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That Wah was born in 1958 in the mountainous Karen State in Burma. Growing up, That Wah and her three siblings worked on a rice patty farm in the village. One day her family went to reap the harvest and found their field and village set aflame by the Burmese military. They fled to the jungle. For over three years, That Wah and her family moved nomadically as the Burmese military continued to destroy their small make-shift villages and crops. In 2001, as it was unsafe to venture into the city to get medicine, That Wah’s husband died from malaria. In 2002, she and her children moved to a refugee camp in Thailand.
That Wah began weaving when she was 13 years old as it was customary for all the women to learn to work with thread. She continued weaving at the refugee camp where she and her children remained for eight years. Although life inside the camp was safe, there were no jobs. To go outside the camp to look for jobs was a risk to one’s life.
That Wah and all of her children came to Grand Rapids in 2010. She dreams of returning to her country and village one day. In the meantime, she enjoys her life here and spends her time weaving, going to English class and taking care of her children and new granddaughter.
PARA (Programs Assisting Refugee Acculturation) works to link newly arrived refugees with church cosponsors, individual volunteers, service providers and other community resources to help them in their adjustment to their new home in West Michigan. Refugee Foster Care assists refugee minors, who come to the United States with no familial support, in finding caring foster parents, and gaining the necessary life-skills to become healthy and productive members of our community