Refugee 101, Part 1: An Introduction

The only remaining photo of Eh Doh Htoo and his family in the Thai refugee camp for Karen Burmese. He shared this photo with our class as part of a “Heritage Book” project in 2009. He graduated high school last year.

The only remaining photo of Eh Doh Htoo and his family in the Thai refugee camp for Karen Burmese. He shared this photo with our class as part of a “Heritage Book” project in 2009. He graduated high school last year.

The following is an excerpt from The Newcomer Student: An Educator’s Guide to Aid Transition by Louise El Yaafouri (Kreuzer), available HERE.


An Introduction to the Refugee 101 Series

Newcomer students are often defined by a long and complicated series of statistics: data scores, influx patterns, poverty analyses, and of course, school performance grades. Certain figures are certainly useful and valid. But they lead us apart from the relatable, tangible person. The relatable, tangible student; the learner we show up for. This leads us to the who.

In elementary talk, human seeking refuge is the main idea of the refugee story. Refugees are individuals with palpable faces and names who are colored by real life stories, experiences, families, and successes. Refugees and immigrants, not apart from our host-nation selves, are people—parents, children, adventurers, workers, dreamers, teachers, students, feelers, believers, doers, and learners.

Again, like us, refugee individuals and families carry with them other things: tribulations, stressors, and personal legacies. Some family fabrics are cohesive; others show wear. Some individuals appear well adjusted and decodable, while others are stalemated in secrets, burdens, and internalized fears.

These pieces, combined, highlight one simple, beautiful, extraordinary truth. We are all human. Each of us is susceptible, and yet, each of us is a channel for resiliency. We are all magnificent and full of promise, just as we are tarnished and unsteady. Each of us owns an access point to greatness. More than this, we all possess the inherent ability to help and guide one another through processes of personal and contextual transformation.

Let’s think this through. Are we, as westernized Americans in our own subjective neighborhoods, so exempt from characteristics of trial, loss, joy, confusion, relocation, or overcoming? Of course not! Sure, some of our stories register relatively low on the scale of global severity. Nevertheless, our personal tribulations and successes are meaningful to us, within the context and perimeters of life as we are familiar with it. No story is insignificant.

Greatness belongs to each of us.