In honor of the recently increased refugee cap, we're sharing stories from some of the brave Quad Cities refugees and immigrants who strive to create a community of welcome for those following in their footsteps. Together, we can [Re]Build.
When Dim was a child, her father had to leave Myanmar to work in another country. It was the only way for her family to obtain a survivable income. Today, minimum wage in Myanmar is 4,800 kyat, or $3.00 US. It was even less when Dim was growing up. She felt discouraged as she watched her loved ones labor away in exhausting rural jobs that left them unable to afford necessities like food and medical care.
“In Myanmar, it’s hard there. Even if you work hard you don’t get paid a lot. We didn’t see a lot of other people because we lived in a small town. We had narrow-minded people. There was nobody to dream,” she said.
But Dim has always been a dreamer. She imagined a future where she could take care of her family and friends.
Her parents thought about her education while they worked. Determined to help their daughter achieve her dreams, they moved to Malaysia and enrolled her in school for the first time.
When Dim entered high school, however, her opportunities were interrupted. She couldn’t continue her schooling unless they moved again. The family knew the transition wouldn’t be easy, but they refused to accept the “this is how it will always be” mindset that was so common in their previous home.
In 2016, they decided to permanently resettle in the US. Dim was amazed to see the welcoming crowd at the airport and knew everything was about to change.
“World Relief Quad Cities made sure we had food and furniture. When we got here, everything was already in our house. They helped us to go to the doctor, taught us how to use everything, how to go somewhere, and they even taught my mom how to take a bath,” she recalled. She quickly understood English with the help of a caseworker who visited her house and began to excel in her high school classes.
The college education that had been just out of Dim’s reach suddenly became a reality when she was accepted to Augustana. She plans to major in chemistry and hopes to become a dentist. For Dim, dentistry illustrates what it means to “love thy neighbor.” Her neighbors in Myanmar never knew dental care existed.
“We didn’t know what dentistry was, but when I came here, World Relief Quad Cities helped me get dental care. If I become a dentist, I’m going to help people back in my country.”
With her brightness and enthusiasm finally given room to grow, Dim has embodied a mission to rebuild the lives of the vulnerable. She can’t wait to inspire joy and confidence by bringing new smiles to small communities like the Myanmar town she once felt restricted by.
Ultimately, she wants to show others that there’s more to life than survival.
“I still have a lot to learn, but everything is better now,” she added. With the days of draining physical labor behind them and goals to look forward to, Dim and her family are no longer just surviving – they’re thriving.
June 1st, 2021
Erica Parrigin graduated from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in English in December 2020. After a semester-long internship at World Relief Quad Cities, she was hired as a full-time Communications Associate. In addition to communications, she coordinates the food pantry, social media, and marketing materials while assisting with casework and event planning.