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Meet Rosy, a Member of Sacramento's Growing Burmese Refugee Population
And a warm welcome to Krista, one of the littlest members of our community!
Rosy is a refugee who arrived from Burma in October 2011. Originally from the Chin State area in Western Burma, she is part of the ethnic Lai Chin, a predominantly Christian population and one of the largest Burmese refugee groups. As a Christian, Rosy was subjected to constant persecution. She was prevented from celebrating religious holidays and from congregating for worship. She witnessed other Lai Christians who refused to convert being taken into the forests outside of her village and executed.
In 2006, the Burmese army entered Rosy’s village and gathered all young, able-bodied men and women. Working as a preschool teacher at the time, Rosy was forcibly removed from her classroom and ordered, along with the other villagers, to carry the soldiers’ supplies as they were marched away from their homes. Not knowing where they were being taken or what would happen when they got there, that night, Rosy and her husband, John decided to escape from the army. The couple fled to Malaysia, a nation that has no refugee camps. There they were considered illegal immigrants since they lacked documentation.
As a nation, Burma has been in a state of constant civil war since being granted independence from the British Empire in 1948. The Burmese military dominates all forms of government and retains the authority to suspend laws and civil liberties at will. Due to these abuses, Burma has a severe record of human rights violations in addition to serious violations of religious freedom. Burma also spends less on public health than any other nation in the world. According to the U.S. State Department, over two million Burmese have fled for economic or political reasons, and many, like Rosy, to escape violence and religious persecution.
After hearing about the UN’s refugee agency from other Burmese migrants in Malaysia, John and Rosy began the long process in June of 2009 to become officially recognized as refugees. They were interviewed five times during the course of their application process before officially being able to move forward and relocate. After two years’ efforts, the couple finally arrived in the United States, a nation they selected because of our ethnic diversity and our freedom of religion.
Upon arrival in Sacramento, Opening Doors staff and volunteers met them at the airport and transported them to an apartment that had been furnished with donated furniture, household items, and food. Seven months pregnant with their first child, Rosy was grateful for all the assistance provided during the move-in.
Since then, Rosy has given birth to a little girl, a month ahead of her expected due date. Krista was born Wednesday, November 23, as an early Thanksgiving present for her proud parents. The delivery was attended by Sarah Jafari, Rosy’s volunteer mentor who will continue working with John and Rosy as they adjust to their new lives as parents, and as residents of the United States. Additionally, Carmichael Presbyterian Church will be hosting a baby shower to assist the couple in gathering the baby supplies they currently lack. Rosy calls being a new mother an “amazing” experience and is thrilled with the progress Krista is making.
In the months to come, Opening Doors staff and volunteer mentors will also help the couple get their social security cards, understand their new home and neighborhood, and begin looking for work. Through Opening Doors’ RHEAP (Refugee Health & Employment Attainment Program), they will work with volunteers to develop resumes and learn about the U.S. job application system and workplace culture.
Rosy says it is a relief to finally be in a nation where she no longer has to hide her religious affiliation or legal status. Rosy enjoys working very much and looks forward to getting back into the workforce now that she has delivered her baby. In time, she eventually hopes to open her own bakery. Opening Doors’ Microenterprise Program will be there to assist her with this when she is ready.