kap sum |myanmar (burma)
[MY FATHER] LEFT ALL OF THAT TO COME TO THE UNITED STATES FOR A MINIMUM WAGE-PAYING JOB SO THAT WE COULD ALL COME HERE. HE WAS KIND OF LIKE A HERO FIGURE FOR ME.
I came to the United States when I was 11 from Burma (also known as Myanmar). As Christians and part of the Zomi ethnic group, my parents wanted my siblings and me to be safe from religious and ethnic persecution and have the opportunity to receive an education. My father left our family to begin the immigration process before I was even born, so I didn’t really know him until we came here. My mom would often tell us about him, and she would remind us why he was gone—that he was trying to find a better way for us in a better country. He was a school principal and a really well-respected elder in our village. He left all of that to come to the United States for a minimum wage-paying job so that we could all come here. He was kind of like a hero figure for me.
When we left Burma, I just thought we were going on a trip. It didn't hit me that I could possibly never see my family again. I was just excited to see my dad. When I look back on it now, I realize how much I left behind and how many relationships I lost. Our experience was very different from many of my relatives, who had to flee Burma because of the military dictatorship that practiced forced labor in the villages where they lived.
There is much said about how immigrants are here to take and to steal, but I think it's the other way around. We actually have so much that we've brought with us and want to share—so much experience and expertise in medicine, religion, arts, and science. I would like other people to see that there are so many new businesses and so many new ways of thinking because of immigrants coming to our country. We're not here to take and steal but to offer what we have.
Be open to receive. If you're open to receive, you may learn something new. When you learn to open yourself up to the world, you become more open to becoming who you can be. It's like a seed. When a seed finally starts to open it up, it can really grow. To grow up, you have to come out of your shell.