Eight years ago, Lah Lah came to Minnesota as a 12 year-old refugee with her family and was resettled by MCC Refugee Services. Today, she’s working as a Case Aide in our resettlement program, helping new families as they arrive to Minnesota.
Lah Lah is the oldest of four children in her family, and she was just 6 years old when her family fled Burma and moved to a refugee camp in Thailand. After 6 years in the camp, her family was approved to come to the US as refugees and they made the long journey to Minnesota. Not long after Lah Lah and her family arrived, they met an MCC volunteer named Jennie who had been assigned to assist a neighboring family in their apartment building. Despite being quite new herself, Lah Lah’s mother encouraged Lah Lah to help interpret between her neighbors and Jennie, and they developed a close friendship that continues to this day. Lah Lah credits this encouragement with helping her learn English very quickly. With Jennie, Lah Lah found opportunities to help set-up apartments for other new arrivals, and she continued to look for more significant ways to give back and help new refugee arrivals. She and her parents are so excited that she’s found this opportunity to work directly with new arrivals for the summer.
Currently, Lah Lah is a student at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where she is studying health care administration. She hopes to pursue a Master’s degree and work at a managerial level in a health care facility. She said she has a hard time imagining what her dream job would be because she has loved all of her jobs so far—working in a nursing home, as a receptionist at the county, and now as a case aide at MCC Refugee Services. She found out about this opening through her continued friendship with our volunteer Jennie and secured the position through an interview process. Her summer break from college allowed her the perfect opportunity to fill this temporary position.
Lah Lah’s days as a Case Aide are very busy. As a Karen speaker, she is helping with interpretation and appointments that include everything from social security cards, ESL enrollments, school registration, airport pickups, benefit enrollments, WIC appointments, home visits, and more. She spends a lot of time driving families to crucial appointments and meeting families who are at the very beginning of their American stories. Having been through the process herself, she finds that she is very sympathetic to the feeling of being new and facing a different culture, language, and environment. She remembers how it felt to be new and has a lot of patience and is able to be kind to families who are adjusting to so much.
Lah Lah and Jennie both shared with me how proud her parents are of Lah Lah for the work she is doing with MCC Refugee Services. Lah Lah shared that they ask her every day about what she did and are so proud that she is finding a way to give back and support new refugees. Lah Lah said her mom always reminds her to be kind because she remembers the many kindnesses (and occasional lack of courtesy) they encountered when they were new arrivals.