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From Refugee Camp to New Beginning

By Poung Change

Have you ever felt sad because you had to say good-bye to someone you really love? I had to do this just a year ago, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I told my grandmother, "Taa Taa" which means good-bye in Burmese.  My grandmother had raised me for fifteen years, and when I said my farewell I had no idea when I would see her again.

There was a civil war in my country that took place twenty-five years ago. I wasn't born yet. At that time, my country had a bad president. He wasn't educated, and he was a general. He had been a gold digger and selfish. He made a lot of businesses, but not for people. He took taxes from people for himself not for the country. Terrorists burned down my grandma's house three times. My grandma told me her story over and over., "It's an unforgettable part of my life" she said. "I had to run to the forest and sleep there, I watched as my house burned down with tears in my eyes." Things got better in my country for a while. My mother grew up and had me. Eventually, however another war broke out in my country.

My whole family moved to a refugee camp because of this new war.  People didn't have house, food, money, or clothes to survive. Terrorists burned everything down in my grandma's house just like they had twenty-five years ago.  Other villagers' houses were burned down too. At that time, a big storm, called Cyclone Nargis came through southeast Asia. The storm hit Myanmar the most. There were a lot of floods, so many people died. We lived in a refugee camp for nine years. UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) fed us for nine years. In the refugee camp, we had a lot of trouble too because of the policies. They were very bad. The rules didn't allow  refugees to go out and work in Thailand. If people went outside of the camp, police would arrest them.

On December 24, 2016, my mom and I were given permission to leave the camp. My father had already left seven years earlier. I cried when I left my grandma alone. I felt worried about her because she was old, 67 years old.  My mom and I felt very nervous when we arrived at the Bangkok airport. We followed our guide. Along the way, we got in a lot of trouble because we couldn't speak English. We arrived at our destination which was Indianapolis. I rested for a week because I was so tired. It was the first time in my life I had been on an airplane for two days in my life. After winter break I went to North Central High School in Indianapolis. I enjoyed my school. I made some friends.  They were so kind to me. On Monday, February 13, my sister moved to Phoenix, Arizona because she didn't want to live with my stepdad. I wanted to move too, but I didn’t have the opportunity. I also wanted to live with my sister. She is twenty-three now. Her name is Chu Chu. I had no money to move to Arizona. My brother worked for three or four months. In August 13, my brother and I left for Phoenix, AZ. School had already started in Phoenix, so I missed a week of class. My first few weeks at school were hard. I did not know anyone. Now I have a lot of friends at Alhambra High School.

I really enjoy being in Phoenix, AZ. I work very hard in school. I want to go to college after I graduate from high school. I have not had much support my entire life, but I have learned how to cope with hard situations. I feel very good to live in Phoenix, AZ. My mom once told me, "You are the only one making this family proud if you were graduate from college." I will try my best to make my family proud.