Ah Dee is a wife, mother, grandmother and a friend. Just like you and me.
Ah Dee was born in 1943 during World War II in Myanmar, formerly Burma. In January 1949, militias in Myanmar started a rampage through Karen communities, one of many ethnic minorities in Myanmar. Myanmar is one of the twenty poorest countries in the world.
Ah Dee and her family were forced to flee. Together with the whole village they moved from place to place for decades across the country followed by an army. They always tried to find a place to hide, sleep and eat in peace. Sometimes they found one and other times not. Ah Dee and her husband, Po Lo remember times when they didn't have a roof over their heads or food to fill their kids’ hungry bellies.
After decades of living as nomads, things got worse in Burma. They crossed the Thailand border, fleeing their country. Today more than 150,000 Karen people have fled to refugee camps in Thailand but they still aren't free.
Ah Dee remembers the hardship. The family of six didn’t have official documents which meant they had to stay and were rarely allowed to leave the camp.
“No freedom, we want to go outside. Not paperwork, not go outside,” said Ah Dee.
Often times, people in the camp are forced to steal as they are unable to make a living. They are in continual fear of being caught and arrested by the Thai police. When Ah Dee lived in the camp, her family received 16 kg. of rice and some vegetables, fish paste and beans per month. Currently, families receive only 9 kg. of rice.
Kids attend school all day from 9am to 3pm with one hour breaks.The camp suffers from overcrowding and disease. People are malnourished due to the lack of food. Life is hard in refugee camps.
After 14 years, the family finally had a chance to leave. They boarded an airplane for the first time to fly to Canada with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 16, 2009.
The family adjusted quickly to their new home. It was challenging at first, not knowing anyone or the language. Yet the family was eager to learn and at 66 years old, Ah Dee learned English and was able to connect to others.
“Everywhere I go, I don´t forget God! He brought me here...Canada is good. Government is nice. Canada people is good,” Ah Dee exclaimed.
Ah Dee has experienced many challenges in her life but she continues to be thankful for the chance to live in a peaceful country.
Meeting this precious, courageous lady blessed my heart. I said goodbye with tears in my eyes, full of gratefulness to meet her. She is a great example on how to live a joyful life in the midst of hardships. She is a hero.