Today is World Refugee Day! The United Nations declared this day to commemorate the challenging struggles that so many refugees have to endure before, during, and after fleeing their homes. One of the main goals of this day is to raise awareness about refugees and show our support for their decisions to escape their tumultuous lives in their home countries.
At the World Affairs Council, we have the privilege of being able to work with many people from many different countries around the world. Some of these people are refugees who have settled in Connecticut in the hopes of working for better lives for them and their families. One of these people is our 2018 Peter G. Kelly Global Scholar, Ma Sei Pan.
Ma Sei and her family came to the U.S. as refugees from Thailand six years ago. In Thailand, Ma Sei did not have the same opportunities for education that many U.S. students take for granted. She wanted to attend school, but her family’s financial situation made it difficult. Coming to the U.S. allowed Ma Sei to get the education she dreamed of in Thailand. Her dream is coming true and she will be continuing her education at Central Connecticut State University this fall as a freshman. She wants to use her education to help give other refugees the same opportunities that she was able to have. To hear her full story, read her remarks from our 2018 Luminary Award below. Her story is truly amazing.
“Hello, My name is Ma Sei, and I am planning to attend Central Connecticut State University in the Fall. I am honored to be here tonight and to receive this award for my commitment to my local and global community. I first want to thank Mr. Kelly and the World Affairs Council of Connecticut for this award.
I became involved with the model UN program through my International Studies teacher. I was excited for the opportunity to work with my friends, applying what I was learning in school. I worked on an investigation and research project about refugee camps. We became experts on German political diplomacy. We visited the German Mission in N.Y. and met with a high ranking German diplomat. We took our learning one step further and entered a state-wide conference at the University of Hartford where we debated from the perspective of our Country we had spent months researching and exploring. This experience helped me decide what I want to do for my career.
I have always loved learning and wanted to teach since I was young. Being a teacher is important to me, because education is not guaranteed in the Thai refugee camps where I grew up. Most families cannot afford the $1000 baht tuition. In the United States that is $30. This only covered a notebook, pencil and eraser. Families had to come up with more money for school uniforms and additional supplies. This made it impossible for poor families like mine to access education. My mother worked on the farm everyday and was finally able to afford to send me to school when I was nine years old. I already felt like I was falling behind my peers.
It is my dream to return to Thailand and provide affordable education to the refugees so that they have the same opportunities that I have had in the U.S. With family support and personal courage, I know I will make this dream a reality.
When I came to the United States, I saw a lot of people similar to me who were immigrants and did not have enough money to pay for education in their home countries. Since middle school, I have been helping my friends who come from other countries with their class work. I’m proud of myself that I can be able to help others even though I do not speak perfect English, but I am really good in math so I help whenever I can. Since 2015 I have helped tutor elders in the community who are recent immigrants from Thailand in reading and writing English. I prepared them to take the citizenship test in English. I have enjoyed all my work teaching people in my community, and look forward to doing this for the rest of my life.”
Ma Sei is truly an inspirational young woman. She has come so far, and worked so hard for everything in her life. Her story illustrates the plight of so many refugees around the world who want to improve their lives. We know that Ma Sei will continue to do great things and help give others like her the same chances that she had to get an education and work towards a better life.
Our team at the World Affairs Council of CT is lucky to be surrounded by so many dedicated refugee organizations who have partnered with us in the past. It is thanks to refugee-aid organizations that people like Ma Sei have the chance to seek a better life here in Connecticut. One of our major partners is New Haven’s Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRIS). Each year, IRIS welcomes hundreds of refugees to Connecticut and provides financial, educational, employment- and health-related services. Their work is instrumental in creating a foundation for a new life here in the U.S., since most refugees have little to no assets to their name. Another of our community organizations is the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI). They advocate for refugees in Connecticut and their mission is to ensure the smoothest and most efficient transition from their native countries to the U.S. A third group that aids refugees in the Hartford and Connecticut area is Catholic Charities. It is a non-profit organization that administers a vast amount of service for people of all religions and “exists to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency and human potential of those in need”.
Each one of these organizations is unique in their approaches to resettlement and refugee aid, but they all provide outstanding services for refugees in the CT area. The World Affairs Council is honored to have such inspiring and dedicated refugee organizations as partners and neighbors! Check out their websites to learn more about their organizations and the work that they do.
Integrated Refugee & Immigration Servcies (IRIS): http://www.irisct.org/
Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immgrants (CIRI): https://cirict.org/
Catholic Charities: https://ccaoh.org/services-and-programs/migration-refugee-and-immigration-services/