Repairing Lives

Nov 15, 2016 | Refugee Education

La Hea grew up in the Karen state of Myanmar on a small farm. His parents taught him how to grow rice and tend to chilli plants, look after the chickens and fix things when they broke.

He lived there with his three brothers and two sisters.  At first there was calm, but gradually the rebels impact in the area was noticed by the Burmese army, and soon fighting erupted throughout the Karen State, spreading like wildfire. La Hea and his family were some of the lucky ones, able to go about life generally unscathed; however the army came to his door with increasing frequency; both Karen and Burmese demanding he enlist. But La Hea never wanted to be a fighter, he wanted an education and to be with his family. With both armies harassing him, he and his brother decided the best option would be to take refuge in Thailand, with his parents and sister to follow soon after they arrived. The others stayed in Myanmar as rice & chili farmers with their families where they remain. Eventually, his father had enough of Refugee life and returned to Myanmar, to his work as a farmer, where his mother stayed and lived with him.

 It has been eight years since they first arrived in Thailand, and many things have changed for La Hea and his family; life in Myanmar another life away. His sister is still in school and his brother now teaches at a Bible school within the camp. He recently returned to Myanmar to get married, and his wife is still living in Myanmar where she has opened a noodle shop does not wish to leave to come to the refugee camp. He has now moved to Zone B without his mother, who lives in Zone C in order to be close to the farm where she is able to earn a small income. La Hea has found it increasingly frustrating and disheartening at the lack of freedom they have within the camp, needing to bribe the guards with alcohol, food or coffee if he wished to go anywhere outside or occasionally even across Zones.

 La Hea first heard about the ADRAs Vocational Services when he was helping out in another Auto Mechanic Repair shop, and thought it would be an excellent way to increase his skills. He also happened to know one of the auto-mechanic trainers who introduced him to the course and helped him enroll in the training for 2011. Since then he also completed the Basic Electrical and Computer Skills courses. From what he gained during the VT courses, he has been able to open his own motorcycle repair shop and install the electrical wiring run power to the shop and his computer which he uses to study at night. The shop has been open for roughly six months now and is doing good business; however La Hea cannot acquire all parts of the motorbike due to less capitol, making some bikes unable to be fully repaired. He is even able to take on assistants to help him run the shop, which he has recently agreed to take on a disabled trainee alongside his current assistant.

 La Hea feels more well known now and has made many friends since opening the shop. They know he has a good business and even nearby villages know of him and sometimes get their bikes fixed at his shop. His wish for the future is for Myanmar to find peace, and should this happen in his lifetime to return and open a vocational training school. He sees the children that come to watch him work having no skills and wants to help create the opportunity to acquire them; giving them a fresh start and a pathway to a better life. La Hea truly feels that giving to the future generations would be the best way to break the cycle refugees find themselves stuck in.