When asked what motivated her to do the work she does, Dr. May Zaw Naing says: “My parents set the example for us to do whatever we do based on our personal values and to put the wellbeing of others first. They taught me that our efforts will determine outcomes we achieve. They always encouraged me to reflect on my experience and taught me that how I did things would determine how I lived my life.”

Dispelling the Stigma Around Mental Illness     
In her line of work, Dr. May Zaw Naing is leading a number of efforts to dispel the stigma around mental illnesses in Myanmar all while collaborating with local and international partners on policy reform. She shares that her time with the DeBoer Fellowship taught her how to question whether she has seen all she can see in order to gain a deeper understanding on pressing problems in Myanmar.

“Ever since I was a kid, I liked sharing hope with others,” reflects Dr. May Zaw Naing. She shares: “If people are happier and feel more supported, they are able to contribute more to society. I think all living things are interdependent and every person has the gift to rediscover their strength.”

Through the DeBoer Fellowship, she remembers having the chance “to work together with leaders from different sectors of society with diverse skill sets on possibilities for Myanmar’s future.” Dr. May Zaw Naing makes a conscious effort to apply her intercultural skills to promote non-violence in all kinds of interactions. “I find it very important to be creating ways of working that meet basic human needs,” she shares. She explains that she wants to learn from different cultures “to see what it takes to thrive in our lives.”

Thriving at Work
To survive and thrive in her line of work, she explains that it is extremely important to keep in touch with her colleagues. “Hearing their voices and feeling their presence is essential to boosting my inner self,” says Dr. May Zaw Naing. She shares how we, as human beings, often avoid things that we don’t like and embrace things that we do like. However, Dr. May Zaw Naing advises people to learn how to compromise and adjust as part of life.

“I have faith in human capacity and hope to regain our national prosperity by promoting human dignity at workplaces and in organizations,” she says. She believes that the spread of trust and having faith in humanity can promote productivity of individuals and communities. She hopes that one day all the individual clients and organizations that she serves will have sufficient access to psychosocial services and regain their full productivity.

On Crisis and Opportunity
Regarding crisis situations, Dr. May Zaw Naing thinks these “can challenge our resilience and creativity not only to survive but also to live life.” “Opportunities,” she says, “can be like unexpected and challenging platforms that one can take to achieve goals.”

Small Action, Big Vision
“Small actions can give us strength to stretch beyond our own limits,” she says, “while following a big vision develops perseverance.” She counsels that we keep our big vision alive but take one small action at a time.

Dr. May Zaw Naing is a 2015 DeBoer Fellow. She is the managing director at Citta, a social enterprise for psychological services. She also serves as the director at Center for Social Integrity, a registered nonprofit to foster pluralism and inclusion through development and peace. She is currently finishing a Master in Counseling Psychology at Assumption University of Thailand.

About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit:

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