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Burmese Family’s 20-Year Journey to US Citizenship

Filed in Human Interest News by on April 29, 2016

In 1996, memories of a recently passed high school examination quickly faded as San San N., seven family members, and 35 others fled to the Burmese jungle to escape government troops. With their food supplies exhausted after 22 days, they quickly learned to forage for edibles in the jungle. Approaching the Thai border,

Photo of San San N., Nile Sisters Initiative constituent

Photo Caption
San San N.,
Resettling from Burma

they slid down a mountainside to the river’s edge only to set off buried land mines along the shore, one exploding near San San. The terrified group had never before experienced such deadly weapons, which killed two members and injured several others with shrapnel. Miraculously, San San and her family crossed the river by boat and arrived alive in Thailand.

Once safely in Thailand, they all received refugee documentation. The newly displaced family walked for a full day to the UNHCR camp, where they lived for nine years. Food allotments for each family were never enough. San San’s father worked in the camp to provide additional food and clothing for his five children. San San also worked on-site at the Muslim nursery school, earning $3 a month. After two years, she began teaching primary school, and her earnings increased to $9 a month. 

After attending a six-month, teacher-training program in Thailand, San San met another instructor who became her future husband. He, too, had fled Burma, fearing political persecution. San San, her husband, and their two children eventually moved to the Mae La refugee camp. Finally approved for emigration, they arrived in San Diego in March 2013.

One of San San’s first challenges in America was learning the function of a contemporary kitchen oven! And although she had studied English in Burma with visiting teachers from Switzerland and Canada, she found mastering the American English to be a major challenge.

San San now is employed by AGM Packing Corp., where she received an employee-of-the-month award in 2014. The property management firm that employs San San’s husband has awarded him similar recognition for his help in translating Burmese tenants’ problems. The couple has plans for continuing their own education and advancement as well as for their children, who are excelling in school. The Nuyans hope to become US citizens by the end of their five-year residency requirement, paving the way for their children to have a nationality—at last!

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