Arriving from the Refugee Camp in Thailand

Arriving from the Refugee Camp in Thailand
The Mying Mying family

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Day in the Life of Refugee Resettlement

What an adventure! The past two days have been filled with mission and detective work, and Jill Coughlin has become the master of this. This weekend, through much trial and error, Jill was able to figure out that Po Lone was very upset because he lost his backpack during his journey here. After Michelle had given Jill a CD with the pictures that we took of the family's arrival at the airport and their first glimpse of their new apartment, Jill was able to see that Po Lone had the backpack when he arrived at Terminal 4, but he didn't have it as we were leaving the airport.

That resulted in a phone call to Sky Harbor Airport, where Jill processed the necessary paperwork for Lost and Found. In the meantime, we placed frantic calls to Lutheran Social Ministries to see if perhaps their case worker had picked it up or if Po Lone had left it in their van. On Tuesday morning, we got the word from Sky Harbor Airport that they had a backpack that fit the description, so Joe drove to Sky Harbor to identify it and pick it up. Going through the backpack, he found what looked to be Burmese books, some dirty laundry, and lo and behold, some pictures of Po Lone and family and friends that were obviously precious to him. When Joe and Michelle returned the backpack to Po Lone on Tuesday evening, he was so overwhelmed with joy, we thought he was going to weep.

While at the apartment, we asked if they needed anything, and Po Lone translated for Ah Mee to tell us that they needed vegetables and fish "pace". We couldn't figure out what he was saying, so we asked him to write it, and he wrote "fish path." Because we had no idea what vegetables they needed, and no clue what fish path might be, we took Po Lone to Fry's and walked up and down every aisle, letting Po Lone choose the things the family needed. We never did find fish path, and he was very disappointed.

So today, we contacted Lutheran Social Ministries to try to figure out what they were looking for. Donna told us that it's fish paste, and it can be found in Oriental markets. This evening, Jill went to the apartment, armed with her new knowledge that fish paste in Burmese is a word that sounds like "gnaw boo". Ya Min and Mya Min were able to help Jill figure out that fish paste comes in a can, so Jill explained that she would buy 2 and bring them the next time she came.

Off to the oriental market she went, only to discovered that fish paste comes with a number of choices, including crab and shrimp. She decides that shrimp is a good choice, so picks up 2 cans of that. This made sense that Po Lone would write "path" because to the non-English speaker you might not hear the "s" sound. As she's scanning the aisle one more time, what do you think she finds? Fish pate, so now she's thinking, "is this what they meant?". So she got one of those too, and will bring them to them on Friday. She was never able to establish how much of the stuff a person would use or what they used it for, but it's definitely a learning process.

Jill's reaction to all this: "I feel like I don't know what I'm doing sometimes, yet it's fun and I don't mind. I know I wouldn't be doing these things if I wasn't involved, so thank you again for that."

If you'd like to join Jill on this bold, daring, reckless adventure of bringing Grace to a refugee family, email and we'll put you in touch with Jill. The fun never stops!!!!

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