Sangin Nuea is a small Karen village in the remote mountain range of Omkoi district, Chiang Mai province. This is where Ms. Songsri Mitsathit’s family lives. She has been a Community Facilitator (CF) in the Pwo Karen Women Empowerment for Holistic Community Development Project for nearly two years. “I like to work with Heifer because it allows me to learn many new things that I can apply to use in my family and my community,” the 25-year-old woman said. “I am proud of being a change agent for women and men in my community.”

Songsri and her 5-year-old daughter Nareerat

Songsri, the oldest of 13 children, is married and has one daughter, Nareerat. Her family is Pow Karen ethnic minority. It is a belief and tradition of Karen people that cause women to not be treated as equals to men.

With Heifer, Songsri works hard to run project activities and follow up with project participants in the same and different communities. She travels on a motorcycle from one community to another. Although, she is a skillful rider, the steep and dirty mountainous roads cause her to have frequent accidents, especially during the rainy season when the road is muddy and slippery. “It is very difficult and I have accidents often, but it is not serious,” Songsri said. “I am more worried about the progress of the self-help group than this challenge. I want to make sure that they take good care of their livestock and apply the knowledge received from the trainings in their lives. As a woman it is very challenging to change mindset of men and women towards sustainable development, since they are used to being the receivers. But, it won’t stop my mission to improve the livelihood of my people.”

At first, many of the self-help groups didn’t fully accept Songsri, but that did not discourage her from assisting the villagers. “Before, women were voiceless and were not involved with any decision making,” Songsri recalled. “We just followed what the village headman, our fathers or husbands said.”

Songsri and her sow

When she is not busy with project activities, Songsri helps her husband at their pumpkin and chili farm and raises three pigs. Two sows just gave birth to a total of 11 piglets. Trained as a Community Animal Health Worker (CAHW), she takes very good care of her animals. She learned about pig feed formulation from other community facilitators and started to make her own. When project staff visited her family, she enthusiastically showed them the fermented feed. She wanted to make sure she did it right so that she could teach others. When faced with issues regarding her animals’ health, Songsri asked the Omkoi district livestock official for advice. “One of my sows didn’t have enough milk to feed her piglet,” she said. “but I remember the livestock official told me to apply the other sow’s milk to the piglets’ mouths so would get used to one another.”

Songsri is an enthusiastic, but humble and sincere woman. She always cooperates well with activities in the field or during meetings and training in the city. With her parents’ limited income, they could not support her aspirations for higher education, but that does not stop her from learning on her own. Even with her busy work and family schedule, Songsri continues to further her studies through informal schooling. “I want to set myself as a role model for people in my community, especially women,” she said. “I want them to be more confident to speak up about their problems and show their abilities. I also want to prove that women are as capable as men.”

Standing next to her is her daughter, Nareerat Mitsathit, who is five-years-old. Nareerat is a kindergarten student at the informal education center of Sangin Nuea village. Holding and kissing her daughter, Songsri said, “I want to be a role model for my daughter and I want her to have better education so she can help develop our community in the future.”

Story and Photos by: Sangwan Sapma,
Communication and Networking Manager,
Heifer Thailand

Additional Photo by: Bjorn Slis,
Volunteer