Nan Mon arrived in the United States as a Burmese refugee in 2011. At the time, she was a young, single mother of a four-year-old son and had spent most of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand. When she and her child were approved to resettle in the United States, she left her parents and siblings behind in the camp thinking that her family would be able to follow her shortly. Unfortunately, the process took longer than expected.
When Nan arrived in Greensboro, she was overwhelmed. One day she was traveling home on the bus. She missed her stop and quickly became disoriented. She was visibly upset, knew little English, and all she could say to the bus driver was, “Home.” A police officer from the Greensboro Police Department ended up helping her get back to her apartment.
She said, “In Burma, you are scared of the police. Here they help.” She continues to remember and be grateful for the assistance the police officer gave to her: “I told my parents when they arrived, if you ever need help, just ask a police officer. They help.”
During the first year in Greensboro, Nan attended English class and also began working. The first years were hard. At times, she thought it would be easier to go back to Thailand. Eventually, however, she began to make friends. She learned English. She also got married and had two more children. She stays home with the two youngest while her oldest is in 6thgrade. Last year, she naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Now she says, “Greensboro is home.”
This year, she finally has been able to welcome her parents and oldest brother to Greensboro. After years of separation, her parents received notice in the spring that they were approved to resettle to Greensboro through Church World Service. “It makes me feel so happy… When they arrived in May, we just sat together and talked because we had not seen each other for 8 years.”
Her youngest sister still is waiting in the camp in Thailand with her family for approval to resettle in the United States as refugees. Nan said, “I hope that my family can stay together, live together, die together.”
More than half of the refugees whom Church World Service Greensboro are welcoming are reuniting with family already living in this city. We celebrate with those seeing family again, and we hope with those who are still waiting to see husbands, children, parents, and siblings.