Tin's humanity inspires

A YOUNG girl wearing not more than a petticoat and shivering in the cold on the streets of her home town caught little Tin Hta Nu's attention.

Happily sharing, giving, inspiring: Tin Hta Nu

Happily sharing, giving, inspiring: Tin Hta Nu

Six-year-old Tin turned to her grandfather, whose wisdom and humanity she admired. With the approval of his knowing smile, Tin knew what she had to do.

She unfastened the clasps of her new Mickey Mouse flannel given to her by her grandmother and handed it to the freezing child who wrapped it eagerly around her small body.

"I will never forget the smile on her face. It will stay with me forever," Tin Hta Nu said from her Kendall property last week.

It was a moment of selflessness and kindness that laid the foundation for who Tin is today.

"Sharing with other people just gives me so much joy. To be able to give someone happiness reflects on me. This story is still in my heart, I will never forget it," she said.

"In my mind throughout my life I have always believed that helping others is a noble and good thing. We all have compassion we need to share."

Having faith in the goodness of humanity can sometimes only be achieved when you have seen mankind at its worst.

Tin's story begins in her home country Burma where she enjoyed a joyful upbringing with a loving parents and grandparents, who worked hard to ensure their young brood were afforded the opportunity of a good life.

Tin graduated from university in Rangoon and became the institution's senior lecturer in economics. In 1988, however, she was to face one of her greatest challenges.

The Burmese economic crisis resulted in the United Nations declaring it the world's least developed nation, plummeting the country into turmoil and bankruptcy and wiping the savings of many of its people. The Burmese people took to the streets in an uprising against the government with hundreds of students and civilians losing their lives before the military intervened.

"I gave a lot of public speeches at this time criticising the government for what they had done," Tin, who was secretary of the university's lecturer's union at the time, said.

"We had to rise up against the government. I wanted good things for my country. We were all bubbling with spirit for the revolution, we had to be brave to get this going."

Unlike many of her colleagues and students, Tin, fearing for her life, was forced to flee her country to escape a prison sentence.

"It was a big thing for my parents. It was very stressful on them. Many of my friends are out of prison now, but some of them did lose their lives."

Tin fled to Bangkok where she continued her university work before moving to Australia and taking up a position lecturing at the University of Armidale. Tin became an Australian citizen in 1994 and has dedicated her life, since seeking asylum from the ravages of her homeland, to enriching her local community and giving to others in need.

She is the founder of the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group, a community group raising awareness about the plight of asylum seekers; trustee of the Kendall Hall; a member of the Kendall Country Women's Association; founder of the Kendall community cafe; a community garden advocate; member of the Kendall Op Shop; community and adult education teacher and a 'volunteer everywhere'.

"Australia is now another parent to me. When I am asked to do all of these things for my community I do it because I owe my life to Australia," Tin said.

Tin and her husband Ian Oxenford raised enough money together to build a school in Burma to provide children the same opportunity she had been given. The school, completed in 2010, hosts 750 children, five of which have just graduated into a tertiary degree in medicine.

"They made it through their schooling just using little kerosene lamps and candles," Tin said. She says she will continue to sell her fresh produce at local markets to finance the students' university education.

"We all need to be educated. I am fortunate I am around like-minded people and I have friends who understand what humanity is all about."