Restoring Dignity Home Makeover #41
Saturday, April 15th, 2023
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
-Coretta Scott King
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Eh Say’s Story
Eh Say* was born in Karen State in Burma** and grew up helping her family grow vegetables and farm animals. Her education was not formalized in a traditional school, but rather she acquired a rich knowledge from the earth: when to plant, when to harvest, how to respect the land, how to tell when a storm is approaching, how to tend to animals and keep them healthy. She remembered a calm and peaceful childhood, full of happy memories with her family. Everything changed when she turned 17. The war in Burma found her family’s village and home suddenly became an unsafe place to live. Grabbing what they could carry on their backs, Eh Say and her family fled to the Mae La Oo camp at the Thai-Burma border. In one moment, her life that was once filled with nature, animals and communal living was changed into an environment where she was surrounded by barbed wire fences. Outside the fence was violence. Inside the fence was hunger. There are no winners in war.
Ku Paw’s Story
Ku Paw’s life was different than what Eh Say experienced. He was born in Burma, and lost his mother at a young age, due to an illness that took her. His father raised him alone, and taught him how to cultivate the land. Ku Paw found purpose in helping his village through farming, and spent the majority of his time planting, growing and harvesting food. A school education was not available to him. For 20 years he experienced peace in his community, however, that peace was shattered by the sound of guns and grenades. War reached his village and everyone had to flee, in order to save their lives. Ku Paw and his father made their way to the Mae La Oo camp. Tired, exhausted and feeling hopeless, they settled into their new home on a hot and humid night. Before going inside for the night, Ku Paw looked outside and saw his new neighbor, Eh Say. She smiled at him and he smiled back.
Love is love, regardless of where people meet. Whether it’s at school, a concert, online, via a friend or in a refugee camp. When Ku Paw first saw Eh Say, he knew something was there. He began visiting her regularly and quickly fell in love. In Karen tradition, when you want to date someone, you write them a letter. However, Ku Paw liked Eh Say so much that he asked her to date him in person and told her all of his feelings. They began dating and married later that year, in October 2004, at the ages of 19 and 20. Their flourishing relationship continued and they built a life together in the confines of the Mae La Oo refugee camp for twelve years. During that time, they gave birth to six beautiful children who they loved dearly. While there was plenty of love and affection at home, raising children in a refugee camp was not easy. The daily hunger gnawed at their bellies and they could not remember a time where they did not feel hungry. Ku Paw and Eh Say maintained a small garden near their home, which helped sustain their family. Of their six children, only three were able to go to school in the camp.
In 2016, a most unexpected message reached Ku Paw and Eh Say. Their family had been chosen to be resettled to the United States.*** Their feelings about leaving the camp and moving to another country were mixed. On one hand, they were incredibly excited that their children would have the opportunity to go to school and receive an education. However, they were also deeply worried about moving to a place where they didn’t speak the language. How would they function? What jobs would be available? How would they learn English? These questions kept them up at night, as they decided whether to leave or stay. Eventually they decided that they would take the opportunity and bring their family to America. The day that they left the camp, Eh Say remembered a long drive to Bangkok, and then a long flight to Omaha. When they arrived, it was very late and dark outside, and no cars were on the roads. Ku Paw remembered wondering if anyone lived in the city. The first two months were difficult, and Eh Say felt nauseous every day and couldn’t eat. To her, everything smelled different in Omaha, and it took her a while to adjust.
Shortly after arriving in Omaha, Ku Paw found work at a meat packing factory, which he enjoyed. He had no job opportunities for twelve years in the refugee camp, so to be able to work and start building a life felt incredibly meaningful to him. For three years, he worked tirelessly, saving every penny, so that he could buy his family a house. During this time, two more beautiful children were born, and Eh Say stayed home and cared for them. In 2019, one month before Thanksgiving, Ku Paw’s dream of owning his own house became a reality. With key in hand, he led his family into their new life. In that moment, everything felt right in the world. He had finally gained back a quality life for his family, after years of living in the aftermath of losing everything due to war.
