Category Archives: The Lifestyles

The Harrowing Tale of a Refugee Mother Named Rahima, Part 4

And to conclude…read part one, part two and part three

Rahima came to Mae Sot when all hope was lost for a good life in Burma. Now, after being left by two husbands, she is a single mother of two and spends her days on the streets of Mae Sot collecting glass and plastic to sell for recycling.

“I don’t need a husband. I’ve had enough of all that. I’ve had two husbands already who divorced me because they couldn’t afford me or our children so they left. I am finished with all of that! I just live in a dream where someone will notice me and resettle me to a third country; somewhere my children can be educated and live a good life.”

“Sometimes I think we could find a better life in Bangkok or Malaysia. But then I look down at my children and think that if I can’t even provide them with food and medicine, how could I ever do something like that? Sometimes I think of giving them to an orphanage but I can’t because they are not Thai or Karen. I have no optimism left. I just live each day to survive.”

With the future looking so bleak for Rahima, and millions of other irregular migrants across Asia, it is hard to draw any positives. But as I leave Rahima, I make sure she knows how inspiring it is to see what people are capable of when it comes to the survival of their family. The strength between Rahima and her children that has kept them together against all odds is more impressive than anything most people could hope to achieve, anywhere in the world.

JJ Kim, Advocacy Manager

Worldwide Impact Now

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Pic of the Day: Karen Farm Girl

Ethnic Karen in mountain regions are mostly rice farmers, such as this young girl. They are attacked by the Burmese Army in the fall right after the rice harvest so they cannot survive for the year. The harvests are burned and the land strewn with landmines.

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The Harrowing Tale of a Refugee Mother Named Rahima, Part 2

The story continues for Rahima, an Arakanese refugee mother in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand… Read part one here

“After that we moved across the country to Moulmein [Mon State], Burma where we found some farmland and started over. But when I was ten, it happened again, some soldiers came and ordered us to leave at once. It was horrible, I remember it well, me and my eight brothers and sisters were crying and screaming, while my father was just frozen stiff and speechless.”

Rahima and I, along with her two children – a boy and a girl, both under five and with shaven heads – sit in a small communal home in Mae Sot’s run-down Muslim quarter. The girl wears a long brown vest that just covers her up, while the boy dons a baby’s dress, both covered in dirt. In the next room two older children are being taught English by a local volunteer, while people storm in and out speaking in rapid Bengali and Thai. 19-year-old Rahima, upright on a wooden chair, is wrapped in a once-beautiful but ragged sarong wearing large hoop earrings and her hair in a bun, holding the air of a mature woman.

Keen to talk she tells me of her family’s second move in 2000, this time to the streets of Mattayar near the ancient city of Mandalay. Soon after arrival, they were forced to take shelter in a railway station with around 50 other homeless families. It was then, at age ten, Rahima effectively became an adult, spending her days searching for food and work, or begging on the streets.

“We had no hut or shelter, we just slept in the main hall of the railway station. We got most of our food from begging and tried so hard to find work. Occasionally people gave us rice to do small jobs but most wouldn’t even look at us. We often went for two or three days without food, sometimes longer, and drank water from puddles and streams.”

When I ask about soldiers in Mattayar, Rahima lets out a long moan and shoots a piercing glance straight thorough me with her wide brown eyes. She takes a long pause and then, after breathing deep, begins to talk quietly drawing me in closer to listen carefully.

“It was horrible. They used to come all the time – to see what they could take. We had nothing, just a few rags and some cardboard. If we had food we ate it quickly but if they found any coins, they just took them. They beat the men and used to try and scare us. There was nowhere to go, no one would take us in or protect us. We were children running away from trained soldiers. We didn’t even try to run.”

Rahima becomes uneasy and I consider changing the subject. Then, looking at the ground for the first time, she speaks again, straining to get the words past her swollen throat.

“They would take all the pretty girls first. My elder sister was taken once for four or five days and then just dropped back one morning. She was different after that. It’s very shameful to talk about these things so when she came back she didn’t tell anyone what had happened, although we asked. In my time there, dozens of women were taken. Not one of them ever told of what had happened.”

JJ Kim, Advocacy Manager
Worldwide Impact Now

To be  continued…read part one here

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The Harrowing Tale of a Refugee Mother Named Rahima, Part 1

“Living in a daydream is the only we can get through this. If I focus like a human being and think about my existence then life is just not possible. I used to spend a lot of time thinking. I used to think, why was I born into this world just to beg from others who were born into my world? That’s how I still feel, which makes it difficult to continue trying to live.” -Rahima, a refugee mother escaped from Burma

It’s early evening in the transient town of Mae Sot, for many a gateway out of Burma to some kind of freedom; for others, another stepping stone along a path of oppression and poverty. Rahima stares at me with eyes full of life, strong but verging on tears. Fully composed she animates a story I’ll never forget; the becomings of a girl, who at younger than 20 years has suffered more than most will in a lifetime, an inspirationally strong mother of two.

“We had a very small house in my native village,” she says, recalling a small rural bamboo settlement in Arakan State, Western Burma. “I don’t remember much because I was younger than five. I just know that some soldiers came and we had to leave or we would have been killed.”

Across Burma, thousands of acres of civilian-owned land are confiscated by the Burmese Army every year, mainly for the development of military bases and infrastructure. Overnight, families lose their entire livelihoods and means for survival, without compensation or assistance, so the regime can keep a tighter fist on the population. In a country without the most basic civil liberties, these people are forced to adapt and start all over again, sometimes miles from their homes.

The story continues for Rahima, a refugee mother in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand…Look for part two in the coming days.

JJ Kim, Advocacy Manager
Worldwide Impact Now

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Pic of the Day: School Kids

School children in native dress in Central Karen State. The Karen are the most modest in dress of all Burma’s ethnic groups. Simple smocks are woven by village women on hand looms – white and red smocks being the prevalent colors. These children attend a school in a small village that has since been overrun by the Burmese Army. Their status is unknown.

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Some Perspective From Worldwide Impact Now (WIN)

Attitude matters for the Karen youth who are fighting for the survival of their once prosperous culture that is over 2000 years old.

WIN’s objective is to free oppressed peoples worldwide through human development, empowerment and enablement initiatives. We have adopted a “Burma First” imperative. Thanks for your interest.

We invest in what we call “rainmakers”… servant leaders of character respected by their people. We feel this is the key to taking care of oppressed people “in the shadows”. We work with these grassroots leaders as catalysts in building strong communities, security, stability and prosperity from the ground up. We rely on them all now in crisis and they are performing as expected with courage. We also support other non-profit organizations in initiative where they clearly are innovating and making critical differences. Our aim is for these “rainmakers” to also succeed.

By providing training and financial contribution to these “agents of change”, we hope to create collaboration and cooperation among all of them. This is one way of accomplishing results greater than any single organization or person is capable of. Our role here is one of facilitation and coordination within a like-minded “community of purpose”.

The critical factor now in the Irrawaddy River region is in hastening aid to refugees at greatest risk in remote areas. We are succeeeding at this now by relying on old friendships established over the past four years. This is leadership worth investing in.

We appreciate your care for the diverse peoples of Burma and hope to be able to tell their compelling story in new ways in coming months, as we work together with many friends from locations across Southeast Asia.

Tim Heinemann, founder

Worldwide Impact Now

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