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SWIF's new community engagement specialist is a familiar face in Worthington

“I’ve lived in Worthington for more than 10 years now, and I have seen the work that SWIF has done in our community and throughout our region.”

Than Than Kyaw recently became the newest community engagement specialist at the Southwest Initiative Foundation, where he will help connect communities.
Than Than Kyaw recently became the newest community engagement specialist at the Southwest Initiative Foundation, where he will help connect communities.
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WORTHINGTON — While Worthington High School grad Than Than Kyaw only started as the newest community engagement specialist at the Southwest Initiative Foundation in August, he’s been helping people connect for a long time.

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“My job is really to connect with our organizations and communities here, and really, supporting people’s ideas,” Kyaw said. “There’s a lot of responsibility.”

As a nonprofit community foundation building funds to support southwest Minnesota in a variety of ways, SWIF has a wide-ranging mission that includes supporting community leaders, investing in economic development, promoting the region and processing gifts and grants for partners.

Kyaw’s work aligns with that, as he connects with communities and people in them to find out what they’re working on and what kind of help they might need from SWIF. He works with a wide-ranging assortment of groups, not just other charitable organizations, but also governmental bodies and businesses.

This past week he’s been focusing on Welcoming Week, an annual celebration welcoming newcomers and long-term residents to the community to help them truly feel as if they belong. This year, Kyaw, an artist, connected with Creative Healing Space to host the event, working with the Nobles County Library, the city of Worthington and other groups.

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“I’ve lived in Worthington for more than 10 years now, and I have seen the work that SWIF has done in our community and throughout our region,” said Kyaw, explaining why he decided to apply for the community engagement specialist position.

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He saw its mission and how the group worked with people, and though Kyaw had wanted to be an art teacher, he found his work redirected a little bit.

He still uses his background in the arts.

“I feel like we can never throw away our artistic background, our creative background. I am currently utilizing all my talents and skills,” Kyaw said, adding that he hopes to “utilize that and implement it in a way that can really heal a community. Whatever I do, I feel it’s focused on the healing part.”

His goal remains connecting with communities in the area to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are and helping them succeed. Part of that includes continuing to connect with underserved communities and those who are black, indigenous or people of color.

Though the language barrier can prove a challenge, Kyaw feels his previous experience living and working in Worthington, both in Community Education, where he provided student services and connected parents to resources, and at JBS, where he served as a community liaison and worked with new employees, have prepared him for success.

“We are the Southwest Initiative Foundation. We’re a nonprofit community foundation connecting people, investing in ideas and building communities to create a southwest Minnesota where all people can thrive,” Kyaw said, echoing language from the SWIF’s website.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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