By Dominique Cordes, volunteer, originally published in Enfants du Mekong’s magazine 170.
My Karen sponsored child and her entire family are going to move to the United States, to a city on the Canadian border where there are already a large number of war-torn people just like her. Their arrival has been made possible thanks to an agreement signed between the United States and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Each refugee can take English language courses given free of charge by the association in charge of receiving them. A hard-working, competitive workforce, they have given a boost to the economy in this neglected city in upstate New York.
Our friends are starting a new life; Peusowa writes letters and lists her new address. USA! I can even phone her! Mobile, internet, unlimited communication… Our letters only take 4 days to arrive. She sends us photos on CDs of their new life. These young Karens look positively radiant standing in front of the Niagara Falls. Wrapped up warmly in their down jackets, it’s really them! What a delight…
Two years later, we decide to go and visit them…by going west this time! The date is set; the whole family comes to meet us. They get out of a large vehicle that has just been parked in our hotel car park. They walk freely in front of us, in this street that looks to me like an infinite space. In the muddy Mae La camp, you had to keep your feet very straight to cross the narrow, slippery bamboo bridge. Here, the vastness of the avenues, the space… They are smiling and we see expressions of joy!
The children run as fast as they can towards us, but it’s their mother who is the first to hug me… We recognise them all. One has grown, another has put on weight and another is now walking! We count them-no one is missing. Everyone looks fit and well and the family has even gotten bigger. There have all turned up once again and have already gathered around us.
“The destiny of an entire family has changed dramatically”
After her arrival, my sponsored child married a Burmese refugee. A little girl has just been born. Smiling broadly, Peusowa’s mother places the baby in my arms. Here I am a godmother once again! They live in a small grey chalet-style solid structure house. The avenue is lined with the same style homes, which are typical of this region. It’s a shock when you enter: stainless steel sink, fridge, cooker, microwave…! Life American style! They appear very much at home and quite relaxed. When picturing hot water running out of the tap, I see in my mind’s eye the dented tins they used to fill with drinking water in the refugee camp, where water was rationed….
A sofa! A little girl all dressed in pink is sitting on it. We watched her be born at the camp, her too! All the photos we took at Mae La are displayed in the sitting room; that’s how the youngest were able to recognise us! A computer! A real dining table! Chairs! An armchair! The children are playing and soon we are deep in conversation. The first truly free and relaxed conversation!
There is frequent laughter as they tell us stories about their settling in. When we ask the mother if she has a job, the children start giggling as they tell me “Our mother is going to school!” and she understands what we are saying. She bursts out laughing and replies “Yes, but very difficult for me!” Our Karen friends have begun a new life. They can travel freely in the United States and Canada. In two years, they will have a passport and they will be American citizens. We are waiting the day when we can invite them to France. During the time we spent together, they never stopped telling us “Very, very, very happy here!”.
The sponsorship of this little girl brought happiness to so many people at the same time! The destiny of an entire family changed dramatically. It was a sponsorship but it is joy that will be shared for a long time to come. At our request, a new sponsorship file has just been sent to us by Children of the Mekong. So here we are sponsors of a little boy in… Burma!