Restoring Dignity Home Makeover #39
Saturday, October 30th, 2021
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
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A tale of two lives…
Almost 50 years ago, a beautiful baby girl was born to loving parents in the tropical rainforests of Burma. What started off as a carefree childhood soon became a race for survival. Due to the civil war raging in her country, all that Ther Htoo remembered as a child was running for her life. After several decades of constantly moving from one place to another, her family found the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand. Living in the camp was the first peace they had felt in what seemed like a lifetime, however, it was not an ideal place to thrive. Very few jobs existed and residents depended on relief aid agencies to provide food, which often meant that they were hungry. It was at this camp that Ther Htoo met her husband, got married, and had two adorable baby boys. In 2013, she and her husband received news that they had been accepted into the United State’s refugee resettlement program! There was a catch, though. Since she and her husband had arrived at Mae La at different times, she was in the “first cohort” and he was in the second. This meant that she would be allowed to come to the USA first, and then he would come after. Traveling across the world with two young children, not knowing the language of country she was going to, and leaving all her family behind, was a huge risk for Ther Htoo. She decided that her children growing up outside of a refugee camp would be better for them in the long run, so she took the plunge and flew to America. Just as she was starting to settle down into their new apartment, she received gut wrenching news: her husband decided he wasn’t coming. He went on to marry another woman and started a different family. Reeling from her new status as a single mother, Ther Htoo was determined to make life the best she could for her children. Her brother was thankfully also chosen to be resettled, and she moved to Omaha, Nebraska so she could be closer to him. As she turned her key in her Omaha apartment, she looked over and saw her neighbor, Eh Hla, smiling and waving.
Over 60 years ago, Eh Hla was born in Karen State, Burma. His parents were farmers who lived in a self sustaining village: they raised animals and and grew rice and cucumbers. At some point as a child, he remembered his family started running and never stopped. The relentless Burma Civil War (which is still ongoing and is the longest civil war in modern history) took his home, his childhood and all the peace that his family had. When fighting would get close to their home, they would run until they found a quiet place to rebuild. Sometimes they could stay 1, 2, 3 and even 10 years at one point. However, it always ended the same: the fighting would get close and they were forced to flee once more. When his family finally found the Umpiem Mai refugee camp Eh Hla stated, “that was the moment when I didn’t have to run anymore.” Finally able to sleep in peace, he and his family started to rebuild their life in the camp. He met his wife and they had three children. In 2016, they received exciting news: they had been accepted to resettle in America. Eh Hla and his family were ecstatic about what their life could look like outside of living behind barbed fences. They waited in anticipation, however, their happy ending never happened. His wife got sick right as they were about to leave and passed away suddenly. In the depths of grief, he had to make the decision to stay with his children or to leave to the USA. He decided to take the chance for a better life, and boarded the plane. Landing in Omaha, Nebraska, he had no idea what he and his children’s lives would look like. Two years after moving into his Omaha apartment, Eh Hla was home when he heard some noise outside in his shared hallway. A woman and her two children were moving into the unit next to his. His waved and smiled and welcomed Ther Htoo to her new home.
Eh Hla soon found out that Ther Htoo was raising her kids alone, and that she was struggling to make ends meet. He introduced her to ESL classes at Augustana Church, to help her find more community. When the kids were home from school, he’d visit and they grew fond of him. If something broke in her apartment, Eh Hla would fix it. She was struggling to pay back her travel loan (all refugees in America have to pay back the cost of their flight — this amount is usually in the thousands), and he told her not to worry, and worked extra shifts to help her pay it off. One time when he was visiting, her youngest child looked at him and said, “Da, da. That’s my dad!” One day, Eh Hla decided he was going to let Ther Htoo know that he had feelings for her. He leaned in for a kiss, but found himself being pushed away. “No! We cannot kiss without being married. We are Christians!” said Ther Htoo. At that moment, they both started laughing and decided they were going to get married.
While Eh Hla and Ther Htoo’s story of finding each other is heartwarming, they have faced physical challenges that have prevented them from truly thriving in Omaha. Both are physically disabled and no longer able to work. As a result, there is not much income coming in the home, and basic items like beds, a couch, a TV, a dresser, etc. have been unaffordable luxuries. One of Restoring Dignity’s staff mentioned in a meeting that there was an older couple she saw always walking home from the grocery store. She often offered them a ride, because carrying bags of food was a great burden for them. She got a hold of Eh Hla and Ther Htoo, and we met and discussed the possibility of a home makeover. They were both very excited and said that they were honored to be chosen as our next home makeover family. On Saturday, October 30th, 2021 we will come together as a community and bring this family furniture, household items and hope. Let’s give Eh Hla and Ther Htoo the happy ending that they deserve!
*Names have been changed to protect identity
We are taking action on Saturday, October 30th, 2021 to provide this family with much-needed household, cleaning and organizational items.
Please sign-up for items you will donate on our donation sign-up page.
Items can also be purchased on Amazon here.
Note: if you order items on Amazon, forward us your order email so we can send you a BIG thank you and a tax receipt: firstname.lastname@example.org
All items can be dropped off at:
Restoring Dignity Community Donation Center
1205 South 50th Street
Omaha, NE, 68106
Saturday, October 2nd, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
Saturday, October 9th, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
Saturday, October 16th, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
Saturday, October 23rd, 2021 10:00am to 1:00pm
**All items must be dropped off by Saturday, October 23rd, 2021**
If you have questions about this project, please email: email@example.com or call/text: 402-370-9777.
All volunteers are graciously being provided by Creighton Prep and Marian High School.
- Saturday, October 30th, 2021:
- Transportation: 8am-10am: This shift involves loading items onto a moving truck at the donation center, and unloading them at the family’s home. We will provide a U-Haul truck.
- Shift one: 10am-12pm: This shift is for people who want to help with cleaning, organizing clothes, steaming and fixing items.
- Shift two: 12pm-2pm: This shift is for people who want to help with building furniture, organizing items and decorating.
How to Get Involved:
- Donate items:
We could not do these projects without our donors! They are the heart of these projects! All of the items the family has requested can found on our donation sign up page. Both new and gently used items are acceptable. Please view our page, “Give This, Not That,” to get an idea of what we consider to be acceptable used items.
- Donate financially:
As Restoring Dignity has grown so have our basic operating expenses. We now have our own donation center where we accept, sort and store all of our donations. We pay monthly rent and utilities and are dependent on the financial contributions that we receive. If you are interested in making a financial contribution, please click here.
- Spread the word:
Tell your friends and family about this project! They might have an extra lamp or a dresser that is no longer in use. Re-post this blog on your Facebook page, or email it to people you know. The more people that know about these projects, the more we receive donations and volunteer sign-ups!
Pictures from the August 2021 RD Home-Makeover:
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