The Rapidian

World Refugee Day bio: That Wah

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

In honor of the upcoming World Refugee Day event on June 23rd, Bethany Christian Services refugee resettlement program (PARA) is posting weekly biographies of families and individuals that are being helped in the adjustment to their new lives in Grand Rapids.
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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.

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