“As refugees, home has been many different places, and had different meanings over the years.”

Burmese refugees find forever home at the end of a long journey

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN —  We are the Karen people, a tribal group from Burma who live in the country’s mountainous region near the Thailand border. Our ancestral home was surrounded by mountains and many rivers flow through that part of the world. There it is hot, humid and green. The Karen people have lived in this area for centuries. 

But throughout the past 70 years, we have been forced to leave our homes. The Burmese Army’s goal is genocide; they want to destroy the entire Karen population. The army came and burned down our village. 

For more than six months, we lived on the Thai border. Then, home was the Tham Him refugee camp. Tham Him had one river for all our water needs: drinking, bathing and sanitation. About 10,000 people live in a 16-acre camp. sickness was constant.

Eventually, we were put on an airplane and resettled through the United Nations refugee program. We didn’t get to choose our resettlement city, and we didn’t know where we were going until we landed at the Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. 

It was time to get a coat and get used to the cold! We live in Wisconsin now.

After a while, my husband found a job at International Kenosha Beef and we needed to move from Lake Geneva to Kenosha. We found a real estate agent who said they would help us find a home. But all the houses we saw were so bad. My cousin, who has lived in the U.S. for several years already, helped us through the process. It is still difficult for us to speak and understand English. She told us that all of those homes were a bad idea, but what were we supposed to do? My husband had a job and we needed to find a place to live. 

We bought our first home in the United States in August 2018. The house and neighborhood was so bad. I wouldn’t let my three little sons play outside. 

But life went on and we did the best we could. Meanwhile, I continued studying for my U.S. citizenship test. 

I met Mini Samuel in my Citizenship Class at the Kenosha Literacy Council. She volunteers there as a teacher. When I learned that she was also a REALTOR®, I asked if she could help me find a better home. 

“It broke my heart to hear that a local Realtor took advantage of the family’s limited English skills and made them buy a home they didn’t really want,” Mini added. 

Mini put our old house on the market and sold it for us without taking any commission. She helped us win the  bidding war on our new home which had 11 offers on it. We closed on June 7, 2021. 

Every time I had a concern or question, Mini was there for me. When she helps you, she helps with her whole heart. She found a place that was good for my children, a school that is good for my kids, and a house that is safe where my children are able to play outside now. 

My dream for our future in this home, in this country, is to live in a place that is free. I want to give my children a better opportunity than I had. I want to live in a place where my kids can become successful in the future. My children will never again have to live in a refugee camp. They will always have this house, even when I am gone. 

I am so thankful for everything that Mini did to help us find this house. Everything that I dreamed of is in this house.

Mini Samuel

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Mini Samuel

Mini Samuel is the Owner of NextHome Refined. Being a Realtor for the past 18 years has taught her to be honest, transparent and open.

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