Ba Zan Lin immigrated from Burma in his late teens. Having witnessed enormous amounts of social injustice in his native country, he was surprised to learn that his new country was also dealing with social, political, economic, and academic injustices. Lin wanted to become involved in efforts to ameliorate some of the inequities that he saw in his new home, so in 2012 he joined the Opportunity Corp Program, one of AmeriCorps’ new initiatives. Lin became a financial literacy educator, training individuals from economically-stressed neighborhoods in budgeting, banking, saving, and developing assets. He also coached community members in grassroots organizing techniques. Through his work he was able help more than 300 community members achieve financial literacy and community organizing skills that are much needed for better advancing social change within their communities.
In 2012 Lin also began working with the Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER project to reach community members, including the Burmese community, about the environmental impact of pollution in their neighborhoods. Since 2013 he has designed and implemented culturally-sensitive community education programs for immigrants and refugees who are affected by toxic chemicals in waterways where they fish in order to feed their families. Through his work refugee anglers, community members, and college students participating in RIVERKEEPER’s educational programs were able to critically analyze various environmental and social injustices disproportionally imposed on disadvantaged populations. Lin worked with them to imagine the possible solutions to alleviate injustices, to see themselves as protectors of human rights and preservers of local waterways, and to interact with diverse communities to promote environmental justice and healthy living.
Lin writes: "As an adult educator, I earnestly strive to empower my constituents to become active citizens in their own communities, because I firmly believe that without grassroots community efforts and fully-informed civic societies, social injustices will always prevail, not just in the United States, but all over the world. . . [I am] committed to community empowerment, community action and social justice through equitable community education.”
Recently the Adult Education department announced that Ba Zan Lin is the 2013-2014 winner of the Adult Education Scholarship Award for Social Justice.