Australian lesbian composer Yantra de Vilder has been working with refugees in Chiang Mai on a 30-part radio series about village life in Burma.
De Vilder taught audio production to the Burmese refugees, who fled to Thailand after persecution in their home country.
The team put together the radio drama, called Thabyegone Ywa (Eugenia Tree Village), for the BBC World Service Trust, which aims to reduce poverty in developing countries through the use of media.
The drama is aired every Friday and Saturday night in Burma, and subsequent surveys have revealed that 91 percent of listeners said they had learnt about HIV from the broadcast.
Health and social messages are carefully woven into the plotline, de Vilder said, with a current episode about an outbreak of malaria in a village, and a coming of age story about some village boys, which educates listeners about condoms.
“I feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction to know that my music is making a difference and helping to raise awareness about vital issues across the globe,” she said.
De Vilder has now been asked to speak at BBC Bush House in London about her work in composing music with underprivileged communities around the world.
“I want to talk about music and sound design as a tool of communication,” she said.
“It’s amazing what you can do now. I can work from my studio in Australia, and send files to London and Chiang Mai, which is so inspiring on a global level.”
The stories de Vilder brought home with her were astounding, she said.
“I met a woman who had come across the border in a truck. She had disguised herself as a sack of rice.
“Hearing stories like that, makes you realise how lucky you are. They have been through so much.”
De Vilder writes music for film, radio, theatre, dance and multi-media events. She was born in Sydney, and now works from her studio in Byron Bay.

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