I spent the first 15 years of my life in a refugee camp.
I am a Karen from Myanmar. My parents fled their village because of the civil war and I was born in Mae Ra Moe Camp in Thailand.
They left just in time. Some people did not survive.
The camp had a school, but our family didn’t have electricity. We used candles to study at night, or I did my homework early in the morning.
We grew fruit and vegetables near the camp to have something to eat, so we woke up early on weekends too, to work in the fields.
Living in a refugee camp is like being in prison with no bars — you’re not allowed to leave.
The only place I could escape to was in my dreams.
But in 2015 my family and I boarded our first international flight. We were being settled in Australia.
I knew that I should be happy but I felt sad all the time because I didn’t understand what people said.
Maybe I took longer to learn English because talking in Karen makes me feel like I belong.
But since I started as a trainee at Bendigo Community Health Service I feel more and more connected to Bendigo. And my English is improving.
My job is to help refugees settle into their new lives here.
Our Karen community gathers outside, swapping stories, laughing, and sharing advice.
We feel alive again.
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