One month after purchasing their house, Ku Paw’s spine started hurting. He sought medical care multiple times, but tests showed nothing. Shortly afterwards, Covid spread and Ku Paw became very ill. His spine felt terribly sore and his family thought he had Covid. Things kept getting worse, and he ended up hospitalized for a month. After a battery of tests, Ku Paw was diagnosed with meningitis. A few days later, he lost his eyesight and fell into total darkness. Before his sickness, he was very healthy, but afterwards, everything changed. After Ku Paw fell ill, Eh Say had to take care of him. He lost his job at the factory, and almost lost their house. If it hadn’t been for six months of Covid mortgage assistance, Ku Paw, Eh Say and their eight children would have been homeless. As soon as Ku Paw was able to get a caregiver through SSI, Eh Say found a job at a meat packing plant and began working to support their family. Even though she works tirelessly, there is nothing left after the mortgage, utilities and bills have been paid at the end of each month. The family had no beds or other furniture until recently when they were able to visit the furniture bank (co-managed by Restoring Dignity and The Furniture Project). Ku Paw has struggled tremendously since going blind, trying to make sense of this new life where he can no longer function in the world he once knew. At 39 years old, the loss of sight has been a tragedy that he continues to grapple with.
We recently found out about this family’s situation and decided to offer them the opportunity of a home makeover. Ku Paw and Eh Say excitedly said yes, saying that this will allow their family to get back on their feet. On Saturday, April 15th, 2023 we will come together as a community and bring this family furniture, household items and hope. We will also provide them with a year’s supply of hygiene and household products. Join us by volunteering, buying items from the family’s Amazon list or by donating to the project. Any funds leftover will be given to the family.
Ages and gender of children:
- 4 year old boy
- 6 year old girl
- 8 year old boy
- 10 year old girl
- 11 year old girl
- 13 year old girl
- 16 year old girl
- 17 year old boy
*Names have been changed to protect identity
**While Burma is no longer legally recognized as a country (the name has changed to Myanmar), groups who experienced genocide and war, at the hands of militants, call the country by the name Burma. We refer to Myanmar as Burma, to stand in solidarity with the Karen, Po Karen, Karenni, Chin, Ka-Chin, Rohingya and other ethnic groups who have been forced to flee their home country.
***Less than one percent of refugees are resettled to other countries each year (UNHCR, 2023)
We are taking action on Saturday, April 15th, 2023 to provide this family with much-needed household, cleaning and organizational items.
All items needed are on the family’s Amazon list. The family picked out bedding, pictures and toys that they are hoping to receive!
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: email@example.com
If you would like to drop off hygiene products, toys, books, or decorations for the family, you can do so at the furniture bank warehouse that Restoring Dignity and The Furniture Project co-manage. When you drop off the items, please inform staff that the items you are dropping off are for our 41st home-makeover family.
The furniture bank warehouse
10808 J Street
Omaha, NE, 68137
**All items must be dropped off by Saturday, April 8th, 2023**
If you have questions about this project, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text: 402-370-9777.
(ALL VOLUNTEER SLOTS FULL)
The following volunteer shifts are needed:
- Saturday, April 15th, 2023:
- Unloading: 8am-10am: This shift involves unloading items from a moving truck at the family’s home. Once the trucks are unloaded, we will begin bringing furniture out of the family’s home, to prepare for home cleaning. The ability to lift furniture and heavy items is needed for this shift. 8 to 10 volunteers needed.
- Shift one: 10am-12pm: This shift is for people who want to help with cleaning, organizing clothes, steaming and fixing items. 25 to 30 volunteers needed.
- Shift two: 12pm-2pm: This shift is for people who want to help with building furniture, organizing items and decorating. 25 to 30 volunteers needed.
- Shift three: 2pm-4pm: This shift is for people who want to help with building furniture, organizing items and decorating. 10 to 15 volunteers needed.
- Half Day: 10am-2pm: Location is at the family’s home. This shift is for someone who would like to have a Restoring Dignity immersion and/or be a project leader.
- Half Day: 12pm-4pm: Location is at the family’s home. This shift is for someone who would like to have a Restoring Dignity immersion and/or be a project leader.
- Full Day: 10am-4pm: Location is at the family’s home. This shift is for someone who is looking for a full-immersion with Restoring Dignity and/or wants to be a project leader.
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 their Amazon wishlist. Items will be mailed to our address and we will deliver them to the family the day of the home makeover.
Donate financially at the bottom of this page. If items for the family go unpurchased on their Amazon list, we will use these funds to purchase items. Any remaining funds will be gifted to the family.
(ALL VOLUNTEER SLOTS FULL)
For this project, we need a minimum of 60 volunteers spaced out over the course of eight hours. Our volunteers will clean, organize, decorate, hang pictures, lay down rugs, and build beds. The more volunteers, the faster we can accomplish our goal. We would love to have you join our team! Please visit our Restoring Dignity Sign-Up Page to add yourself to one of our two-hour shifts.
- Spread the word:
Tell your friends and family about this project! 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 November 2021 RD 40th Home-Makeover:
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