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Moo Na's Story

Karen Refugees: Finding Hope and Opportunity in a New Home

Moo Na Family Photo

“There is no hope. There is no opportunity for a better life. If you don’t leave, you could die,” said Moo Na, who was just five years old when she and her family escaped their home, a small village in Burma, in Southeast Asia, that was devastated by war and violence. Torture, forced labor and death, she says, were terrifying threats that they feared would tear their family apart.

In a desperate attempt to stay together and alive, Moo Na and her parents fled their home and traveled to a refugee camp along the Thailand and Burma border. Under the cover of night, she recalled, they journeyed through miles of the Burma jungle, stopping only to make sure they wouldn’t be caught by soldiers from the Burmese military regime.

Moo Na thought she would spend the rest of her life inside the refugee camp, a settlement of bamboo homes made from bamboo trees and tea leaves, and where food distribution was carefully rationed. After nearly two decades, she and her husband, whom she met as a child in the refugee camp, received, what she calls, the happiest news of their lives: they had been chosen to be resettled in the United States of America.

“Our children would finally be safe and free,” she said.

In Minnesota, Moo Na and her family were greeted by caring volunteers and LSS refugee resettlement staff who’ve helped connect them to housing, healthcare, English classes and schools. Home Safety Orientation and Cultural Orientation classes have also provided critical information about life in America that includes money management and public transportation. Most importantly, refugees learn about their new culture, while finding ways to stay connected to their biological one.

Since coming to Minnesota, Moo Na and her family have connected to a church with a large Karen congregation. Together with their newfound community, they celebrate traditional Karen holidays and prepare traditional Karen cuisine.

Her children are enrolled in school where they are beginning to learn English. Her husband worked with LSS Employment Services to find work at a turkey plant in southern Minnesota. When the kids get older, Moo Na plans to go to school and find a job of her own. Until then, she stays busy attending English classes, learning about her new community and getting comfortable in her new home.

“We are finally happy,” she said. “We are at peace.”