Co-Founder / CEO / 269-209-5555 cell / Kathy Shaw Co-Founder / President / 269-209-9719 cell /
Did you know there are now be- tween 2,500-3,000 people of Burmese heritage living in the Battle Creek area? I learned this from Tha Tin Par, the Executive
these, such as domestic violence, child abuse, and those who are anxious about how life will change when we return to “normal.”
Tha has a good foundation of experi- ence and education. She moved to Battle Creek with her family in 2000 and began school in 4th grade in Urbandale. “I had some tutoring in Burma for basic English but it was my teacher Steve Jonkowski who recruited my classmates to help me with flashcards to learn English,” Tha told me. “My Grandpa introduced me to stories about social justice from the Bible, so I learned about that early on,” she said. “One day, when I was in Burma, I was standing outside our house, I felt this weight on my shoulders of the oppression of people. I felt a calling. I felt so much sadness, but at the same time a call to do something about it.” She absorbed that feeling
and did do something about it. When she attended Lakeview High School
she became involved with Creating Change. After high school and with the encouragement from the people she met working with community organizing, applied to and was accepted to attend the University of Michigan after two years at KCC. She earned her Bache- lor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Social Work. It was during her time at college she learned about Jorge Zeballos and the Center for Diversity and Innovation. “I was set to move to
a big city where there would be more opportunity for the work I wanted to do, but I was encouraged to talk to Jorge about opportunities in Battle Creek. I did and I could see how committed the community was to build an equitable inclusive community which really drew me back to home,” she said.
Now that she’s also a wife to Ro Uk, and mother to 9-month-old Bawi Cungli- an, Tha understands even more how important it is to live close to family. “Being sleep deprived I don’t know how we’d survive without the help of family,” she laughs. The Burma Center in Spring- field is currently closed to the public except on Monday and Wednesdays from 11am to 1pm for food distribution through a collaboration with the Food Bank of South Central Michigan. You can learn more about the Burma Center at
Tha Tin Par

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